Complete guide to vegetable glycerin

Vegetable glycerin is nowadays increasingly used as a humectant in cosmetic products. This means that glycerin is able to maintain a certain amount of water content where it is applied, basically it maintains moisture. Dry skin and hair need not worry! To be added to your cosmetic preparations, cream, milk, shower gel, shampoo, it presents a real protective interest.

What is vegetable glycerin?

Vegetable glycerin is generally presented in the form of a rather viscous and thick liquid, colorless and odorless. It is usually obtained by saponification of oils of ... vegetable origin, we would have guessed it from its name!

What is saponification?
Saponification is the chemical reaction to obtain soap. During this reaction, a fatty substance, associated with a strong base often soda, allows to obtain soap but also another product: the famous glycerin.

fatty acid triglycerides + soda → soap + glycerin

Glycerin can then be extracted and used for its many properties in cosmetics and domestic use.

Technical sheet of the vegetable glycerin

Main properties

Humidifying and moisturizing: Vegetable glycerin allows to attract and retain water thanks to its hygroscopic properties, it will thus help to maintain a perfect hydration at the cutaneous level. Obviously, it is necessary to respect the recommended dosages ;)

Skin protection: The moisturizing and humectant properties of vegetable glycerin help maintain a certain balance of the hydrolipidic film. The skin barrier will only be strengthened to protect the skin from external aggression.

Emollient: Vegetable glycerin is an excellent emollient, meaning that it softens and smoothes the skin but also the hair. It makes the treated areas more supple.

Lubricant: Glycerin is often used as an excipient in pharmaceutical products such as cough syrups or suppositories for example.

Solvent: Vegetable glycerin is very often used to facilitate the extraction of active plant ingredients in the preparation of hydroglycerinated macerates of plants for example. It also plays a role of preservative by absorbing water conducive to microbial development.

Stabilizer and thickener: In a cosmetic product, vegetable glycerin can promote a certain stability to your product, especially in the case of emulsions.

Technical specifications

Identity card of the vegetable glycerin.
  • Common names: glycerin, glycerol
  • Other names: 1,2,3-propanetriol, trihydroxypropane, E422 as a food additive
  • INCI name: Glycerin (vegetable)
  • Origin: vegetable
  • Biochemical characteristics: polyol (3 alcohol functions) C3H8O3
Physical characteristics.
  • Density : 1,26
  • Solubility: in water and alcohol
  • Insolubility: in oil
Organoleptic characteristics.
  • Appearance: viscous liquid;
  • Color: colorless ;
  • Odor: none ;
  • Taste : slightly sweet.

How to use the vegetable glycerin ?

In cosmetics

For use in cosmetics, vegetable glycerin must be added and dosed between 2 to 8% in an aqueous phase. Beyond this percentage, the humectant effect of glycerin is reversed. It attracts all the moisture it finds, even that present in the skin and hair and can then instead dry them out. Moreover, glycerin is of real interest if the ambient air is humid, it will capture the humidity and place it on the skin and hair for example. In the opposite case, if the ambient air is dry, glycerin risks to dry your skin or your hair by absorbing the water which it finds in the latter.

Namely, vegetable glycerin is suitable for all skin and hair types, especially fordry and dehydrated skin and hair. It is added in most aqueous cosmetic products. It should be mixed well so that it is dispersed throughout the preparation. Do not hesitate to perform skin tests on small areas, some skins may react badly.

  • In a cream, milk, cleansing gel, lip balm: Add vegetable glycerin at a maximum of 2 to 5% in your preparation.
  • In a shampoo or shower gel: Add 2-8% vegetable glycerin to a shampoo or shower gel. The dosage can be higher for a rinsed product.
  • For specific care, cases of very dehydrated skin: Use vegetable glycerin dosed between 8 to 10% in agreement with a health professional.

In domestic use

  • To clean windows and faucets: For 1 liter of water, add a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin. Soak a clean cloth with the mixture then clean windows and faucets.
  • For stains on laundry: Pour vegetable glycerin directly on the stain, massage to penetrate the glycerin well and then leave to act for about 1 hour before proceeding with a conventional wash after rinsing the excess glycerin.
  • To protect laundry: For 1 liter of homemade laundry detergent, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to wash delicate laundry especially woolen clothes.

Precautions of use of the vegetable Glycerin

Authorized use of the product

Authorized users


In cosmetics, vegetable glycerin must be used diluted on the skin at the risk of causing irritation or mild allergies.

Storage and preservation

It is best to store your vegetable glycerin at room temperature and away from light, but especially away from moisture!

Vegetable, animal or synthetic glycerin

Obviously, in an ecological and responsible approach, we favor the use of glycerin of vegetable origin. However, as you know, glycerin can have various origins:

  • Synthetic: it is obtained from petrochemical derivatives such as propylene. It is sometimes possible to find it in products under the name Propylene glycol.
  • Animal and obtained by saponification of animal fats: beef fat is the most commonly used.
  • Vegetable and obtained by saponification of vegetable oils. In this category, the big winners are: coconut oil, palm oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil ... Do not hesitate to check its origin and quality.

Note that you can find glycerin in many hygiene or cosmetic products. Be sure to check its origin. Whether it is of vegetable, animal or synthetic origin, it appears under the INCI name "Glycerin". However, if the glycerin is vegetable, the mention "vegetable" should be put forward ;)