By Autumn Jones

Vegetable glycerin is a by-product of the soap-making process. It is known for being a humectant, meaning that it attracts water. Because of this, it's found in a mind-boggling number of skin and hair products intended to soften and moisturize. Coating your hair with pure glycerin will result in a sticky mess, but using it sparingly---or with other products---for sweet relief on those extra-dry days will give you the results you want.

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Pure Glycerin: Uses for Hair & Skin

Curly Hair

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Woman with curly hair

Glycerin keeps hair hydrated by drawing moisture from the air to the hair shaft. As a conditioner, it's especially beneficial for curly hair, which tends to be drier due to the shape of the hair shaft. It helps curls form better and works against that dreaded curse of the curly girl: frizz.

DIY Hair Recipe

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Woman spraying her hair with product

For a quick-and-easy moisturizer, whip up a hydrating glycerin hair spray. Mix equal parts vegetable glycerin and water in a spray bottle. Shake well. Add three drops of essential oil (rosemary, lavender, tea tree, or cedarwood are all great for hair). Spritz on hair after showering.

Skin Disease

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Woman applying lotion

Sure, glycerin is a wonderful skin moisturizer, but new research has revealed that glycerin may do a lot more than keep your skin baby-soft. A study published in the 2003 December issue of "The Journal of Investigative Dermatology" showed that glycerin helps skin cells mature properly. This doesn't mean you'll age faster---healthy, maturing cells are vital to those with conditions such as non-melanoma skin cancer and psoriasis.


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Woman's bare knees

Not only does glycerin help control skin disease, it's also wonderful for injuries. Dr. Mary P. Lupo, in a 2009 study, demonstrated how glycerin speeds up the healing process, lessens bruising, and encourages tissues and cells to repair themselves.

Facial Mask

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Woman putting on a face mask

To soften dry skin, mix one part glycerin and one part honey with two parts water. Add oatmeal until it thickens into a mask-like texture and spread it on your face, then leave it on for 20 minutes before rinsing. You can also substitute milk, buttermilk or chamomile tea for the water.


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Man pouring oil in hands

A warning for the glycerin-happy: If it is used by itself in very dry climates it will attract moisture from your skin and hair instead of from the air. This can result in blisters on the skin and brittle locks. Add a teaspoon of jojoba oil to your products to prevent this.