Glycerin vs Vegetable Glycerin


Glycerin is a humectant substance, that is, it absorbs water from the atmosphere and helps to retain moisture in the skin. It is also a by-product of the production of handmade soap. I repeat, glycerin is a by-product of the production of handmade soap !! Like this:

Oils + Lye => Carboxylic Acid Salt (Soap) + Glycerol (Glycerin) = Natural Handmade Soap

In other words, ALL the handmade soap, with oils and lye such as caustic soda or potash, contains glycerin. So, technically, all handmade soaps are glycerin soap. That is why natural soaps are usually so moisturizing.

Glycerin was discovered in 1779 by a Swedish chemist, Karl Wilhelm Scheele, who named glycerin as “the sweet base of fat”. In 1811, Michel Chevreul’s, a Frenchman, named this glycerin substance which comes from the Greek “glykys” which means “sweet”.

Glycerin was mainly used for medicinal and personal care purposes until the late 1800s, when Alfred Nobel discovered nitroglycerin as an explosive. As a result of the need for glycerin for the manufacture of nitroglycerin (used in the manufacture of dynamite), a practical method of extracting glycerin into soap (or soap) was invented.

Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable or liquid glycerin is a liquid, colorless, viscous, sweet-tasting organic compound, which in its commercial form is 95% pure.Glycerin is widely used in the food industry for two main reasons: it has a sweet taste, but less calories than sugar, and it is hygroscopic, that is, it absorbs moisture from the air. Another important use is in the cosmetics industry.

Thanks to its hygroscopic properties, it is used in many moisturizing skin products, as it seems to help relieve dry skin problems. Vegetable glycerin can also be used as a substitute for ethanol (alcohol) to make plant extracts.

Glycerin Soaps

The soaps I make and the recipes I present on this blog are almost all recipes for cold process soap production, natural handmade soap made from roots. There are a lot of websites on the internet that teach how to make handmade soap, not clarifying that they are only presenting recipes using glycerin bases (melt-and-pour) already manufactured by third parties.

These glycerinated or melt-and-pour bases are pre-made using the same chemical process as the handmade soap, with oils and alkaline elements (caustic soda or potash), but where extra steps and more ingredients are added: an alcohol solution and sugars and extra glycerin. The alcohol solution gives it its transparent appearance (prevents the soap crystals from becoming opaque) and the extra glycerin counterbalances the dehydrating effect of alcohol. That is, what many people call glycerin soap, is nothing more than transparent soap, obtained by this process.

As these bases are made with the same ingredients as the handmade soap / soap, they are equally good, with the advantage that being pre-made, it is no longer necessary to deal with alkaline (dangerous) elements and they become easy and safe to handle, even by children. They can be customized with different shapes, dyes and fragrances, including mixtures of colors and shapes. However, they are not soaps made from scratch, and can become more expensive, given the price of the glycerin base.

One day I will try to make a recipe for “glycerin soap” or transparent soap, and I will share my experience on this blog if all goes well.


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