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Is Glycern Vegan? What To Know About This Common Ingredient

by Sara Kelley

May 21, 2024

If you've ever read an ingredients list, whether it be for skincare, food, or anything in-between, you may have noticed "Glycerin" cushioned between a host of other complex terms. While this practical ingredient serves many purposes, conscious consumers want to know if Glycerin is considered vegan. The answer? It depends.

Spread the word.

Is Glycerin Vegan?

It depends on its source. Glycerin can be derived from either animal fats or plant-based sources. Animal-based glycerin, often made from cow fat (tallow), is not considered vegan.

On the other hand, glycerin derived from plant sources such as soybean, coconut, or palm oils is vegan-friendly. To determine if a product contains vegan glycerin, consumers should carefully read labels, look for vegan certifications, and contact the brand directly for clarification if needed.

When in doubt, it's best to avoid the product if its vegan status cannot be confirmed.

What is Glycerin?

Glycerin, also referred to as glycerol, is an ingredient commonly used across various products due to its beneficial properties. Glycerin is often found in beauty products such as soaps, serums, and face or body lotions because it provides long-term moisture to the skin.

However, Glycerin is also frequently used in food products due to its naturally sweet taste. Occasionally, you may also find Glycerin listed as an ingredient in household items, or even medicinal products due to its healing properties.

What is Glycerin Made of?

Glycerin can be derived in one of two ways: either through fats or through carbohydrates. Most often, Glycerin is derived from fats, and like many ingredients, this liquid or gelatin-like compound exists in both plants and animals.

Also like many ingredients, glycerin can be synthetically created, an option some manufacturers may opt for when there is a strict need to ensure ingredient purity. With that said, plants and animals are the most common sources of Glycerin.

Animal Glycerin vs Vegetable Glycerin

Animal-based Glycerin is made from animal (cow) fat, also known as tallow. Glycerin is extracted from tallow and is mixed with water and heated until the substance thickens. From there, it's strained of excess water and impurities and is ready to be used as an ingredient.

On the other hand, vegetable-based Glycerin is typically extracted from plants such as soybean, coconut, and palm oils. (Read our Sustainable Beauty Guide to learn more about Cruelty-Free Kitty's stance on palm oils). It's extracted from these plants using heat and pressure to prepare it for use in products.

Is Glycerin the Same as Gelatin?

Gelatin is a translucent and flavorless ingredient that derives from collagen, a protein most commonly found in animals. And while Glycerin and Gelatin may seem similar due to their names and consistencies, they are not the same ingredient.

Is Vegan Glycerin Safe to Eat?

According to the FDA, Glycerin is, "generally recognized as safe when used in accordance with good manufacturing practice." This includes both vegan and non-vegan Glycerin. And while Glycerin isn't an ingredient that provides much nutritional value, it's considered non-toxic to consume.

What are the Potential Benefits of Vegan Glycerin?

Besides being a versatile ingredient with many different uses, vegan Glycerin is also packed with tons of amazing benefits.

Vegan Glycerin Benefits in Skincare

When used in skincare, Glycerin works most effectively as a humectant. Humectants are compounds that pull water from the air and into the skin. This allows the skin to retain moisture throughout the day.

Glycerin also has healing properties, and can help improve compromised skin barriers. If you experience skin concerns such as excess dryness, redness, and other signs of a compromised skin barrier, try searching for cruelty-free and vegan skincare products that contain Glycerin.

Vegan Glycerin Benefits in Food

As previously mentioned, Glycerin doesn't provide much nutritional value when used in food. Rather, it's used to enhance the sweetness of the product it's formulated within. That said, vegan Glycerin has gained popularity as a sugar substitute, and is particularly beneficial to those diagnosed with diabetes.

However, it's important to note that when consumed in high quantities, you may experience unwanted weight gain due to its water-retention properties.

How to Know if Glycerin is Vegan

Determining whether or not the Glycerin in your products is vegan is not always an easy task. But fear not, as we've created a simple list of steps you can follow to help determine if the Glycerin in your products is fact vegan.

Step 1: Read the Labels and Packaging

First, start by reading the ingredient label. Some ingredient labels will provide additional details about the exact source of its ingredients. Research brands known for their commitment to vegan and cruelty-free products, as these companies are more likely to use plant-based Glycerin in their formulations.

Vegan certifications, such as Vegan.org, are also a great way to confirm if a product is vegan. Many brands will include these logos on their packaging, providing reassurance that the product you're using is 100% vegan.

Step 2: Research and Contact the Brand Directly

If the product packaging or labels don't explicitly state whether or not the Glycerin is vegan, your next step is to reach out to the brand directly. Start by visiting the brand's website and product page, as well as their FAQ section, to learn more. If the information is not provided there, it's best to contact them through their website or social media to ask.

Step 3: When in Doubt, Don't Use it

Sometimes despite your best efforts, it may be difficult to confirm if the Glycerin in your product is vegan. At Cruelty-Free Kitty, we strive to share as many helpful vegan products with you as possible. That's why all products featured in our monthly Better Beauty Subscription Box are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

With that said, it's ultimately up to you to decide if 100% vegan formulas are right for you. If you're looking to either make the switch to veganism or are already a vegan, we suggest not purchasing the product if you're unable to confirm its vegan status.

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