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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)


Fri, April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterANNA

Sorry to hear about your reaction! That is some nasty stuff! There are many harmful chemicals in Brazilian Blowout, worse than ethylhexylglycerin that likely were the cause of your reaction. But still!

Fri, April 6, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

As I have read & learned in class, books, references, etc., the clarification here is: "Synthesis" in biology is "a compound that is formed by a living organism" - that is, through what can be called re-creation. This is an organic recreation of the original, not a copy.

In chemistry, "Synthesis" brings forth a "Synthetic" by meabs of "the reproduction of a compound through artificial means" - more if a procreation, the making.of a like substance or compound; this is an artificially induced copy, not a re-creation of the original.

Therefore, even though structurally alike, organic/living compounds are recognized as different from artificial/non-living compounds in the living body. And some bodies cannot tolerate these differences. Given the state of human health in countries whrre a high percentage (comparatively speaking) of what humans ingest or use on their bodies, I beg to offer that MOST bodies cannot TRULY tolerate these thousands of minute, "safe" amounts of artificially produced compounds, or pethaps, in the long tun, any level of exposure.

I don't have that answer, but given the correlative evidence as pointed out, I'll stick to 100% organic, synthesized by other living organisms as has been from the beginning. I certainly feel better physically for it.....

Thu, March 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIs it the same?

Why do these "all natural" companies (Bare Minerals, Pur, etc, ad naus) hook their customers with natural products and then once they've got your trust, all the new stuff has tons of chemicals in it!?! Sick of this crap, I'm going to start making my own makeup.
Ulta may go broke but I'm done. I'm absolutely done with throwing tons of money away on these con artists.

Tue, May 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIrritated

While I applaud you goals Mel, I wonder if you look at the label on absolutely everything you buy for yourself and your family. Every piece of food, every plastic product in your home, every duvet cover that may have been made in China which has been dyed with a dodgy chemical. Do you insist only on driving an electric car. Every pencil your child uses with chemical colouring etc etc? Yes, you can 'Do your bit' but do you do your bit for everything, or just something you sell?
If a company has to supply another company with a natural product, that product has to pass certain strict force tests. In fact if you sell any cosmetic to the public, you have to have it force tested. Using NO preservative at all, it will fail. A lot of people use Grapefruit seed extract, well that's been proven to be the chemical in the seeds that the fruit was sprayed with that preserve rather than the seeds themselves.
I bought a cream a few years ago which was 100% Organic. When I opened it, the cream was okay (well it looked ok), but there was bacteria in the lid. I would rather have a cream with a tiny amount of low risk preservative (from a natural origin) in it than put bacteria on my child's face, many of which are invisible.

Wed, July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Actually, in the US the FDA doesn't require cosmetics to be tested. They state that the product must not be "adulterated" and testing is suggested, but no company is required to do testing prior to the sale of cosmetics.

Indeed, a preservative system must be used to keep any product containing water from growing pathogens. Regarding Grapefruit Seed Extract, it's not really that effective, and not natural at all. Where are you getting your information about the chemical being pesticides? I have never seen any evidence of that. What it IS is a quaternary ammonium compound. You can read how it's made here.

There are safe, natural, and organic alternatives that work as preservatives and anyone formulating a product, especially if it contains water, should consider all aspects of safety.

Sat, August 31, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thanks for this info I was curious about the ingredient because it is an ingredient in the breast cream I have been using, I does sound a bit safer than using a paraben.

Mon, September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Collins

Hi, just purchased ology no harmful chemicals soap, peppermint pure castile soap from our local Walgreens and had to look up ethylhexlglycerin. While not totally surprised about the soap containing a synthetic, it just validates you must read the labels and do your due diligence on ingredients. It was half the price of the soap we usually use, but my main reason for posting this is in case some folks believe all statements on bottles without checking. A little disappointed, but no SLS or triclosan, which my Ph.D. brother advises me are much worse as far as cumulative toxic loading. Caveat emptor.

Thu, September 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdave davis

"mel" i think i love you,you are an asset to the earthly race and .i couldnt agree more with your philosophy .very glad to have found your comment here .if more people thought and acted as you do this world would be a MUCH healthier place for ALL life here.i mean we DO live on a revolving ball of compost ,though much of it and its human offspring has been assimilated into the"economic borg".

