PEG’s in dreadlocks
‘PEG’ is a blanket term that refers to literally hundreds of different ingredients. It, and of itself is not an ingredient. The PEG-*insert-number-here* refers to the ingredients molecular weight. Some PEG’s have benefits for some things and not so much for others. This article will explain the confusion behind PEG’s so you know what to look out for.
PEG’s are a very common ingredient in many shampoo products, but also have many other applications in clinical, chemical and biological uses. This is what has caused the confusion and mis information. One PEG is completely different to another. Their applications range from formulation in osmosis, to coating and preserving items found in shipwrecks, to preventing colorectal cancer.
The reason the PEG is listed instead of the actual chemical name is because PEG refers the the molecular weight and its viscosity (thickness, how water soluble) for example honey has a high viscosity and water has a low viscosity. This means that some PEG’s are liquids and some are low melting solids. They are labelled with their PEG numbers to comply with labelling laws.
For example ‘PEG-50 Shea Butter’ refers to 50 moles (molecules) of Ethylene Oxide.
In shampoos there are 3 ways a PEG might be used
- as emollients (which help soften and lubricate the skin),
- as emulsifiers (which help water-based and oil-based ingredients mix properly), and
- as vehicles that help deliver other ingredients deeper into the skin.
If you see products with many PEG ingredients, its likely they are high in viscosity and coating, making it thick and probable to cause residue build up.
It is important to know which PEG’s are safe to use in dreadlocks as thick PEG’s may be difficult to rinse and less soluble than others.
A general rule of thumb is PEG with a higher number will have a lower viscosity and more water soluble. That said, its not always the case.
One product that comes up alot that people are using on their dreadlocks is Dawn dish soap. This is not recommended! Below is a photo of their ingredients list.
Here are some PEG’s to be avoided, also see our article on Sulphates
For dreadlocks safe products, see our Products Review Article