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Today's Chemical:


EWG Risk Score:


What is it?

Ethylhexylglycerin is a conditioning agent and preservative.

Why is it a risk?

Two studies have found it to be a skin irritant, even at low concentrations, so people with sensitive skin may experience contact dermatitis.  In addition, it is an eye irritant in animal studies.  Reactions are typically low, however. (Source)

What Type of Products is it in?

Lotions, washes, shampoo, conditioner

Steph's Opinion:

Ethylhexylglycerin is a relatively new chemical on the market.  Many companies use it as an alternative to parabens and claim that it's from natural sources.  Yes, it may have started out as a vegetable oil, but it's gone through several chemical processes to become what it is.  This isn't the worst ingredient in the world, but it's also not truly natural, and safety data is highly lacking for this ingredient. There are only four studies or reviews published in the National Library of Medicine. 


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Reader Comments (45)

"f you don't have to put chemicals on your skin, why do it?" Because it isn't easy or cost effective to completely avoid them, and not all chemicals are bad or will kill you. I doubt that some of these lesser chemicals in combination with all sorts of healthy ingredients in a lotion, cream, soap, etc. is all that bad and it certainly isn't going to kill you. People with certain allergies may have to avoid some of them, but not the general population. An organic/natural product with a small amount of a minor chemical or two is a whole lot better than regular products chock full of them and worse. A person can drive themselves crazy trying to find 100% natural and affordable products.

Thu, January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

in answer to Diane, and not to be argumentative but, prolonged exposure to any harmful chemical at even very low levels is going to do some damage. The other problem with these 'low levels' is in many cases, their high toxicity negates the active organic/natural componds in the product you are purchasing. the sole reason for these types of chemicals is shelf life, pure and simple, so they can make their product in massive batches and store it in warehouses and on store shelves for years before anyone buys it - and charge a mint too boot! - it doesn't have to be this way, i am currently researching and developing 100% natural skincare products that contain no synthetic chemical what so ever and they work great! i'm putting a plan together where by consumers can purchase them at a store (and we mail you the freshest batch) or online. and define expensive? there are so called 'organic' products out there that people with too much money will pay $300+ for! my products will range between 20 and 45 dollars...anyway my point is you don't have to tolerate harmful chemicals and expensive prices, and if you wouldn't be able to eat it, why on earth would you put it on your skin????

Fri, January 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Ethylhexylglycerin (EHG) is for all intents and purposes a purely synthetic material, but it has a very interesting pedigree and its use in cosmetics -- for any number of reasons -- is probably here to stay.

EHG is a "designer" molecule, intentionally modelled after very similar substances, from a family called "alkyl glycerol ethers", that are found in shark liver oil. Not only are these ethers highly emollient, they may have many other effects, such as tumor suppression, immuno-modulation, and antibacterial.

EHG may rarely irritate the skin in certain individuals, but in general, it is a mild product even when used in concentrations up to 20%.

I'm a cosmetics formulator, and I've found EHG very valuable despite the known issue with eye irritation. I believe that with proper labelling, the benefits of EHG can far outweigh the risks of its use.

Tue, January 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterContrablue

My thoughts are the closer to nature we remain the better off both we and the planet are. but hey, that's just my opinion.

shelf life is imporatnat to designers, manufacturers and retailers alike, and that is the ONLY reason synthetic materials are required in any of our cosmetic products.


Tue, January 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Collective Wellbeing is another "organic" company that uses Ethylhexylglycerin in their Watercress/Jojoba body lotion and Dimethicone in the Honey Buff. I'll be checking their other products to see what's in them.

Tue, February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJ Hernandez

why do we have to put anything on our skin. what is wrong with natural beauty. many people out there can not use makeup, skin products etc because they are allergic to them and some prefer to be never to use them, both are still beautiful. any chemical applied to your skin is harmful long term.

Tue, February 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIris

I am resposable for chemical analysis of competitor products, at a well known cosmetics are correct that presevatives are in products to extend shelf life, but are very misinformed if you believe this is the only reason. Unless you are instructing your customers to keep the product chilled after opening it will spoil quickly. More importantly if you do not have preservative, due to the fact most consumers apply product with their hands, you have now intoduced bacteria into a moisture and nutrient rich environment. Genius

Tue, March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchemist#2

I will give you credit, only using oils and no water/oil emulsion is about the only way to get around bacteria issues. The only problem, most mass consumers do not enjoy the different tactile sensation. I will give you credit, but for a large company this pricepoint would be a very difficult sale.