Wed, December 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdeanna

I use essential oils from Rocky Mountain for pretty much any and all ailments and injuries. I can add them to aloe, water, or witch hazel and use as a spray. OR I can mix with coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, or aloe gel for a nice topical. Some can even be applied neat (without being mixed). I seem to be doing JUST FINE without smearing chemicals all over myself. I don't care what you "chemists say"... eventually the body will say I QUIT if you keep saturating it with garbage. All of that muck builds up in your organs and fatty tissue. I know that now a days, we can't keep ourselves completely free of toxins. But you can certainly avoid slathering your skin with garbage. Your skin is the largest organ and you have to be extremely concerned with what you apply to it. Skin is supposed to carry OUT toxins. Harder to do when you're ADDING chemicals to it. Again... try some RM essential oils mixed with coconut oil from Tropical Traditions. There you go, Public. Easy. I am currently treating a scar with my own scar oil made with coconut oil, Vitamin E from Universal Formulas, and RM oils: Lavender, Frankincense, Helichrysum, and Tea Tree. I am also NOT nearly breaking the bank for an organic, HIGHLY EFFECTIVE scar oil. Do your own homework and make your own products. It really is THAT simple. I also have MY OWN best interests and health in mind, unlike most companies looking to make money. Be well everyone.

Sun, February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHealth Conscious

Just a quick note to @Health Conscious--do be careful with essential oils--they are very powerful substances, some of which can be toxic. Others, especially when used "neat" can create toxicities and trigger an allergic reaction when you've used them too much over time. (Called sensitization.) I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of what you're saying, however.

Check out my article about which essential oils should be avoided here.

Sun, February 8, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Check out free app skin deep from the environmental Working Group (independent research group) to help anyone rate a skin product. I have discovered a product line that has products rating 0 to 1 on scale 0 to 10 with 0 meaning NO known or suspected harmful ingredients. You can view these products at and read about the company. This may give you better alternatives in skin care products.

Sun, February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

@Pam--A few things about the EWG Skin Deep Database...first of all, it has many flaws and data gaps. Couple articles on it here:

and here:

and here:

There can be harmful ingredients that slip through the cracks of the database and end up scoring "0" because they're not personally reviewing and researching each ingredient. It's just a database pulling information from other databases.

You might also check out this article I recently wrote about a lipstick you may be familair with:

Sun, February 8, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I have read many defenses for chemicals preservatives and other chemicals used in cosmetics from industrial formulators. Patrick says that if you drink too much water you will die so is water dangerous. He really misses the point and makes it obvious that he is biased.

The point is that the chance of drinking so much water that it harms you is slight because it takes so much water. But what if ingesting a thousandth of a gram could be harmful? You cannot compare water with chemicals that can make you sick, lessen the function of organs or even kill you at concentrations that we cannot even see with the naked eye. Plus we have had eons of experience with water, and if we had10,000 years of experience with a certain preservative, I would feel pretty confident that it was safe. So don't mix apples and oranges please, only for fruit salad and not for logical argument.

I am in the proses of starting a natural cosmetic company in Amsterdam. I am so concerned about long-term effects and the hidden damage that preservatives MIGHT do, that I run my company on a very strict slogan: WHEN IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT and IF YOU WON'T PUT IT IN YOUR BODY, DON'T PUT IT ON YOUR BODY. (These are copyrighted slogans of Lorraine Skin Care, please do not use them commercially)

Finally; preservatives are designed to kill living things, right? So no preservative can be GOOD for us, the best we can hope for is that is is not harmful to us.

Sat, March 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGus

Claire, and everyone, Dr Mercola now has a complete line of organic skin care products so pure you could eat them and benefit! (And not completely break the bank!) He's got a great website, check it out!

Thu, April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKristi

I became a formulator of body-care products just because I wanted to find the Holy Grail of "Natural Products"

One practical way is:
Formulating a body lotion without water. I mean big companies are truly making huge profits by charging the consumers for "water".
So I believe a fair way out is selling oil instead of body lotions. Of course, body-care is all about feeling good, and I would personally not put "oil" on my skin.... In a word: "Yuk".

Other practical way is:
Using a "natural" antimicrobial preservative to control contamination of water laden products.
Potasium sorbate rings a bell I suppose..... Why? Someone found that sorbic acid is naturally found in some berries. So do you think the sorbate in your lotion comes from berries? It is, in fact, synthesized in a lab from a substance called crotonaldehyde (which incidentally is considered an "extremely hazardous substance" by the U.S. Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act).
Or did you think "Organic companies" actually isolated sorbic acid from berries and put it in your lotion?

