Uses and Benefits of Glycerin

Glycerin is an organic compound, a liquid alcohol consisting of three carbon atoms. From the chemical point of view it is an ester of fatty acids. Its chemical formula is C3H5 (OH) 3 and is obtained from plants. It is thick, viscous, colorless, water soluble and sweet in taste. You should know that in 1811 the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul used the word to name a compound that another chemist had discovered, Claude Joseph Geoffroy, in 1741.

Why is glycerin important?

This substance can be found in all fats and oils, so it is widely distributed in nature. Coconut oil and palm oil contain it in high concentrations and form part of the cell membranes of plants and animals. It is also known as glycerol and its importance lies in its multiple uses and low toxicity. You can find this compound in the field of cosmetics, in medicines, lubricants, food, paints and is used in many industrial processes.

Properties of glycerol

Glycerol has a great capacity to moisturize and is soluble in water and alcohol, although not in oil. One of its main benefits is the hygroscopic property.


Due to its chemical composition, this substance has the ability to penetrate the superficial layers of the skin, the so-called stratum corneum. Once located there it helps maintain moisture.


Glycerol is able to attract and retain water from the surrounding air. This property is so important that it is used as a reference value to evaluate the wetting capacity of other substances.


The emollient property is what allows glycerol to soften inflammations or hardening of tissues and mucous membranes. It also has a calming effect and reduces the sensation of roughness caused by dryness, providing softness. For these qualities it stimulates the regeneration processes and provides elasticity to the tissues. It also favors the absorption of other substances and the dispersion of emulsions.


This substance has antiseptic properties and its topical use prevents infections in skin wounds.

Uses and applications


It is part of the composition of a wide variety of products, such as gels, creams, serums, cleansing lotions and moisturizing products. In natural cosmetics you can use it without problems because both the processes to obtain it and its composition are suitable.



Soaps made from glycerin in concentrations of 8 to 15% are used to prevent dry skin. Due to its calming properties they are appropriate for cases of acne or eczema and also helps to hydrate, thus preventing premature aging. It also effectively removes impurities and helps the dilated pores to close.


Food manufacturers often use glycerol as a solvent, to add flavors, aromas or colors to their composition. It is also an ingredient in chewing gum, fondants, ice cream, pastilles, mousses, chocolates, glazes and chocolate covers, since it prevents them from hardening, covering themselves with moisture or crystallizing sugar. It also maintains elasticity and prevents drying out.

We also tell you that it is used in cocktails and in the manufacture of liquors and soft drinks to thicken and replace sugar since it is 40% less sweet. It is an accepted ingredient for those who choose vegan and organic food options since it can be used for the elaboration of organic products.

When added to processed foods, it is identified as E422. In these cases it is used as a thickener and stabilizer, as it inhibits enzymatic reactions in products such as feed, breakfast cereals, dairy products, frozen foods. It is used in the seafood industry because it softens and moisturizes sausage skins. Their incorporation into the dough of baked goods helps to give them softness.

Saddlery and textiles

Mixed with barium chloride is used to preserve the skins. In the tanning phase it is used in emulsion together with the wax, since thanks to its properties it provides softness, durability and elasticity to the leather. For the same reason it is also used in the manufacture of synthetic fabrics. At home it is useful to clean, shine and soften shoes and leather accessories.

Tabacco Industry

In the manufacture of products derived from the tobacco plant it is used to give flexibility to the leaves and prevent desiccation of the bites. In electronic cigarettes it is used to create steam and give it a sweet taste.

Industrial uses

This substance is a component of many types of paints and varnishes, to which it provides an adequate texture and a better finish. In electro-insulating varnishes it is the most important component, with a high percentage of up to 98%. It can be used as an antifreeze, since it forms bonds with water molecules and its freezing point is - 38 ° C. This use has decreased when it is replaced by ethylene glycol, another alcohol that has a lower cost.

In certain machinery it can be used as a lubricant due to its high viscosity index, such as those used for cutting or packaging food, which could be contaminated with the use of petroleum derived oils. It is also used in the manufacture of resins, inks and explosives such as nitroglycerin.


Pharmaceutical uses

Glycerol is part of a series of products such as anesthetics, medicines to be applied in the ears, antiseptics, oral health products such as rinses and dentifrices, laxatives and suppositories. It is a good excipient for ointments and creams, to which it provides stability and is used to cover the dragees. It is also a component of some medications used in the area of ​​ophthalmology.

Domestic uses

Glycerol can be used to make homemade soaps and moisturizers. It is also useful as a stain remover, as it moisturizes, softens and dissolves many kinds of dirt, even when it comes to synthetic fabrics and stains that have a lot of time.

Benefits of glycerin

The unique properties of this substance make its positive effects very wide, so it is used for very different purposes.

Hydrating creams

Both in the case of commercial and homemade ones, glycerin creams ensure a soft and smooth, elastic and well hydrated skin. Not only is it capable of attracting water from the atmosphere, it also prevents evaporation, thus maintaining the skin's water balance.

You can add a few drops to the lotion that you use every day with what you also achieve an antiaging effect, keeping the skin smooth and preventing wrinkles, dryness and sagging. The penetration of any product or ingredient you use is facilitated by its hygroscopic capacity and emollient properties.

Maintain skin functions

In addition to preserving the water balance, glycerol maintains the barrier effect of this organ. It is beneficial for all skin types as it softens and moisturizes dry skin, calms sensitive ones and prevents acne and seborrhea in those that have a fatty tendency. Cleaning and soothing the stratum corneum reduces the stimulation received by the sebaceous glands.

Therapeutic effects

In case of insect bites, glycerol helps soothe and reduce inflammation of the affected area. For cases of acne, irritations, abrasions, dermatitis and eczema, it has a moisturizing, antiseptic, soothing and softening effect. It also keeps the skin very clean, relieves itching and helps eliminate the roughness of comedones and pimples.

In the hair

You can use it as an original component of shampoos and conditioners or add a few drops at the time of use. It has a great moisturizing effect on both hair and scalp, where it strengthens hair follicles. It also reduces the possibility of split ends and frizzy hair.

Health risks


Glycerol is a substance that has been used for a long time, so its effects are well known and there is a high certainty that its use has no harmful effects. It is classified as GRAS substance by the FDA. The acronym is derived from an English phrase that is translated as "generally recognized as safe." It means that it is a substance that can be added without any inconvenience to food so its use is approved without any maximum limit.

This brings you to another concept that is used in the specialized literature on food safety and good manufacturing practices, which is quantum satis or QS. When a substance is described with that term it means that it can be used in the amount deemed necessary without restrictions.

As described, you can conclude that glycerin is a very useful substance with very wide uses. This is possible not only thanks to its exceptional properties but also to the proven fact that it can be used without quantity limit to produce products intended for human consumption such as cosmetics and food.