Pure Glycerin: Uses for Hair & Skin

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.

rear view of a woman holding her wet hair
credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Pure Glycerin: Uses for Hair & Skin

Curly Hair

close up portrait of a young adult woman in a black tank top as she smiles
credit: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
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

Woman spraying her hair with product
credit: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images
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

Close-up of a woman's hand applying lotion to her shoulder
credit: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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.

Healing

Woman's legs
credit: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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

close-up of a woman applying face pack
credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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.

Caution

0
credit: Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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.