You may have heard of or used vegetable glycerin before. It’s commonly used as an additive in certain food products as well as skin care products. In this article, we will learn more about this interesting and versatile substance.
Vegetable glycerin, also known as glycerine and glycerol, is a clear, odorless liquid derived from plant oils, such as palm oil, soy, or coconut oil, using a process called hydrolysis. The plant oils are placed under the combined force of pressure, temperature, and water. The ester bonds break and cause the glycerin to split from fatty acids and be absorbed by water. Then the resulting substance is further isolated by distillation to increase purity. Purified vegetable glycerin has a texture similar to an oil or syrup. (1)
Vegetable glycerin may be used as a solvent and substitute for alcohol in the production of botanical and herbal extracts. (2) Using vegetable glycerin as a solvent is beneficial to individuals who are sensitive to alcohol. One disadvantage is that the average shelf life of glycerine-based extracts is about one year, whereas alcohol-based extracts have a shelf life of four to six years. Vegetable glycerin is soluble in both water and alcohol, making it highly versatile. (3)
Food and Beverages
Glycerol finds its way into various foods and beverages because it is a humectant, solvent, sweetener and may also act as a preservative. It has more calories and less sweetness than sucrose but does not cause tooth decay. Glycerol has a lower glycemic index and different metabolic pathway within the body, which lends itself to individuals on low-carbohydrate diets. (4)
Glycerol is an ingredient in a variety of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter preparations such as allergen immunotherapies, cough syrups, elixirs and expectorants, toothpaste, mouthwashes, laxatives and water-based personal lubricants. (5)
Vegetable glycerin is often used in various skincare products such as lotions, shampoo, soaps, and toothpaste. This is because glycerin is a humectant – it draws moisture to the skin, which leaves your skin hydrated. A humectant can increase the solubility of the active ingredient in cosmetic products, making it more easily absorbed by the skin. Additionally, the hydrating effect of glycerin makes it ideal for burns. (6)
Glycerol is a component of glycerin soap. Essential oils are added for fragrance. This soap is used by people with sensitive skin because glycerol’s moisturizing properties prevent skin dryness. (7)
I’ve used vegetable glycerin at home to make an alcohol-free hand sanitizer. Add some aloe vera gel, vegetable glycerin, and essential oils (tea tree and lemon are good choices) into a squeezable bottle. You’ll have a hand sanitizer with good antiseptic qualities and it won’t dry out your skin, unlike the alcohol-based hand sanitizers sold commercially.
In my previous article Cure The Agony of D’Feet in Three Easy Steps, I outlined some steps in dealing with cracked heels. Thanks to vegetable glycerin, here’s another way: wash your feet well and apply glycerine on your cracked heels. They should improve overnight. (8)
The sheer versatility of vegetable glycerin lends itself well to skin care products, such as my aromatherapeutic balm. I use it as a daily moisturizer, and one night, my son put it on his sunburn, and it was gone the following morning. Glycerin is thought to have sunscreen properties. What about yourself? Do you have any experience with vegetable glycerin on its own or as part of a product? Do you have any special uses for it? Please feel free to share your stories in the form below. And to obtain a copy of my FREE ebook “Essential Oils Made Easy,” visit www.boldaromatherapy.com.
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(1) (2) (6) What is Vegetable Glycerin?
(4) (5) (7) Glycerol