What is Glycerin?

What is Glycerin

Glycerin (aka Glycerol or Glycerine) products have invaded the market, taking various forms and shapes, starting with the traditional glycerin soap and ending with marvelous anti-aging skin products. Glycerin is also a widely spread ingredient in health products and medicines. Yet, what is glycerin? How it is obtained? What are glycerin’s effects on environment and human body? These are the questions addressed below. Read further for an in-depth analyze of this substance.

What Is Glycerin from a Chemical Point of View?

In chemistry, glycerin is known under the name 1,2,3-Propanetriol. It is a simple polyol (a type of alcohol which contains more hydroxyl groups). The chemical formula of the substance is C3H5(OH)3, which means that the substance has three molecules of carbon, one for each hydroxyl group and for each hydrogen molecule. Two carbon molecules have an additional hydrogen molecule, so that that carbon forms four bonds.

In food science, the polyols are highly praised due to their sweet taste and their relatively low caloric values. They are perfect as alternative to sugar in low carbohydrate diets.

What Are the Main Glycerin Sources?

Until 1948, glycerin (aka Glycerol or Glycerine) was obtained exclusively through the saponification process. This procedure involves mixing lye, water and fats (mainly animal fat) in high temperatures. The result is a transparent soap with glycerin. To extract glycerin, salt was added to the mixture. This made the soap to rise. Once the soap was collected, the remaining was collected and used as glycerin in skin care products, medicines and alimentary products.

Starting with the half of the 20th century, the glycerin is also produced by synthetizing sugar or different propylene based substances. These laboratory devised recipes for glycerol boost the production of glycerin based products and create the premises for a fast ascension of this substance on the cosmetic market.

In the later years, millions of gallons of glycerin have been produced as a byproduct in the biodiesel making process. However, the purity of biodiesel glycerin is rather low and the substance needs further filtration and purification in order to be used in food processing, skin care products and drug fabrication.

What are Glycerin’s Effects on the Environment and Human Body?

Glycerin is soluble in water. Tests have shown that glycerin is easily neutralized by treatments done to residual waters; therefore the quantities reaching environmental waters are minimum. There have not been highlighted any hazardous effects on plants and animals. Furthermore, glycerin has been analyzed and approved by national authorities for agricultural use (as fertilizer).

Glycerin (aka Glycerol or Glycerine) is also used in tobacco industry as a humectant, in food industry as an additive, in pharmaceutical industry as excipient and formulation aid, in chemical substances as intermediate, in cosmetic industry as skin moisturizer and humectant, as anti-freezing substance in cell and sperm preservation, as lubricant and hydraulic fluid.

None of these uses have been reported as provoking any side effects to any of the people coming in contact with the substance. Furthermore the cosmetic industry highlights the positive effects of pure glycerin on human body.