Why Is Caprylyl Glycol in My Skincare?



What Is Caprylyl Glycol?

Caprylyl glycol is a skincare ingredient that is used in many different products. Caprylyl glycol is an alcohol derived from a fatty acid. It is a humectant which means that it pulls water into the skin and helps to hold moisture into the skin. Despite being derived from alcohol it is a hydrating ingredient. Caprylyl glycol has the added benefit of also acting as a preservative, increasing the shelf life of products. 

Caprylyl glycol, also known as 1,2-octanediol, is an alcohol derived from caprylic acid, an eight-carbon saturated fatty acid found in the milk of some mammals, as well as palm and coconut oils. It is a colorless liquid with a slightly sweet scent. Caprylic acid is classified as a medium chain triglyceride or MCT. According to Healthline caprylyl glycol  may also have antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Caprylyl glycol is usually synthetically produced, putting less strain on environmental resources such as palm oil. Apart from the benefits it provides the skin caprylyl glycol is used in many different products due to its ability to improve the spreadability of the formulation. It can also replace traditional preservatives such as parabens and it helps other preservatives to work better.

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Caprylyl Glycol

the good: Caprylyl glycol helps to pull water into the skin and hold it in the skin. It also acts as a preservative, stabilizing skincare formulations. It also attracts and holds moisture in the skin,giving the skin a smooth plumped appearance.

the not so good:Can cause irritation in some skin types, particularly those that are already sensitized or irritated.

Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients but is often combined with other humectants such as hyaluronic acid and soothing ingredients such as aloe vera.

Keep an eye on: Nothing to keep an eye on here.

Why Is Caprylyl Glycol In My Skincare?

Caprylyl glycol works as a humectant, pulling moisture into the skin and helping to lock it in. This can improve the appearance of the skin, reducing fine lines and giving your skin that dewy, hydrated look. Hydration is an important part of healthy skin as all cells require water. when your skin is dehydrated it can look dull and lacklustre, improving the water levels of the skin reduces this appearance. Unfortunately, sometimes humectant moisturizers can pull too much moisture from the lower layers of skin when the air in your surrounding environment is very dry. This can be overcome, however, if the product is formulated with occlusive moisturizers as well. Occlusive moisturizers form a barrier on the surface of the skin, preventing moisture loss. 

Caprylyl glycol is often used as a preservative for skincare formulations. It prevents the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast that occur when the product is contaminated from use or by exposure to the air. This is an important part of formulating products as it improves the safety and longevity of the product. Caprylyl glycol also functions as a stabilizer and has been shown to increase the antimicrobial activity of other preservatives. The antimicrobial properties of this ingredient is most likely due to the antimicrobial properties of caprylic acid. When caprylyl glycol is used alone at 1% in products that are protected from contamination by fingers (i.e. bottles, jars with dispensers, pumps), the brand can make a “preservative free” claim on the product.

Caprylyl glycol also helps to improve the texture of skincare products. It provides a level of slip that increases the spreadability of products. This is important as it helps to ensure the key ingredients are spread evenly over the skin. 

Is Caprylyl Glycol Safe?

If you research caprylyl glycol, or any member of the glycol family, you’ll find that many sites warn consumers to avoid them. These sources claim that the glycols are irritating and harmful to your skin. You might even learn that glycols are found in antifreeze. This is true, but the glycol that is used in antifreeze is much different than caprylyl glycol. The chemical structure of this group of ingredients differ slightly but have a significant impact on use and safety.  Glycols are a broad class of chemicals and they are not created equal.

Simply put, “glycol” is a term for any of a class of organic compounds belonging to the alcohol family; in the molecule of a glycol, two hydroxyl (−OH) groups are attached to different carbon atoms. There are many different types of compounds that belong to this family, such as propylene glycol, butylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, ethylene glycol (the glycol found in antifreeze), and more.

Caprylyl glycol is just one of the numerous glycols. While some of the glycols would most definitely be undesirable in personal care products, caprylyl glycol is not. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel reviewed all available data and assessed this ingredient as safe as currently used in skincare products. 

Herman, A, 2019. ‘Antimicrobial Ingredients as Preservative Booster and Components of Self-Preserving Cosmetic Products’. Currently Microbiology, vol. 76, pp. 744–754. Johnson, W, et al., 2012. ‘Safety Assessment of 1,2-Glycols as Used in Cosmetics’, International Journal of Toxicology.



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