Glycerin

What is it?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol and glycerine, is a non-toxic odorless, colorless viscous liquid that is slightly sweet tasting.  It is commonly used in food, personal care, and pharmaceutical products as a humectant and/or moistener.  Glycerin is the backbone of all animal fats and plant oils so it is typically obtained as a byproduct of soap making with these fats and oils or obtained by splitting these fats/oil.

What does it do?

In our oral care products, glycerin adds body and consistency and prevents them from drying out.  It can also leave a pleasant feel in the mouth and contribute a flavor-extending effect. In our body care products, glycerin helps the skin to attract and retain its own natural moisture, leaving it feeling soft. Rather than sitting on top of the skin, glycerin softens the skin while permitting it to breathe.

How is it made?

Our Stewardship Model guides us to select ingredients which have been processed in a manner that supports our philosophy of human and environmental health.

In our bar soap glycerin is found as a co-product of soap production.  During saponification when triglycerides and fatty acids are combined with a strong alkali glycerin and soaps (such as sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate) are produced.  Glycerin is easy to make and has been part of soap-making since the 19th century.1 Tom’s also uses glycerin in oral care and personal care products that is made from hydrolysis of vegetable oil.    The glycerin is distilled to increase its concentration and undergoes a carbon bleaching process to obtain a highly pure ingredient that we use in our products but could also be used in food and pharmaceuticals.

Although less common, glycerin can also be produced from petroleum sources and is a by-product in the production of biodiesel. Tom’s glycerin comes exclusively from plants and is from one of the following plant oils - soybean, corn, canola, coconut, palm kernel oil, and/or palm.

What are the alternatives?

Sorbitol, and propanediol are two other Stewardship approved humectants used in our products.

Is this the right option for me?

Glycerin has a long history of safe use in oral care and personal care products. It is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of ingredients that are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).2

Tom’s of Maine recognizes that no two people are alike, and even with naturally derived ingredients, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction that is unique to them. As with any product, be sure to discontinue use if you experience discomfort or other indications that the product may not be appropriate for your individual body chemistry.

1 Piesse, G. W. Septimus (1857), The Art of Perfumery And Methods of Obtaining the Odors of Plants, PHILADELPHIA: C. SHERMAN & SON
2 21CFR 182.1320