Glycerine is a transparent, water-soluble, viscous, and non-toxic compound/liquid commonly found in animal and vegetable fats. Although known as glycerol, glycerine was first discovered by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, a Swedish chemist, in 1779 while boiling olive oil and lead monoxide. He first named it ‘the sweet principle of fat,’ which was later on changed to Glycerine by Michel-Eugene Chevreul, a French chemist. Glycerine is derived from the Greek word Glykys, loosely translated as sweet. According to lab research, glycerine is generally stable though it can be reacted in different situations, where it can act as an alcohol chemically. From such humble beginnings, glycerine has become a common product in every household. Here are some of the ways glycerine is used today.
Glycerine is a vital ingredient in the manufacture of different soaps. Interestingly, glycerine can be produced during the soap-making process as well. Some manufacturers use industrially-manufactured soap to produce glycerol or glycerine. Glycerine is thus produced industrially through the saponification process. This is the process of converting fats and oils into soap. Glycerine is a by-product of heated lipids mixed with an alkali, say sodium hydroxide. The remaining compound is then poured into moulding containers to foam different and fun soap shapes. ‘Melt and pour’ soaps generally contain a high glycerine content.
2. Skin And Hair Care Products
Glycerine is a natural humectant, a property that makes it an important ingredient in beauty, skin, and hair care products. A humectant is a compound that naturally attracts and binds moisture to it, making it the perfect ingredient for hair conditioners, lotions, and shampoos. Glycerine-rich shampoo is thus an effective remedy for treating itchy scalp and dandruff. This is because glycerine helps restore and maintain moisture in the scalp, preventing it from over-drying.
Skincare products and lotions also use glycerine for the same reason, to attract and bind moisture to the skin. It thus makes one of the 3 main ingredients of skin lotions: emollients, humectants, and occlusives. Emollients help keep the skin smooth and heal out rough spots, while occlusives provide a protective layer to prevent moisture from escaping. Glycerine plays the crucial role of attracting and binding moisture.
Glycerine is a natural sweetener as it is around 75% as sweet as sugar. It is chemically referred to as a sugar alcohol and is commonly preferred for preserving energy bars, cakes, and bread. Its moisture-binding properties help prevent these foods from drying out, preserving their original taste and texture for longer. In addition to this, glycerine can be used in condiments, drinks, soft candies, marshmallows, canned soup, and chewing gum. We can thus safely say glycerine is safe for all to use, if at all sparingly.
The ‘sweet’ and stable nature of glycerine makes it the perfect ingredient to use in lozenges and cough syrups. Otherwise, these wouldn’t be easily palatable. Aside from the sweet aspect, glycerine is thick enough to act as a thickener for topical ointments and creams. Unknown to many, glycerine attracts water from inside the body through the colon to allow food materials to move down the digestive tract. Glycerine is also used as an excipient in gel capsules, ear drops, and eye drops. This is because it preserves the compounds and chemicals without reacting, allowing for safe delivery to the intended part or cell. The health sector has also benefited greatly from glycerine, as it is the main medium used to preserve delicate specimens, including red blood cells, sperm, and living tissue.
5. Inks, Paints and Plastics
For industrial applications, glycerine is a key building block for resins and paints. It is also a preferred compound for softening plastics, especially in food wrappers. The non-toxic and stable nature also helps keep food-grade plastics safe as well as prevent shrinkage. The flux flowmeter will help to measure applications in industry, petrochemicals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, paints and varnishes
6. Vaping Liquid
Glycerol is an important base for vaping fluids. A number of vapers prefer vaping fluids with a high glycerine content as it makes the vape ‘smoke’ quite visible.