butylene glycol

Butylene Glycol at a Glance

  • Often included in a skin care formula to enhance the texture and penetration
  • Known to be hygroscopic, meaning it can increase skin’s water content (aka hydration)
  • May also help boost a formula’s stability
  • Clear, viscous liquid
  • Also known as butane-1,3-diol

Butylene Glycol Description

Butylene glycol is a commonly used ingredient that plays multiple roles in cosmetics, including as a humectant, texture enhancer, solvent, and penetration booster. Research indicates butylene glycol not only helps raise water content in skin (aka hydration) but may also contribute to decreasing roughness on the surface of skin (depending on how it's combined in the formula). While not known as a preservative in and of itself, some of butylene glycol’s properties can help boost a formula’s stability against microorganisms that may harm skin’s surface.

As a raw material, butlyene glycol is a clear and viscous liquid. It is similar to propylene glycol but has a lighter texture. It is used in a wide range of concentrations, with reports of up to 50%, although many suppliers cap it at 30%. The minimum amount tends to hover around 0.5%, in which case it's typically part of a blend with plant extracts and/or preservatives.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review board has evaluated several toxicology tests and other research concerning butylene glycol over the years and has determined it is safe within the wide concentration range currently used in cosmetics products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even determined that butylene glycol is safe as a food additive.

Butylene Glycol References

CosmeticsInfo.org, Accessed March 2021, ePublication
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Code of Federal Regulations, Accessed March 2021, ePublication
International Journal of Toxicology, May 2011, pages 5S-16S
Skin Research and Technology, November 2007, pages 417-24
Journal of the American College of Toxicology, September 1985, pages 223-248

See propylene glycol

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!