Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable Glycerin

What is vegetable glycerin? What is glycerin made from? Discover more about this ingredient, including how Puracy uses it in our products. 
Decyl Glucoside Reading Vegetable Glycerin 3 minutes Next Glyceryl Monostearate
  • Derived from: coconut
  • Pronunciation: (\ˈglis-rən\)
  • Type: Naturally-derived
  • Other names: Glycerol

What Is Vegetable Glycerin?

Also referred to as glycerol, vegetable glycerin is a clear, fatty liquid most typically sourced from coconut, soy, or palm oil.[1] It's often a byproduct of the soap, candle, and biodiesel industries.[2] Naturally occurring in humans, animals, and plant matter, this ingredient mixes well with water and has a sweet taste.[3]

Note: Puracy is a 100% cruelty-free company that never uses animal by-products or palm oil. Our products only contain coconut-based glycerin.

What Is Vegetable Glycerin Used for?

Vegetable glycerin is a skin conditioner that helps keep skin soft and supple. It's one of the most common ingredients in personal care products, including moisturizer, body wash, shampoo, soap, mouthwash, styling gel, and makeup. It's often used as a humectant to prevent moisture loss in products. [1]

Glycerin can also act as a solvent, adhesive, cake icing component, and even food plasticizer.[2]

When Was Glycerin Discovered?

German chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele first discovered and isolated glycerin in 1778 when he was saponifying olive oil with lead oxide. In 1813, French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul proved that fats are glycerin esters of fatty acids. He gave glycerin its name, based on the Greek word for “sweet.”[2]

How to Make Vegetable Glycerin

Most vegetable glycerin is a byproduct of soap manufacturing. Vegetable oil is heated with a strong alkali such as sodium hydroxide (ie. lye). Manufacturers may also produce it by heating coconut, soy, or palm oil under pressure with water so that the glycerin splits off into the water. The distillation process is then used to isolate glycerin.[3]

Synthetic Production of Glycerin

Synthetic production of glycerin may begin with allyl chloride, acrolein, propylene oxide, sugar, certain polyalcohols, fats, or epichlorohydrin.

In one method, the manufacturer oxidizes allyl chloride with hypochlorite to produce dichlorohydrin (and converts it to epichlorohydrin). The producer hydrolyzes the epichlorohydrin to yield a glycerin solution, then distills it to separate the water and glycerin. Glycerin is further refined to remove colors or odors. [2]

Vegetable Glycerin Safety

The Environmental Working Group has awarded this ingredient with a 1-2, depending on its use. [4] Whole Foods has also determined that the ingredient is acceptable in its body care quality standards.[5] Further studies show the ingredient is not a skin or eye irritant or sensitizer.[6,7]


[1] Cosmetics Info
[2] American Cleaning Institute
[3] U.S. Department of Agriculture
[4] Environmental Working Group
[5] Whole Foods Body Care Quality Standards
[6] Hine, CH, Anderson, HH, Moon, HD, Dunlap, MK, and Morse, MS. “Comparative toxicity of synthetic and natural glycerin.” A.M.A. Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Medicine. 1953;7(4):282-291
[7]Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, Hill RA, Klaassen CD, Liebler DC, Marks JG Jr, Shank RC, Slaga TJ, Snyder PW, Gill LJ, Heldreth B. "Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics." Int J Toxicol. 2019 Nov/Dec;38(3_suppl):6S-22S. doi: 10.1177/1091581819883820. PMID: 31840548.