Glycerin: all the benefits and how to use it

Glycerin: all the benefits and how to use it

A remedy with a long history, glycerin is a natural substance rich in virtues for the beauty of skin and hair, but not only

Widely used in beauty and personal care products (so much so that it is the third most popular ingredient in cosmetic products, after water and perfume), as well as in the production of pharmaceutical formulations as well as sweets and candies, glycerin is a natural chemical compound particularly appreciated for its moisturizing, humectant and emollient properties.


  • What's this
  • Property
  • How to use
  • Contraindications

What's this

Glycerin, also called glycerol, is a sugar alcohol widely spread in nature as a component of oils and fats (for example, the well-known triglycerides are formed by three molecules of fatty acids and one molecule of glycerol), whose derivation can be animal or vegetable.

Especially in the past, glycerin was frequently obtained from animal fat, but today it is obtained mostly from vegetable products such as oils, mainly from coconut oil, palm oil and rapeseed oil (a sort of "return to origins ”If you think that this substance was discovered accidentally in 1779 by a Swedish chemist who, by heating a mixture of olive oil, identified the resulting fat as glycerin).

Naturally present in fermented products, such as beer and wine, we can find glycerin, with the wording E422, also in some food products, used as an additive (with a slightly sweet taste) and preservative.


Being able to retain water, glycerin is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer and emollient (to reduce itching and flaking) in products aimed at treating or preventing dry skin and in cases of skin irritation such as diaper rash. : specifically, glycerin acts by forming an oily layer on the surface of the skin, trapping water in the epidermis and thus increasing its hydration.

Glycerin is also used for internal use: having the ability to recall water, it is very useful for example in case of constipation. In this sense, we find it in preparations (enemas or suppositories) to be used as an occasional laxative in the presence of constipation, both in adults and in children.

Glycerin is also used as an excipient in various drugs, in some sports drinks (to prolong hydration) and also, together with other active ingredients, to treat specific cases of ocular hypertension.

How to use

Glycerol is therefore used mainly (but not only) through cosmetic and pharmaceutical preparations for the care and hygiene of the skin and hair. Specifically, we can find it in:

  • soaps and bars of soap;
  • liquid cleansers for the body and hair;
  • emollient creams and ointments;
  • moisturizing creams for the face, body and hair;
  • nourishing and protective hand creams;
  • tricks;
  • deodorants;
  • lip stick;
  • toothpastes (to prevent the paste from hardening);
  • medications;
  • suppositories and enemas for constipation;
  • food products, such as sweets and candies.

It is also possible to find “pure” glycerin in liquid form. Pure glycerol can be purchased in pharmacies and herbalists: by mixing glycerin with ingredients such as aloe gel or shea butter, you can prepare emollient DIY creams for dry skin, wraps for hands and hair, detangling balms for the hair, preparations for irritated skin, remedies for split ends and moisturizing lip balms.

Pure glycerin can also be added to ready-made cosmetics to enhance their wetting effects. It is also an indispensable ingredient for those who want to produce soaps and detergents themselves, in order to obtain natural and eco-sustainable products.


Glycerin is a product considered safe, suitable for even delicate skin care, but like any other substance that comes into contact with the dermis, it could cause adverse effects such as sensitization or intolerance phenomena. In general, then, it is advisable to avoid topical application of glycerin on sensitive areas such as the eyes, the genital area and the inside of the mouth and nose, unless the product label or the doctor indicates otherwise.

Even when used systemically, for example through suppositories or enemas for the treatment of constipation, glycerin is generally well tolerated and safe, although it is not free from side effects such as nausea, dysentery, allergies, bloating and localized irritation. If used for curative and / or therapeutic purposes, however, it is always better to take it under the indication and monitoring of the treating physician or specialist.

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