Is Glycerin Vegan?
You have most probably heard the name ‘glycerin’ before - maybe you have seen it at the back of a hand soap package or a shampoo bottle. However, you may not be familiar with the details of this substance. What is it exactly? And is it suitable for vegans? Here we have provided the most important details on glycerin, along with the information if it fits the vegan diet. Keep on reading to learn more!
What Is Glycerin?
Glycerin is a commonly used alternative name of glycerol, a thick compound consisting of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. In chemical terms, it is a sugar alcohol that can’t be found in nature on its own but only as an element of a larger molecule called a triglyceride.
In order to get glycerin from the triglyceride, the original fat needs to be saponified with sodium hydroxide. Interestingly, this reaction also leads to obtaining soap. As there are three hydroxyl groups in glycerin, it is miscible with water and has hygroscopic properties.
When it comes to sources of this compound, it is most commonly manufactured from vegetable sources, but it can also be obtained from petroleum oils or animal fat.
Animal Fat Glycerin
One of the ways to get glycerin is to mix water and the tallow (coming from mutton or beef fat) and heat it over medium to low temperature up to a point it becomes thick. Next, the mixture has to be cooled in the fridge overnight. When it hardens, it can be either strained to get rid of the impurities or boiled to remove unnecessary water.
It is often used for producing cosmetics, such as lotions, soaps, or hair products. For this reason, it is always crucial to read what’s written on the label before buying to check if it doesn't include animal fat-based glycerin.
Vegetable Oil Glycerin
So as to receive glycerol from the vegetable oils, a combination of water, pressure and temperature must be used. Thanks to the pressure, it is possible to separate the glycerin from the fatty acid and let it be absorbed by water. As a result of its organic makeup, the vegetable-based glycerol is similar to syrup when it comes to texture.
It is used to produce both food and household products, such as toothpaste, lotions, soap or shampoo. When added to food, it provides a bit of a sweet taste. Making sure you are dealing with glycerol obtained from vegetable sources will allow you to include glycerin in your vegan diet.
The Possible Health Benefits of Glycerin
It is worth including glycerin in your diet when you make sure it is vegan because it can have some health benefits. It still needs more studies for confirmation, but so far, it is claimed that glycerin:
- may boost skin health, as it can alleviate skin irritation, enhance wound healing and protect against infection
- may help with constipation because it can draw water into your gut and let the digested food move through it more easily
- may improve hydration, which can be significant for your athletic performance.
All in all, there is no one answer to the question ‘Is glycerin vegan?’ - it all depends on the source used to produce this substance. It can be obtained from animal fats, but it’s also possible to get it from plant sources, like soy, palm, or coconut oil. There is also a possibility to produce it from petroleum oil.
Before you buy a certain food or household product, you should always remember to check the label to find out what kind of glycerol source has been used. If it turns out it is not made from animal fat, you can feel free to have it as a vegan.