Vegetable glycerin is a sugar alcohol and is present in vegetable oils. It is a normal by-product of the soap manufacturing process. Glycerin can also be synthetically created from carbohydrates and other less natural substances, such as propylene.
Glycerin is hygroscopic and is used as a humectant and conditioning agent in hair and skin care products. Glycerin can increase strength and moisture level of hair and can improve hair that is dry, frizzy or prone to breakage. Certain studies have linked it to helping skin cells stay healthy as they age and may be of value in cases of psoriasis and non-melanoma skin cancer.
The Glycerin Hazard Summary (CAS Number 56-81-5) does indicate potential hazards for occupational exposure, including systemic toxicity when administered orally or parenterally in very large doses. However, it goes on to state that "systemic effects do not follow copious application to skin."
At one time the overuse of Glycerin was believed to pull water out of the skin, thereby giving the appearance of moisture to the outer layers, but leaving the inner layers somewhat dehydrated. However, more recent research has disproven this theory and glycerin continues to be scientifically viewed as very beneficial to the skin.
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