What is vegetable glycerin?
Vegetable glycerin, also called glycerol or glycerine, is a clear liquid that’s usually made from coconut, palm or soybean oils.
Vegetable glycerin is odorless and it has a mild, sweet taste. This ingredient has a syrup-like consistency and can be used to make cosmetics or certain food products.
Vegetable glycerin is added to foods to help oil and water-based ingredients mix. It is also used to sweeten or moisten food. Additionally, vegetable glycerin can prevent ice crystals from forming in frozen foods like ice cream.
Vegetable glycerin is used to make toothpaste and it helps prevent the toothpaste from drying out or hardening in the tube. Finally, it is added to candles, deodorants, lotions, makeup and soaps.
You can buy vegetable glycerin in vape shops, pharmacies, supermarkets or online stores. When buying vegetable glycerin, consider these factors:
- When buying glycerin for culinary use, make sure the product you buy is food grade.
- Look for 100 percent or pure glycerin. Pure vegetable glycerin has a long shelf life and doesn’t oxidize.
- Always check the expiration date. Vegetable glycerin usually expires one year from the date of manufacturing.
Make your own vegetable glycerin
To make vegetable glycerin, you must heat triglyceride-rich vegetable fats and combine it with a strong alkali like lye.
Follow the recipe to make your own vegetable glycerin at home. You will need a saucepan and a food thermometer.
- Combine the coconut oil and olive oil in a saucepan and stir the mixture. Heat the mixture for 2 minutes or until the coconut oil melts.
- Pour the water in a heat-safe glass container, then add 2 tablespoons of lye.
- Add the lye and water mixture to the saucepan. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.
- Heat the mixture for 20 minutes or until it reaches 125 F.
- Once you have achieved the above-mentioned temperature, turn down the heat to medium-low, until it reaches 100 F. Continue stirring for 15 minutes until the mixture is thicker.
- Remove the saucepan from heat, then add half a cup of salt. Stir well.
- Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes or until the soap and glycerin separate into different layers.
- Use a clean spoon to remove the layer of soap. Store it in a different container.
- Transfer the glycerin into an airtight glass bottle and refrigerate it. Vegetable glycerin can last for four weeks, but if you see a cloudy texture or if it smells off, don’t use it.
If you don’t have coconut and olive oil, use jojoba, palm or vegetable oils.
To make DIY soap, pour the soap into a mold and freeze it for 24 hours. Air-dry the soap for at least three weeks to finish curing it before use. (Related: How to make your own DIY liquid hand soap and laundry soap.)
Since vegetable glycerin is made after exposing your ingredients to high temperatures, it is best to wear safety gear like a face mask, goggles, pants and a long-sleeved shirt. If the mixtures come in contact with your bare skin, flush the affected area with cold water and consult a physician as needed.
Considerations when using vegetable glycerin
Vegetable glycerin is generally considered safe, but if you’re not used to applying products that contain vegetable glycerin, do a patch test first to see how your skin reacts.
When ingested, vegetable glycerin can cause symptoms such as:
- Excessive thirst
Note that glycerin is a form of sugar alcohol that your body can’t fully absorb. If you consume too much vegetable glycerin, you may also experience symptoms like diarrhea and gas.
If you want to create your own cosmetics or DIY soap, learn how to make vegetable glycerin at home.