Animal glycerin vs Veggie glycerin

by kcurly on July 13, 2009

in Ask Kcurly

Comment from Mesha :

What is the difference between glycerin you buy at the whole food store and the one at Walmart? I’m about to BC tomorrow and I bought glycerin at Walmart to make my own spritz. Should I use it?

Thanks for the comment! Animal glycerin is more than likely what is sold at Walmart and the Whole Foods probably has veggie glycerin. Here are characteristics of the two I found while digging:

Animal Glycerin:

  • made from animal fats, such as tallow, grease, or lard
  • cheaper to make
  • usually not purified

Vegetable Glycerin:

  • will not become rancid or ferment
  • does not dry as fast as animal glycerin
  • is food grade and therefore has more uses

Both:

  • acts as an emollient to soften the skin
  • thick, clear, odorless liquid
  • may act as an emulsifier and humetcant (draws moisture from the air)

Here is a word of caution about glycerin from NC.com (my emphasis, not theirs):

Glycerin is a relatively small molecule compared to many moisturizers, and it contains three hydroxyl groups. This high molecular density of hydrophilic groups makes it an extremely hygroscopic molecule that absorbs water from its surrounding environment. It does this to such a high degree that it will raise a blister if applied in an undiluted state to the skin. If it were applied to hair in such a concentrated state, it could strip all of the moisture from the interior of the hair.

However, when used in a diluted form, glycerin can be a great moisturizer and humectant for the hair. Care should be taken to use it in environments of moderate humidity. If the climate is very hot and humid, glycerin will absorb a lot of moisture from the air and cause the hair to swell, raising the cuticle and disrupting curl pattern, creating coarse, frizzy hair. In weather that is extremely dry, glycerin will seek out moisture from your hair and actually dehydrate it, which can cause damage and breakage.

When making my homemade spritz, I use only a small amount of glycerin and I only use, as of now, veggie glycerin which is sold in bulk at my local health foods store, so not expensive at all. I have however used the walmart glycerin and found no problem with it.  A lot of folks use the animal based glycerin and have great results.

There is also synthetic glycerin which is petroleum based. Here is an article in Biodiesel Magazine you might find of interest.

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