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Versatile Uses of Glycerin and its Surprising Health Benefits

Glycerin Uses
Glycerin is known for its many uses not only in the area of skin and hair care, but also in food, medical, and other industries. This article provides some information on its various uses.
Bhakti Satalkar
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Did You Know?
Since glycerin is hygroscopic in nature, it absorbs water from the surroundings. Leaving a bottle of pure glycerin exposed to air, would result in 80% glycerin and 20% water mixture. Application of this diluted glycerin mixture will help keep your skin moisturized.
Glycerin is a thick, viscous liquid that is sweet and has no color or odor. Furthermore, it is also referred to as a simple polyol compound due to the presence of multiple hydroxyl groups. Also called glycerol or glycerine, this liquid is soluble in water and alcohol and is usually non-toxic. The common sources of this organic compound are animal fat and vegetable oil. It is most prominently used in the pharmaceutical and soap-making industry. Here we tell you about the various uses of glycerin.
For the Skin
Cosmetic mask
The products that contain glycerin are said to be gentle on the skin. Moreover, they are also believed to be safe for use on a child's skin and do not cause any irritation.
It is also called a humectant as it is known to attract moisture to the skin. Furthermore, it not only provides but holds the right amount of moisture in both dry and oily skin. This is because when applied, it forms a protective covering against moisture loss.
As it maintains the skin's moisture content and elasticity, it can help in reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Furthermore, it is said to restore the suppleness of the skin, as it moisturizes the skin and cleanses it as well.
The skin care products which contain glycerin include moisturizers, creams and lotions, soaps, deodorants and make-up products, like mascara and lipstick. It is also found in shaving creams, as it does not dry the skin and provides a soothing effect after shaving. Its use in make-up removal products has also increased manifold. This is because it can easily take off the make-up but still be gentle on the skin.
It can even be used for making soap at home. The regular use of this soap is said to make the skin softer and suppler.
Mix glycerin, honey, and water, all in equal quantities. To this, add oatmeal till the liquid thickens, to get a mask-like texture. Now, spread it where you notice dry skin. After 20 minutes, wash it off and pat dry. This skin care pack is believed to soften dry and rough skin.
Alternately, you can also choose to make a glycerin soap at home and use it. This will protect your skin from chemical-rich products that are available in the market.
For the Hair
Girl model with long curly red hair.
It helps by providing moisture to the scalp, which in turn is required by the hair. Due to this, hair won't become dry and there would be less breakage.
It is known to help a great deal in keeping the frizz away from curly hair. It works very well with curly and dry hair, as it draws moisture from the air to the hair shaft. Further, its use on dry curly hair gives well-formed curls. So, it is not uncommon to see people using glycerin as a leave-in conditioner, after washing their hair. It is believed to work better as a leave-in conditioner rather than an applied conditioner after which hair is washed.
A regular use of glycerine is believed to provide an itch-free scalp, mainly during winters. It is also believed to help with the problems of dandruff and split ends.
To avoid frizz that occurs due to dry weather, take some glycerin on your hand and dilute it with water. Then run your hands through your hair. You can also add essential oils to this mixture.
For Medical Use
Pill bottle on white background
It is a versatile product and is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry as well. It is present in medications that are available for topical use for treating yeast and fungal infections, like, psoriasis, eczema, etc.
There are also many drugs that contain glycerin used in the treatment of ear infections.
It is also used in the manufacture of other products such as lozenges, capsules, and suppositories.
It is believed to help in treating eye disorders. It also helps in decreasing pressure in the eyes before and after ocular surgery or an eye examination.
It also acts as a mild laxative in the form of oral medications or suppositories, thus treating constipation.
Its use in mouthwashes is said to help those affected by halitosis or bad breath.
It can also be used as a decongestant. Adults or children affected by nasal congestion can rub a small quantity of glycerin to the nostrils. This is said to help in clearing the congestion.
It is said to be used in ointments and creams to avoid drying and is also known to act as a preservative.
In the Food Industry
Set of restaurant icons.
It is used in the confectionery and baking industry. It helps soften icing used on cakes. Not only does it soften cakes, it is also adds sweetness to the cake. Sugar crystallization in candy is prevented by the use of glycerin in it. It is often also used as a sweetener, as it does not cause blood sugar levels to rise.
Its use for preserving food has also increased manifold. It is also used as an emulsifier. Its use can also be seen in shortenings and margarine. It is also used for lubrication of food-handling machinery.
Other Uses
Glycerin, in its impure form, is a byproduct while manufacturing biodiesel. The main use of crude glycerin is to derive ethanol from it. It is one of the ingredients which goes into the making of Nitroglycerin. Nitroglycerin is an important product used to manufacture smokeless gunpowder.
If you have sticky food that is spilled in the refrigerator, you can make use of glycerin to get rid of it. It is a natural solvent and helps in removing spills. If you want to preserve fruits, you can do so by using glycerin.
These days, it is widely used by the textile industry as well. There are two main uses of glycerin in the textile industry: one is to soften the yards of fabric and the other is to lubricate fiber.
Important Points to Remember
Glycerin should never be used in an undiluted state on the skin or the hair. It could cause blisters on the skin. In the case of hair, it may strip out all the moisture from the interior portion. Therefore, it should always be used in the diluted form. It can be diluted with filtered water. Even rosewater can be used.
Another point to keep in mind is the climate. That is, its use in very hot and humid climate may lead to coarse and frizzy hair. This happens as glycerin will absorb a lot of moisture from the hair causing the hair to swell, raising the cuticle, which in turn disrupts the curl pattern. Also, in extreme dry weather conditions, it said to seek out moisture from hair causing it to dehydrate. This would lead to damage and breaking of hair. conditions, like in moderate humidity.
Applying a lot of glycerin can give you a very sticky feel. Therefore, never use too much of it.
Looking at the wide range of its benefits and uses, you can consider using glycerin. However, it is necessary to keep the aforementioned important points in mind and use it in the right way.