- 1 Glycerin Uses
- 1.1 Food industry
- 1.2 Cosmetic industry
- 1.3 Pharmaceutic industry
- 1.4 Fitness supplement
- 1.5 Alcohol production
- 1.6 Tobacco industry
- 1.7 Paper packaging industry
- 1.8 Dog food
- 1.9 Lubrication
- 1.10 Anti-freeze
- 1.11 Weapons
- 1.12 Household use
- 1.13 Other uses
Boosting over 1500 different uses, glycerin is one of the most versatile substance in modern industry. The odorless, sweet, almost colorless and highly viscous liquid is employed in varied branches of the industry, from food production to weapon manufacturing. It fulfils a great range of functions and in many of the roles performed is irreplaceable. We have gathered together some of the most important uses of glycerin and listed them below for a better understanding of its importance in contemporary world.
Food industry relies on glycerin for a varied array of products, most of them packed. The ingredient is listed as glycerine/glycerin or 422 on the packaging and can be used as an emulsifier, thickener, flavoring agent, humectant and carrier solvent. The following categories of food contain glycerin.
• a great variety of dairy products, including condensed milk, chocolate milk, milk powder, yogurt and yogurt-based drinks, different cheese varieties, clotted cream and dairy spreads, contain glycerin as an additive. It is used as a thickener, flavoring agent, emulsifier and even humectant.
• glycerin is used to add extra sweetness to this cool dessert and at the same time to provide a soft and creamy texture.
• there are a great number of processed foods containing glycerin, starting with meat, poultry and game and ending with fermented vegetables and seaweed products. Other processed products containing glycerin include processed fruits, dried vegetables, canned or preserved fish, preserved eggs and many more.
• glycerin has a low glycemic index, yet still retains that sweet and comforting taste. The glycemic index of glycerin is only 3, which is extremely low when compared to sugar, which has the index 65. This is why glycerin is preferred as a sweetener in most low-carb foods and diabetes-friendly meals. Yet, both sugar and glycerin are high in calories, so it is not advisable to switch to glycerin when on a diet to lose weight. The number of calories per 100g is similar in sugar and glycerin, but the sweetening ability is much higher in sugar than in glycerin.
• sweet and moist, dried fruits are a perfect snack by themselves or in a bowl of cereals. To keep the texture and add a boost in flavor, the tasty dehydrated fruits are dipped in glycerin before packaging.
Spices and seasoning
• mixed spices and different seasonings contain glycerin as an additive to enhance the flavors.
Candies and marshmallows
• in soft candies, nougat, fudges and marshmallows glycerin is used to preserve moisture and retain that chewy texture. Sugar-free gum is also packed with glycerin because, unlike sugar, glycerin does not cause bad breath and does not affect teeth health in any way. Furthermore, all products marketed as sugar-free are very likely to contain glycerin.
Noodles and pasta
• fresh noodles are kept moist with the help of glycerin. Some types of pasta are also added glycerin for a soft texture and a short cooking time.
The cosmetic industry is another sector which takes advantage of glycerin’s benefits. In soaps and skin care products, in hair care or make-up products, glycerin is by far one of the most used ingredients in the cosmetic world. The reasons behind its wide spread: versatility, effectiveness, affordability and good skin tolerance.
The “glycerin soap” phrase used to be pleonastic because all soaps made by mixing lye with vegetable/animal fats were glycerin soaps. There was no exception to the rule and neither there is today when producing the soaps from scratch. Yet, nowadays, there are glycerin-free soaps available on the market because the glycerin is extracted from the soaps and sold separately. The value of glycerin is considerably higher when sold separately, than if sold as an ingredient in a mass-market soap bar.
Because the advantages of using a glycerin soap are well known by people all over the world, many individuals make their own soap bars at home. Some make it by scratch, some others prefer to skip the laborious and messy process and use soap flakes, liquid glycerin and essential oils (according to preference) to obtain a gentle and nicely flavored soap bar which moisturizes and perfumes the skin.
Glycerin is both a humectant and a moist retainer and the skin care products make the most of both features. Face creams, body lotions and make-up removers are the most popular skin care products which contain this substance. Liquid soaps, shower gels, shaving creams and after-shave lotions are also likely to contain glycerin. In fact, most of the skin care products marketed as “moisturizing” use glycerin to direct the water from the environment into the outer layers of skin, from where the skin can properly absorb it and directed into its inner layers for a long lasting moisturizing effect.
