Glycerin is a thick liquid that has a variety of uses. It's used both in industry and personal homes, and pure glycerin can be purchased in bottled form, while various household items containing glycerin are common. In particular, glycerin is well-known as a common soap ingredient.


Also known as glycerol, glycerin is a syrupy liquid that is neutral, nontoxic, sweet-tasting and colorless. It absorbs water from the air, which means that it's dehydrating unless diluted, in which case it's capable of softening skin.

Cosmetic Uses

One of the most common uses of glycerin is in soap. It's possible to make soap with glycerin in your own home. It's also used to make moisturizers, skin creams, lotion, deodorant and makeup such as mascara and lipstick.

Medical Uses

There are numerous pharmaceutical uses for glycerin, including anesthetics, cough medicine, capsules and medication for ear infections. Glycerin can be applied topically to help recover from conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

Household Uses

Glycerin is used to preserve various kinds of food, including meat, cheese, cakes, candies and dry food. Because glycerin is a natural solvent, it can also be used to clean up sticky spills.

Other Uses

Another common use for glycerin is to make nitroglycerin, which is in turn used to make dynamite. However, glycerin on its own is completely safe, both nontoxic and nonexplosive. Glycerin can be used for crafts, such as to make an air-drying clay called cold porcelain, and it's used in the textile industry to soften fibers.