Is Glycerin Vegan? What Is Glycerin Made of?

By Anett Rannamets. Published: May 2022.
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Glycerin is trivalent alcohol commonly used in skincare and cosmetic products. It is obtained by different methods and can be of animal or vegetable origin. Therefore, glycerin can be both, vegan and non-vegan.

Anyone who uses skincare products is likely to discover glycerin as one of the regular components. But what are its features? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Glycerin And How Is Glycerin Made?

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol. It ​​belongs to the family of triple alcohols, so-called triols. Glycerin is a basic component of many lipids, oils, and fats. It can be obtained from plant oils, as well as animal fats.

At room temperature, glycerin is an odorless and colorless liquid. It has a slightly viscous consistency and it is soluble in both, water and ethanol.

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, can be obtained from all sorts of fats and oils. There are different methods of extraction. But mostly, it is produced as a by-product or waste product.

The plant-based glycerine is a by-product of the production of bio-diesel. Glycerine is formed during a so-called transesterification of a vegetable fat with methanol. As biofuels became more popular, vegetable glycerin is now more widely used.

In natural cosmetic products, brands mostly use glycerin obtained from palm oil. This is considered to be particularly skin-friendly.

Animal-derived glycerin is derived from different animal fats. In the past, animal fat was often used to make soap. So, glycerin was often its by-product. Synthetic glycerin is based on petroleum and is mainly used for industrial purposes.

Why Is Glycerin Used In Skincare?

In skincare products, glycerin is mainly used to bind moisture. It also soothes and strengthens the skin’s protective barrier. Glycerin provides deep care to dry, itchy and scaly skin.

On one hand, glycerin retains the moisture in the skincare product itself. To prevent it from drying out. On the other hand, it maintains or even increases the elasticity of the skin. To protect the skin from drying out. 

Glycerin also protects and regenerates the skin’s barrier function. As a result, it effectively increases skin elasticity. 

As an additive, glycerin also has a soothing effect and reduces skin irritation and damage. Glycerine is a moisture-retaining and irritation-reducing ingredient for skincare products made for dry skin.

One of the main reasons for using glycerin in skincare is its particularly gentle effect. Unlike some other similar ingredients, glycerin does not irritate the skin when used daily. Its properties can reduce the irritation that other products might cause.

For years, glycerin has had a reputation for drying out the skin. Is it true? Yes and no. Glycerin attracts water almost like a magnet. It binds water from the air and other ingredients put on the skin.

However, as soon as glycerin does not get enough water from other sources, it draws water from the deeper layers of the skin up to the skin’s surface. That causes the drying effect.

So, glycerin should be accompanied by water-based ingredients. That way it does not bind water from the skin. Instead, it uses water from the other skincare products.

The more glycerin the product contains, the higher the water requirement. Therefore, the dosage of glycerin also plays an important role.

The drying effect occurs when a product consists of more than 10% glycerin. In skincare products, the glycerin content is usually 3-5%. 

FAQ About Glycerin

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol. It ​​belongs to the family of triple alcohols, so-called triols. Glycerin is a basic component of many lipids, oils, and fats. It can be obtained from plant oils, as well as animal fats.

What is glycerin made of?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, can be obtained from all sorts of fats and oils. For example, animal fats and plant oils. There are different methods of extraction. But mostly, it is produced as a by-product or waste product.

Is glycerin vegan?

Glycerin can be both, vegan and non-vegan. It is obtained by different methods and can be of animal or vegetable origin.

Does glycerin dry the skin?

Glycerin attracts water almost like a magnet. It binds water from the air and other ingredients put on the skin. However, as soon as glycerin does not get enough water from other sources, it draws water from the deeper layers of the skin up to the skin’s surface. That may cause the drying effect.

Summary

In the right dosage, glycerin hydrates the skin to the deeper layers and provides it with plenty of moisture. This improves elasticity and tightens the skin.

It can be both, vegan and non-vegan. Glycerin in skincare is most likely of plant-based origin. However, glycerin is also obtained from animal fats.

We have put together a list to make sure you’re always making a vegan-friendly choice. Shop at the best 100% vegan skincare brands. Or ask for additional information on the ingredients from the seller.

Anett is a passionate journalist, writer, and magazine editor with almost 7 years of experience. Through engaging articles, she brings kinder and more environmentally-friendly choices closer to everybody.