01 Jul #2 Review: Glycerin/Glycerol
As you could from the tittle, I’ve been very curious about what glycerin is. I’ve come across it in so many recipes for body care that eventually figured I need to know more about it. Is it good, harmful or even welcome in skin care products? All the basics about it are revealed in this article.
So what is glycerin?
Glycerin is in a liquid form, sweet and viscous. I’ve learnt that glycerin is actually derived from natural fats, both animal and vegetable (between 7 – 13%). The whole process can be done the natural or the synthetic way.
It can be used for various purposes; be it skincare products, soaps, nitroglycerin (explosive)*, in food industry as a sweetener, thickening agent and helping to preserve foods; botanical extracts, as a electronic cigarette liquid, chemical intermediate and even in the film industry to stop the areas from drying out too quickly.
How is it actually made?
Glycerin comes from the soap making process. The process of removing the glycerin from the soap is fairly complicated and I honestly didn’t understand it completely. However, I’ve come across to simpler explanations. Soaps are made out of fats and lye; the fats already contain glycerin. When these two interact, soap is formed and the glycerin is left out as a byproduct which is distilled in the later stages.
What are the pros of it?
It’s hydroscopic; meaning it absorbs water from environment. That being said, it provides moisture to the skin and helps to keep it hydrated, soft and nourished. My first thought was, well that is all very nice but doesn’t that mean that it can either absorb water from the surrounding environment or from our bodies? Therefore, if it can absorb the water from our bodies, that means that it is literally drying out our bodies on a long term basis, if used all the time. Do I want this for my body? That is just my view on the matter, I’m no expert and haven’t really read anywhere so far that it can go that deep in the skin but I would consider it since it is well known to be a very good absorber. For instance, if you leave a bottle of it opened it would absorb moisture from the air; eventually consisting 80% glycerin and 20% water. Something to think about.
That being said, the benefits of glycerin are its moisturising and anti-ageing properties (non scientifically verified though), sometimes it is used in herbal tinctures instead of alcohol.
Is it harmful?
Yes, if not diluted. Glycerin can create allergic reactions, may cause skin and mucous membrane irritation and can be even toxic to you and your pets. If not diluted, it can cause blisters and can not only dry skin but damage it as well. Which is why it is often combined with various products to manage this. My question is: what is the point of adding it in your skin care products for the purpose of hydrating the skin to only later discover that it is drying it out on a long term basis?
Anyhow, the debates vary greatly. There have been many scientific researches on it, including researching the therapeutic effects of the glycerin on the skin and its anti-ageing properties (references below). However, it seems as though in most of the researches the glycerin was just a part of the many other ingredients, therefore, not isolated and tested for its benefits. Some people like to use it for its moisturising and other properties, others say it is a harmful and unnecessary ingredient. It really depends and it’s important to bear in mind that it can be both good and bad for your body if you don’t inform yourself properly before using it.
Do I have to use it in the skin care?
So far, I would say that it is completely up to you. It is not a can’t-make-a-body-balm-without-it ingredient. If you decide to use it, make sure you use only a small portion of it. It is often used used in soaps where they usually use 15 – 20% of pure glycerin. For the exact amount of it, please read materials from experts.
It can be bought in many places, as vegetable, animal or synthetic made glycerin. I’ve come across a vegetable one at G. Baldwin & Co.
I personally won’t use something that can cause my body damage. I’m only after 100% natural and good ingredients for my body. Meaning, ingredients that can’t cause my body any damage whatsoever. However, it is supposedly good in soaps so maybe, just maybe I’ll give it a try one day if I can’t make a successful product with none of the other natural ingredients. If I do, I’ll let you know how it worked out.
To sum up all of the above, glycerin seems to be both good and have the properties to be harmful at the same time. So what to do? You’ll often see on the websites of those who use it, that they are promoting scientific research on its benefits. I’m not claiming this is wrong, but do bear in mind that it can be harmful unless under supervision of a professional or someone who knows what he’s doing. It’s always your decision what you’ll put on your body, which will eventually end up in your body.
»Love your soul, your self and your body will show its gratitude.« – Tina Suklje
*Glycerin by itself is not an explosive and it can be used at home in the kitchen.
Medical College Of Georgia. “Glycerin May Help Skin Disease, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031203075525.htm>