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Propanediol helps form the base for our deodorants. Sodium stearate is the ingredient that causes these products to “gel” or take on a form that is more viscous or solid. Once suspended in a gel, the other ingredients in these products can be properly applied in the manner consumers expect.
Propylene glycol is one alternative, but that is commonly sourced from natural gas. Although natural gas is an abundant resource, it is a non-renewable, so using vegetable derived propanediol or propylene glycol better meets our stewardship model. Vegetable glycerin is another alternative and we launched a deodorant product with this base in 1993. The complaints started pouring in shortly after the new product hit store shelves. Vegetable glycerin, it would turn out, created an unsatisfactory product. The stick it formed was described as “soft and mushy” and about half our users voiced concerns that the vegetable glycerin actually seemed to facilitate the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Although we were excited to improve the environmental sensitivity of the product, we were not willing to accept the compromised quality of the product. Only a few months after the new formula had been released to market, we voluntarily recalled the remaining deodorants and restored the product to its original propylene glycol base. In 2014, Tom’s of Maine became the very first deodorant brand to transition its product line from a propylene glycol derived from natural gas to a 100% vegetable derived alternative.
1,3 Propanediol is considered a safe and appropriate ingredient not just for cosmetic products, but also for ingested food products like certain baked goods. This ingredient has approval from EcoCert™ (an international recognized natural and organic seal) and the Natural Product Association (US based natural personal care certification).
The propanediol (1,3 propanediol) that we use is 100% naturally derived, sourced from corn (Zea mays). It is made by the fermentation of corn sugar.