Butylene Glycol

What is Butylene Glycol?

Butylene glycol (1,3 butadienol) is a preservative commonly found in cosmetic products. It is a petroleum byproduct and colourless alcohol product. Butylene glycol is frequently used to act as a conditioning agent, to make creams and gels thinner, and to help other products dissolve in water. The compound is found to be safe and is often used as an alternative to glycerol or propylene glycol. Its main function in most cosmetics is to keep products from drying out and keeping formulas stable. Some brands use it to make their product have the appearance of more volume so they can put less of the product in containers.


Butylene glycol is a type of alcohol that is organic and helps cosmetic products attract moisture to the skin. Larger alcohols help attract water to the skin and increase product effectiveness. In chemistry, butylene glycol is classified as a secondary alcohol.

Many brands use butylene glycol so their products can be more easily absorbed by the skin. This is because many ingredients that as moisturisers are too thick for the skin to absorb naturally and obtain full benefits. Butylene glycol helps make creams thinner so that it takes the skin less time to absorb and to avoid leaving a greasy feeling on the skin after application. It also helps formulas mix properly by acting as a solvent. An humectant, butylene glycol helps the skin remain moisturised and could possibly decrease the appearance of wrinkles over time. This ingredient is frequently found in cosmetic products but it draws moisture from the air to help it work better when applied to the skin. It also helps the final product last longer.

As of now, butylene glycol has not been found to accumulate in the body and is currently considered non-toxic and safe for people of most skin types. Concerns have been raised about this product because in addition to being used in skincare products, it is also used in food, as an ingredient for polyester plasticisers, sheets used for construction, and construction/structural material for boats. When absorbed into the skin, butylene glycol converts into gamma-hydroxybutric acid, which is found in humans naturally.

Side effects

Though butylene glycol is considered safe, some people may experience skin irritation. Those who have sensitive skin may experience rashes around their eyes. Butylene glycol has also posed problems in people with respiratory issues who inhale it accidentally when using spray products containing the ingredient, such as hair spray or spray-on moisturisers. These reactions are rare with most people.

Skincare experts agree that butylene glycol is not harmful to most people, but those with sensitive skin should consult a skin specialists if they have any concerns about using the product. Make-up users who are concerned about exposure to butylene glycol can look at their labels and identify the ingredient, sometimes labeled 1,3-butanediol, butane 1-3, phyto-collage BD-II, and rose apple leaf extract BG-30. As of now, butylene glycol has no links to cancers, nor has it been linked to toxicity in organs.

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