Why Step One Cleansing Oil Doesn't Contain Polyethylene Glycol

Jennifer Katehos

Posted on March 23 2017

Gramercy Skincare all started with Step One Cleansing Oil.  After falling in love with the idea and practice of double-cleansing, with a self-emulsifying oil-based cleanser as the first step, we were dismayed to find so many cleansing oils containing superfluous ingredients and ingredients produced in environmentally objectionable processes -- specifically PEGs.

PEGs are used to make cleansing oils self-emulsifying (aka: milky and easy to rinse off) when water is added.  Unfortunately, when PEGs are manufactured, the compound 1,4-dioxane is also produced as a byproduct, and PEGs may also be used as a solvent in the manufacture of other chemicals.1

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the levels of 1,4-dioxane in final products themselves do not present a hazard to consumers.1,5  Furthermore, 1,4-dioxane evaporates readily, even in products that remain on the skin for hours, and your body rapidly breaks down any 1,4-dioxane into other chemicals, which are then eliminated by the body.1,2

However, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 1,4-dioxane can be released into the air, water, and soil at places where it is produced or used as a solvent.2  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1,4-dioxane is short-lived in the atmosphere, but may leach readily from soil to groundwater and will migrate rapidly in the groundwater.3  Once in water, 1,4-dioxane is stable and does not break down.2,3

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has classified 1,4-dioxane as a Group A3 carcinogen -- a confirmed animal carcinogen.3  Furthermore, the US Department of Health and Human Services states that 1,4-dioxane is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based upon sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals.3,4  Moreover, a developmental study on rats indicated by 1,4-dioxane may be slightly toxic to the developing fetus.3,4

Because non-negligible amounts of PEGs are required in self-emulsifying cleansing oils to make them work the way they do and should, we wanted to make a cleansing oil while doing our part in limiting the amount of 1,4-dioxane released into the environment.  Thus, we formulated and are proud to offer our Step One Cleansing Oil, made with ECOCERT-approved, non-PEG emulsifiers.  Double-cleanse with a clear conscience!


1 Food and Drug Administration.  1,4-Dioxane: A Manufacturing Byproduct.  2007 Jul 3.

2 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Division of Toxicology and Human Health Services, Department of Health and Human Services.  Public Health Statement: 1,4-Dioxane.  2012 Apr.

3 Environmental Protection Agency.  Technical Fact Sheet: 1,4-Dioxane. 2014 Jan.

4 Kano H, Umeda Y, Kasai T, Sasaki T, Matsumoto M, Yamazaki K, Nagano K, Arito H, Fukushima S.  Carcinogenicity Studies of 1,4-dioxane administered in drinking-water to rats and mice for 2 years.  Food and Chemical Toxicology.  2009 Aug 22.

5 Jang H-J, Shin CY, Kim K-B.  Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds for Cosmetic Use.  Toxicol Res. 2015 Jun; 31(2): 105–136. .