Glycerin is also used for its humectant properties in hair care products. More frequently found in conditioners, hair masks and hair treatments, it is also used in shampoos and leave-in hair moisturizing formulas.
In make-up products, glycerin is added for both its preservative and humectant properties. In primer creams, foundations, BB and CC creams, lipsticks and lip glosses, glycerin does its job, that of moisturizing the skin and keeping the product in good conditions for a longer period of time.
The pharmaceutic industry makes use of glycerin as an active substance in treating constipation, different skin conditions and even cerebral edema, but it also employs it as an excipient to keep creams and ointments in good conditions. Some of the most popular uses in medical environment are:
Preferred by people all over the world, glycerin suppositories are highly efficient in treating constipation, yet mild with the skin. They have few to no side effects and can be used for adults as well as for children and babies.
Non-alcoholic herbal extracts (glycerites)
Glycerites are herbal extracts used with glycerin instead of standard alcohol. They are suitable for people who have allergic reactions to alcohol, do not affect the liver in any way and can be used by diabetics and alcoholics without any side effect. The tinctures obtained with glycerin are often more complex than the ones obtained with alcohol, because glycerin extracts more of the water-solvent compounds in herbs.
The glycerin tinctures can be used topically, on skin or can be ingested, as part of a treatment for different conditions. The glycerites can be made out of different herbal mixtures for different conditions. The taste is sweet and pleasant due to the glycerin. Some herbalists mix alcohol tinctures with glycerites to give tinctures a better taste without affecting their effectiveness.
Psoriasis and skin rash treatment
Used in creams and topical ointments, glycerin attracts moisture from the air and directs it to the outer layers of the skin. The extra-dry skin affected by psoriasis absorbs the moisture and thus becomes softer and more hydrated, thus permitting other active ingredients to work in treating the skin condition. The same goes for other rashes which dry out the skin. Some persons often use pure glycerin diluted with water or a mixture of glycerin and alcohol-free witch hazel to treat psoriasis. This as well as other glycerin-containing homeopathic mixtures for skin rashes are available in specialized stores.
Glycerin is used in post-operatory eye treatments, to remove the pressure from inside the eye and moisturize the area. Furthermore, it is used in eye drops which treat glaucoma in order to reduce intraocular pressure.
While having a varied array of uses as an active agent, glycerin is also highly used as an excipient (pharmacologically inactive substance) in many medicines, including creams, ointments and pills.
Physical exercising, especially when performed in high temperatures, result in massive dehydration. The excessive sweat causes athletes to lose a great amount of water, which in turn results in less energy to achieve good results. Dehydration alters cardiovascular functions and affects body’s natural thermoregulation, causing a state of exhaustion. Unfortunately, keeping the water inside the body during physical effect is not possible. The only way to prevent dehydration is to over-hydrate the body prior to the exercise session.
Glycerin, taken before the exercises, helps retain the water inside the body for a longer period of time and increases the amount of water that an athlete can drink in order to get hyper-hydrated. Also, it limits the diuresis, thus enabling the body to fully dispose of the water intake.
Glycerin is used as such or in ready-made supplements alongside other nourishing substances. If used in pure form, the substance must be diluted with water in order to avoid side effects and increase water absorption. The right dosage for glycerin is 1 to 1.5g of glycerin per kg of body weight, diluted in at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water. It is necessary to mention that some athlete drinks already have glycerin in their composition, so when using such drinks, it is advisable to double check for this ingredient and adjust the quantity accordingly.
Glycerin in alcohol can be added during the production process (e.g. non-alcoholic beer) or when using in different drinks and cocktails (e.g. liquors). It is used as a thickener or as an alcohol variation.
• in liquors glycerin is added for extra thickness. The denser drinks are usually used to create differently colored layers in a cocktail.
• glycerin can be used to enhance the quantity of alcohol in a drink as well as to diminish it, depending on the actions performed after the glycerin addition. The non-alcoholic beer and the fortified wine are two of the most popular drinks produced using glycerin addition.
