What Is Vegetable Glycerin? Uses, Benefits and Side Effects

What Is Vegetable Glycerin?

Vegetable glycerin (VG) is a liquid at room temperature which contains mostly water with small amounts of other ingredients such as propylene glycol, butane or ethyl alcohol. VG is widely used in cosmetics and personal care products because it does not evaporate easily and can be blended into many different formulations without affecting its properties.

The main use of VG is in making soaps, shampoos and toothpastes. It is also used as a thickener in baked goods and other foods. VG may be produced from natural sources such as coconut oil, palm kernel oil or sugarcane juice.

Other sources include petroleum, coal tar derivatives or even sewage sludge.

It is also used as a food additive in some processed foods. It is added to breads, pastas, cereals and other baked goods. It may also be found in pharmaceutical preparations such as cough syrups and laxatives.

Some brands of chewing gum contain VG.

There are several types of VG:

Coconut glycerin – A mixture of saturated fatty acids (e.g. lauric acid) makes up around 60% of this type.

Palm glycerin – It is extracted from palm oil and has an odor similar to licorice.

Rapeseed glycerin – This is the most common type used in soapmaking.

Soybean-based glycerin – Less expensive than other types, it is used in foods rather than cosmetics and soaps.

Vegetable glycerin products are safe to use. In normal amounts, it is well-tolerated and has a soothing effect when applied topically. It may even help relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids.

However, there are some concerns about using this substance in cosmetics and personal care products.

Is Vegetable Glycerin Safe?

The FDA considers vegetable glycerin to be “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. It has approved its use in a wide variety of foods and beverages.

In small amounts, it is safe for consumption. However, there are concerns about the long-term consumption of large amounts of this substance. Some studies have linked high intake of glycerin to kidney problems, liver damage and an increase in triglyceride levels.

There is also concern that it can contribute to the development of dental cavities. The main concern is that it can reduce the saliva flow, leaving mouth tissues exposed to bacteria.

Some people are also allergic to vegetable glycerin. Allergic reactions can be mild or quite severe (e.g.

anaphylactic shock). If you experience itching or hives after using a cosmetic product containing vegetable glycerin, seek immediate medical attention.

Glycerin soap side effects link this substance to skin dryness and yeast infections when used in the genital area. There is also some concern that it can affect the natural bacterial flora found in the skin, which can lead to skin disorders such as eczema. It is not recommended for use in baby wipes because it can cause yeast infections in babies.

How Is It Used?

It is used in a wide variety of food, medical and cosmetic products. Some examples include:

Baked goods – As a substitute for butter or oil.

Candy – To keep the product from drying out and to maintain freshness.

Chewing gum – As a replacement for fats.

Chocolate – To keep cocoa butter from separating from other ingredients.

Coatings for pills – To make the pills slide down easier.

Detergents – It is used as a foaming agent and to prevent layers of dried detergent from building up in hard water.

Drugs – As a replacement for the liquid form of some prescription drugs.

Food products – To keep food from drying out and to maintain freshness.

Hair care products – It is used to add moisture to hair.

Lipstick – It is used as a binder for the colorant. It can also keep the product from drying out and make it easier to apply.

Medicine – It is used as a solvent for some ingredients and as a moisturizer.

Nutritional supplements – It is used to bind minerals and vitamins so they are easier to consume.

Paint and coatings – It can be used to keep dried paint from hardening in the container.

Photographic chemicals – As a protective coating for light-sensitive materials.

Soaps and bath products – To keep them from drying out and to maintain freshness.

Spices – It is used as a protective coating and to keep the product from adhering to the container.

Vitamins – It is used to hold the ingredients together, increase solubility and improve taste.

Wine – To improve taste by preventing certain ingredients from separating.

Topical products – It is used to add moisture to the skin.

Mouthwash – It can be used as a sweetener and as an alcohol substitute.

Is It Safe For Skin Application?

In most cases, yes. The main exception are preparations that are designed for ingestion. If you use these on your skin, you could experience a wide range of side effects.

Some people may experience irritation, itching or hives when using glycerin soap on their skin. If you have sensitive skin, it is always best to perform a skin patch test before using a new product all over your body.

Tips For Using

If you experience itching, rashes or swelling when using glycerin soap, stop using the product immediately and try a different brand. Everyone’s skin reacts differently to various ingredients.

Glycerin soap is an excellent moisturizing agent, so even if you don’t experience any negative side effects you may notice that your skin becomes slightly greasier than normal. Apply a light coating of lotion or body oil after each use if you find that it is affecting how your skin naturally absorbs moisture.

Glycerin soap tends to be more expensive than traditional alternatives. If cost is a factor for you, you may want to consider using an alternative product for everyday use and reserving the glycerin soap for times when your skin feels particularly dry or harsh weather is occurring.

Sources & references used in this article:

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Electronic cigarette liquid and device parameters and aerosol characteristics: a survey of regular users by AM Harvanko, AK McCubbin, KB Ashford, TH Kelly – Addictive behaviors, 2018 – Elsevier