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  Issue 4 (2001)

GD News
GD Statement
Potential of a Penetration Enhancement by Polyethylenglycol (PEG)-Compounds in Cosmetics

The application of polyethylenglycol (PEG)-compounds in cosmetic preparations is controversially discussed in parts of the population. One reason among others stated for the reservations is the possibility of a penetration enhancement (intensified penetration) for potentially irritating or allergen other ingredients of cosmetics.

PEG-compounds represent a large group of essentially varying substances which are not homogeneous [1] regarding their penetration-enhancing properties. A penetration intensification for ingredients of cosmetics and medicinal preparations for topical application by PEG-compounds in the prescription are only described occasionally in international literature and only described for certain substances of this group [1, 2]. Equally there is indication available relating to penetration reducing, partly even anti-irritative effects [3, 4]. Usually PEG-compounds are used for cosmetics which are chemically synthesized by etherification or esterification of polyethylenglycols. The hydrophile PEG-part in these derivatives is not exclusively responsible for the possible penetration-influencing properties.

Whether or not a penetration enhancement relevant to an increased risk for unwanted skin reactions appears depends on different factors:

1. Skin condition of user

2. Molecular structure of PEG-compounds used

3. General prescription, e.g. formulation type or presence of other penetration-enhancing ingredients

4. Risk potential of possible penetrating ingredients

A general assumption of a penetration-enhancing effect of PEG-compounds is therefore not justified. A differenciated consideration as stated above is rather indispensable. Risks only occur if potentially irritating or sensitizing substances penetrate. They can be checked by appropriate skin tolerance tests [5]. A penetration-enhancing effect with cosmetic active agents can however also be wanted.


[1] Fiedler H.P: Polyethylenglykole. In: Lexikon der Hilfsstoffe für Pharmazie, Kosmetik und angrenzende Gebiete, Aulendorf: ECV – Editio-Cantor-Verlag 1996 (Der pharmazeutische Betrieb; Bd. 9) S. 1213

[2] Aoyagi T, Akimoto T, Nagase Y: Preparation of ammonio-terminated polyoxyethylene/polydimethyl- silicone block copolymer and application to transepidermal penetration enhancer. Adv. Biomater. Biomed. Eng. Drug Delivery Syst., [Iketani Conf. Biomed. Polym.] 5 (1996) 361-362

[3] Kamimura W, Ooya T, Yui N:
Interaction of supramolecular assembly with hairless rat stratum corneum. J. Contr. Release, 44 (1997) 295-299

[4] Roguet R, Portes P, Cohen C, Cottin M: Safety evaluation with human skin models: the practical experience. Proceedings of the 21st IFSCC Congress, Berlin, September 11-14 (2000) 306-314

[5] Leitlinie „Dermokosmetik für die Pflege der trockenen Haut”. Fachgruppe Dermokosmetik der GD Gesellschaft für Dermopharmazie e.V. 2000.


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