Glycerin is highly used in tobacco industry. Most of the cigarettes on the market contain glycerin in different concentrations, ranging from 5% to 15%. The substance is added onto tobacco leaves to preserve them moist and prevent crumbling when handling or cutting. Glycerin also acts as flavor enhancer.
Electronic cigarettes also use glycerin in the vaporizing liquid.
Paper packaging industry
Glycerin is used in different types of papers, to avoid shrinkage during the production process and soften it in order to become easy to handle. The substance is also used in packaging paper to make it grease proof.
Glycerin containing paper is available in thin sheets, perfect for making cigarettes at home.
Glycerin is present in regular cat and dog foods as a binder and sweetener. However, a greater occurrence is found in treats. Glycerin is added in order to preserve that chewy texture, to prevent mold production and add a sweet taste to the product. Generally, there are no major risks associated to the use of glycerin in dog and cat food. It must be noted that the ingredient is labelled as “safe” for the pets, but does not have any notable nutritional value.
Caution: there are certain cat and dog food producers which use glycerin derived from biofuel production. This type of glycerin often presents high residues of methanol, a flammable and poisonous substance which is not suitable for pet food. In order to avoid methanol residues, opt for foods which clearly state “vegetable glycerin” in the ingredient list and not just plain “glycerin”.
Glycerin is viscous, has a low freezing point and a high boiling point which makes it perfect for lubricating different machinery. It is preferred in the food industry because it is safe for human consumption and does not affect the food in case it accidentally comes in contact with the ingredients or the finished products. Glycerin is also used to lubricate oil pumps and machinery used in the pharmaceutical industry.
Glycerin has a low freezing point, a high melting point, a viscous consistency and becomes liquid at 25 degrees C, which makes it perfect for cooling and anti-freezing processes. In fact, glycerin was initially used as an anti-freeze in ‘30s vehicles, but its high price determined manufacturers to start looking for replacement substances. Nowadays, due to high production of bio-fuel, the price of glycerin dropped considerably, so this substance is slowly making its way into different types of anti-freezers again, including vehicles’ cooling system. Further research is undergone in order to enlarge its use in this sector.
Glycerin is a compound in nitroglycerin, a highly explosive substance soluble in alcohol, but non-soluble in water. Nitroglycerin is sensitive to heat variations and shocks which made it extremely dangerous to handle. The nitroglycerin was first made in 1846 by Ascanio Sobrero and perfected by Alfred Noble, which turned into a paste for an easier handling, a paste now known as dynamite. Glycerin is still used in bomb production.
Pure glycerin is sold in a liquid form in drugstores and stores specialized in natural products. Most people buying this type of product prefer vegetable glycerin over glycerin produced from animal fats, because of conviction (e.g. vegetarians) or because of their allergies to different animal products. Also, there is a belief (unconfirmed scientifically) that vegetable glycerin is better than the one resulted when using animal fats as a prime source.
Here are some of the ways in which glycerin can be employed in your household:
• mix the liquid glycerin with clothing soap flakes (or detergent powder) and some essential oils of your choice and you obtain a powerful and fragrant detergent that will remove stains and leave the clothes smelling nicely.
• place liquid glycerin on the stain before washing the clothes and then place it in the washing machine and wash it normally. The glycerin will attract extra moisture, making the stain easier to remove.
• a teaspoon of glycerin ingested on empty stomach functions as a mild laxative. Yet, it is advisable to be used only in rare occasions to avoid disrupting the natural function of the digestive system.
• unlike sugar, glycerin does not cause halitosis, on the contrary. A gargle with glycerin diluted with water eliminates bad breath and leaves a sweet taste in your mouth.
• suitable for babies, glycerin rubbed on the chest successfully decongest the nose for a safe and easy breathing. A few drops are enough for an instant relief.
Glycerin is present in virtually any part of the industry. In textile industry is used to produce textile fibers and soften them for easy handling, while in the leather industry is used in the tanning process and for better preservation.
Glycerin is also present in fiberglass production, paint and varnish production and plastic industry with various applications throughout the process.
With such a wide spectrum of uses, glycerin is one of the most sought substances. And it looks like its popularity has not yet reached its peak as more and more countries develop their industry and start using glycerin in their factories.