Really, this kind of green-washing is so prevalent!

So ladies and gentlemen: if you have dry skin and want natural options, apply vegetable oil to your skin. Or an aqueous product with more than 50% glycerin (another "natural" material).


Thu, June 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

In response to Mel, where can I get your natural products??? There isn't anything in Canada that is 100% natural, and I am becoming more and more sensitive to all the chemicals in body care products. I'm running out of options for shampoos, conditioners, and lotions (soaps I'm still okay with). Any product I've tried recently makes me itchy or I break out into hives. I'd be interested in hearing about the products you have to offer.


Thu, July 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRKW

Some synthetics are better than the natural ingredient. For example iron oxides are used to create the color in cosmetics. It is actually banned to use the natural because of heavy metal contamination with is very toxic. So they make synthetics iron oxides for make-up. I haven't found a single make-up company that doesn't use them, even the extrememly overachievers like Epic Mineral Beauty that lists on their site dozens of the ingredients they won't use. The synthetic iron oxides are considered to be safe. While lots of natural ingredients are actually harmful.

As far as using nothing at all. I absolutely cannot do that. Without washing my face and exfoliating it, my skin is horrible; the greasiest of the greasiest, bumpy, thick, and always has acne. I am picky for sure about my products but leaving my skin alone is not an option. You have to use some product to wash your body or you will stink and be discusting. That is just reality, water won't remove dead skin, oily residue, etc.

Sat, September 5, 2015 | Unregistered Commentergemaolao

I think this dialogue back and forth is healthy because it gives consumers food for thought and Yes I definitely agree with Patrick's comments , that in essence we need a healthy balance of how we First Understand and View of Understanding in regards to all Natural., organic if it starts out as Natural from the Earth it still can be both harmful and good depending on how it is used, in what amount etc. etc. and remember all Natural can change in its natural state over time, and can become" All Naturally Toxic" given its used outside of its all Natural Effacacy Date"

Also we need to keep in mind the simple fact that Patrick mentioned in his comment that I also agree with, such as bacteria and shelf life, this too is a reason for the use of such less , I do agree we definitely need less harmful chemicals to also serve the greater good of avoiding harmful bacteria. And why this is important while some of you Purist may have all the time in the World to make your own beauty products, etc, etc. most of just Do Not Have this kind of time, nor we may not have the skillsets to do it so well and safely. Make sure you are doing it safely because you may find yourself in an all natural mess. So at least time wise some people just wont be making their own beauty products keep in mind, that this is why we do have choices to make and this is why we Do Need authorities in place to make sure of Quality Controls,

If we all work together the purist , and (I don't say this in a smug way) I am a bit of a purist myself this is why I care to read up and investigate what in the products I use , so Thank you purist, I really appreciate your vigilance on this subject otherwise how would we know what may be suspect ingredients? However back to my point if the purist work with the cosmetics industry to keep them in check with the blogs and other watchdog methods then we can know how to proceed in making our purchases or avoiding certain companies that are producing harmful products, and when time permits maybe one day soon we will all be making our own cosmetics etc. and companies with start also to respond in a more responsible way of producing what we want but in a more safe method. But truthfully most of us just don't have that kind of time. So I truly appreciate your looking out , But I truly believe that as Patrick says we must understand the truth about all Natural and Nature can harm you even kill you all Natural too. Even Nature itself dies at some point due to a Natural Chemical breakdown occurring. OK, Cobey

Tue, January 24, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercobey

I'm reacting to a product and can't seem to track down the culprit. I'm allergic to absolutely everything bio-marine. Shellfish, algae, hyaluronic acid (shark liver sourced), lichen extracts (because they are related to algae), all of it. If any bit of something was derived from marine life, I react. Can you tell me what ingredient(s) in this list contain anything like that? I have since found that some of these compounds are unsafe even aside from allergies; I'd still like to know about the allergies though. Thank you!!!!!

Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cyclohexasiloxane, Oligopeptide-10, Polysilicone-11, Ascorbic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Olea Europa (Olive) Fruit Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Hordeum Distichon (Barley) Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

Mon, March 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

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