What it is: Also called glycerol, glycerin is a thick, colorless, non-toxic liquid known for having a slightly sweet taste.

Where it comes from: Glycerin is the main byproduct of soap-making and biodiesel production. Companies often extract glycerin during the soap-making process to use it for higher-end products.   

Properties: Glycerin is syrupy and dries to a thick, gummy paste. It’s also a good solvent because it dissolves quickly into water and alcohol.

What it’s good for: Due to its humectant properties, which allow it to absorb moisture from the air, glycerin is used in skin emollients to keep skin supple. It also gives beauty and pharmaceutical products a smooth texture and a sweetened taste. In the food industry, glycerin is used not only as a sweetener but as a food preservative as well.

Where you’ll find it: Glycerin is used in nail hardeners to help strengthen the nail and in nail moisturizers to increase the water content in the nail. It is also added into cuticle removers as a humectant. In the beauty industry, glycerin is often used in making products like lipsticks, lotions, and various hair care products. It is also found in cough syrups, elixirs, and skin care products because of its ability to provide lubrication and retain moisture.

Other uses: Applying glycerin topically reduces scarring and also helps heal skin problems such as burns, bites, cuts, rashes, bedsores, and calluses.

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