Cleansing Agent

No known benefits

PEG description

PEG is an acronym for *polyethylene glycol*, an amazingly versatile ingredient in skin care products because of the many uses it has and its broad compatibility with different types of ingredients. PEG is often mixed with an array of hydrating emollients, beneficial fatty acids, and cleansing agents. In these various combinations, a PEG can be used in gentle cleansers, elegant moisturisers, sunscreens, and unique treatment products.[br] [br] The safety of PEG in its various forms has recently been questioned. The primary concern is that they can contain problematic impurities such as ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane. Both of these are by-products from the manufacturing process, not something natural to any form of PEG. Although this was once a concern, reputable cosmetic ingredient suppliers have long since eliminated these impurities from the finished ingredient, which makes PEGs safe for skin. [br] [br] What is most notable about the various forms of PEG studied to date is they have been shown to be non-irritating for skin or eyes, even when used in concentrations greater than what most skin care products contain. PEGs also widely considered non-toxic because they do not penetrate intact skin. However, as is true for even the gentlest ingredients, when skin is inflamed or compromised, the risk of irritation is increased. [br] [br] If you’ve seen conflicting information about PEG ingredients, it’s important to know that the conclusions were not applicable to how PEGs are used in skin care products. These studies involved feeding a large amount of PEG to animals or applying very high doses (literally hundreds of magnitudes greater than what is used in topical products) to mouse skin.

PEG references

  • International Journal of Toxicology, September-October 2018 Supplement, pages 10S-60S; November-December 2014 Supplement, pages 13S-39S; and September-October 2012 Supplement, pages 169S-244S
  • Toxicological Research, June 2015, pages 105-136
  • Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, January 2015, pages 12-21
  • Drug Metabolism and Disposition, January 2007, pages 9-16
  • Experimental Dermatology, October 2006, pages 801-807
  • Toxicology, October 2005, issues 1-2, pages 1-38
  • Archives of Dermatological Research, June 2001, pages 302-307

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


We couldn't find this in our ingredient dictionary. We log all missing ingredients and make continuous updates.

Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.