Tue, March 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchemist#2

proper education of the consumer in relation to how the ensure their product remains bacteria free (e.g. always ensure you have clean sterile hands when using your skin care products, always use cuticle stick to remove the desired amount of product from your jar Never your fingers to reduce bacteria transference, always store your products as directed) will greatly assit people with problem skin and allergies. consumers DO NOT have to tolerate synthetic harmful chemicals in their skincare products - only cosmetic companies do so they can make mass sales.

i make my own natural/organic skincare products and have acheived a shelf life of 3-6 months through the use use of natural preservatives, i don't need to be in Myer or David Jones, i don't want to take over the world and i don't charge $100 for chemically laden products, that most likely have no benefit to the skin anyway, just a really good marketing team.

Buyer beware always - read the label, know what you are looking for and at.

Mon, April 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Who is Steph? another know it all? god this is ridiculous to listen to people's thoughts and not facts of the majority! people who don't know chemistry and who automatically think and ALL chemicals and ALL chemical processes are bad should reconsider going to school...

Sat, May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVag

^ Another industry chemist with his/her knickers in a bunch. ^

My goal is to educate people about the possible risks of synthetic chemicals. But it's everyone's individual job to decide for themselves which chemicals to use on their bodies or not. Because there are few sources about which chemicals to avoid, and the information out there is confusing, I've created an easy-to-digest format in my Chemical of the Day. The post did not instruct everyone to avoid ethylhexylglycerin, or state that it was "bad." It does say that some people with sensitive skin or skin conditions may have problems with it. Can a non-irritating formula be made with it? Of course. Is it the worst chemical in the world? Of course not. But are there better alternatives? Yes. If a formulator has chosen ethylhexylglycerin, they're usually using it for two purposes: as a humectant and/or a preservative. There are plenty of truly natural humectants, like vegetable glycerin or honey that can be used instead. As a preservative, well, I recommend formulating self-preserving items without added water. But the industry loves to charge people for water so that they can make more profit.

The bottom line: ethylhexylglycerin isn't that "bad" but it allows companies to take shortcuts by watering down their products and using cheaper ingredients. Most of the companies using it are the supposedly "organic" brands. Using a synthetic chemical like this in a product line marketed as "organic" is wrong, in my opinion. There are organic alternatives that should be used instead.

Sat, May 15, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Ethylhexly is a component of Tanning products and recently i've experienced shortness of breath while using the lotions. Coud this compound be the cause?

Tue, September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

It could be--or a host of things. Those tanning products are loaded with synthetic chemicals!

Tue, September 7, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I can understand the mass-produce logic of companies using ethylhexylglycerin. But for companies that proudly carry the name "organic" should be ashamed of themselves! Are the customers getting a fair warning about this?

Janet Bennet
Beverly Hills Dermatology

Mon, October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Bennet

This eternal moaning about "chemical" and "natural" points out how little people understand about their physical environment. Nature also synthesizes substances because everything that exist has once been made, created or synthesized. So "synthetic" is natural and vice versa. All materials belong to our physical dimension and it's all just a matter of rearranging atoms. It appears as if people think that chemistry is some kind of man made evil invention but nature can not circumvent its own laws of chemistry and physics. Nature IS chemistry.

The expression "chemical substances" is absurd. Physics as a science also investigates materials but no-one ever talks about "physical substances". Everything is a "chemical" and potentially "dangerous" given the right circumstances. Water, for example, may have the image of being "natural" but drink lots of it and you will die of waterintoxication. Most things have nothing to do with chemistry, by the way, but rather with physics. Why do people for example think that dissolving a substance has anything to do with chemistry?

"Natural" doesn't provide the guarantee of complete safety. Nature produces some of the most toxic substances known.

I also notice that people simply look at an MSDS in order to assess whether or not a substance is harmful, but that simply doesn't work because factors such as temperature, pH, concentration etc. all play an important role in determining whether or not a substance might be beneficial for your skin or whatever. Apart from that not all people react in the same way to substances and there is also the aspect of how people perceive a product (and human psychology isn't exactly all about objectively measurable parameters ...).

Thu, January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

You bring up some great points, Patrick. Everything is a "chemical" and "synthesis" is the basis for life. I'm going to write a little article that defines these terms in the context of our discussion as they pertain to the industry.

Thu, January 6, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I am a qualified beauty therapist looking for a certified organic skin care and make-up range to sell in my salon, i have sensitive skin so i know that skin reactions can be very painful. Can u please help me find one that is truly certified organic.

Wed, April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

Claire: Juice Beauty!

Sat, April 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterE

@Clare--Miessence and Juice Beauty do have some certified organic options, but not all of their offerings are USDA organic, so always look for the seal.

Tue, May 3, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Just googled ethylhexylglycerin and found this wonderful website! Great dialogue and VERY informative. Thank you!

Mon, November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChrista

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