Propylene Glycol

An Often Unrecognized Cause of Allergic Contact Dermatitis in Patients Using Topical Corticosteroids

Mohammed Al Jasser, MD; Nino Mebuke; Gillian de Gannes, MD, FRCPC


Skin Therapy Letter. 2011;16(5) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Propylene glycol (PG) is considered to be a ubiquitous formulary ingredient used in many personal care products and pharmaceutical preparations. It is an organic compound commonly found in topical corticosteroids (CS). Cutaneous reactions to PG are mostly irritant, but allergic contact dermatitis to PG is well-documented. Cosensitization to PG and topical CS can occur, making it challenging to choose the appropriate topical CS in a PG-allergic patient. This review is aimed at guiding clinicians in the selection of a suitable topical corticosteroid when presented with patients allergic to PG.


Propylene glycol (PG) is a colorless, viscous, nearly odorless liquid that is used as an intermediate for the synthesis of other chemicals.[1,2] It is a multifunctional excipient that is used in many products as a solvent, vehicle, humectant, or emulsifier.[3] The annual PG production and global demand are rapidly increasing.[3] Vehicles for topical corticosteroid preparations commonly include PG for enhancing stratum corneum penetration. In addition to topical steroids, PG can also be found in other topical pharmacologic preparations, including antibacterials, antifungals, benzoyl peroxide, and emollients,[1] Cutaneous reactions to PG have been recognized since 1952.[1]


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