It’s funny how invisible ingredient labels have become in our modern lifestyle. We take for granted that there are lots of words, chemicals, compounds, and numbers that we don’t recognize. The dynamic journey that I’m on with my daughter means delving into those labels to find out more.
What is glycerin?
Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is an organic compound that is commonly made of animal fat or vegetable oil. It’s clear, odourless, and has a sweet taste.
If you’re interested in it’s molecular formula, check out this post by Allan Robinson.
What is glycerin used for?
We can safely ignore some of its more explosive uses, like being used to make nitroglycerin (an active part of dynamite); we’re most likely to encounter it in food products or beauty products. It’s widely used because products often dissolve more easily into it (than water or alcohol) and because it’s believed to help moisturise skin.
Go have a look in your bathroom and you will find glycerin in many of your products including:
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Skincare products.
In the kitchen, you can find it in foods but not as frequently. It’s often used in diet / low sugar products or as a base for things like ‘Peppermint Essence’.
Should I be concerned?
For most people, the answer is no. Glycerin is widely considered to have all kinds of benefits for skincare.
For some, for instance vegans, the source of glycerin may conflict with personal beliefs.
What is vegetable glycerin made from?
The main cause for concern about vegetable glycerin is if you have a soy allergy.
Vegetable glycerin is commonly made from soybean oil, palm oil, or coconut oil. If you’ve read my post about soybean oil then you’ll know it’s cheap, readily available, and widely used internationally in a variety of commercial products – which is a problem if you’re allergic.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out if sufficient soy protein can transmit through the manufacturing process to remain present in the end product (glycerin). The reality is that I don’t know – I’m also not certain if it’s been particularly well studied. Soy lecithin and soybean oil are not FDA regulated because they are considered to be ‘generally safe’ – unless you’re allergic to them (like my daughter).
It’s certainly something to be aware of if you (or a family member) is allergic to soy and has symptoms that don’t seem to be going away. If you’ve eliminated all other sources of soy then try reconsidering your bathroom. It’s also possible that exposure through other means may be cumulative over time or result in a low grade reaction; you know your allergy symptoms best. It’s certainly food for thought!