What is Glycerin Soap? (Benefits, How It’s Made & More)

By Marsha Harrison

Fact-checked by Kia Lowe

what is glycerin soap

Glycerin soap is a natural and pure way to keep your skin clean and soft. While many soaps you can find in the store are made with man-made chemicals and artificial additives, glycerin soap is one of the few which is almost entirely formulated using natural ingredients.

If you are in search of new soap and have dry skin or are prone to allergies, then check out what is glycerin soap all about right below.

Definition of Glycerin

Soap making glycerin comes from the word “glycerol,” a clear liquid that turns into a thick syrup when mixed with water.

Glycerol is produced as a byproduct of making biodiesel fuel from vegetable oils, but it can also be purchased separately for use as an ingredient in cosmetics or personal care products like soap.

Glycerin is a colorless and odorless substance that is commonly found in soaps. It occurs naturally in plant and animal fats. Still, most of the glycerin produced today comes from petroleum byproducts like crude oil or coal tar.

Uses of Glycerin


  • The chemical can be used as an emollient – which means that it softens skin. Also, it is usable as a humectant to draw moisture from the air into skin cells while retaining moisture within the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin).
  • Glycerin has several uses in the beauty industry. It can be used as a moisturizer, added to shampoos and conditioners, and even incorporated into toothpaste. Some people believe glycerin may help reduce wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.
  • Glycerin has also been shown to have antifungal properties when applied topically and has been used for centuries in wound dressings for this reason.

How is Glycerin Made?

  • Glycerin is made of animal fats or vegetable oils from an extraction process called saponification.
  • When fats or oils react with an alkali, such as lye (sodium hydroxide) or potassium hydroxide, they form a soap solution.
  • The solution is then neutralized with an acid such as lye or tartaric acid, yielding glycerol and fatty acids (soap) as by-products.
  • The remaining impurities are removed by adding water and filtering the mixture.

A Common Misconception About Glycerin Soap


People often ask if you need glycerin to make soap. The answer is yes but remember that glycerin isn’t necessarily one of the ingredients you buy separately. Instead, it’s one of the natural side effects of the soapmaking process itself.

All real soap is glycerin, even if the term is not used on the label. Soap is made by saponifying oils and fats with lye. The chemical reaction between lye and fats results in glycerin, which is the main ingredient of all true soaps, including liquid and solid bars of soap.

If you see homemade glycerin soap, the distinction refers to added glycerin which is usually used as a thickening agent in the recipe. But despite all that, glycerin soap is still different from its pure version.

How is It Different From Pure Glycerin Soap?

Pure glycerin soap is made from pure glycerin and other natural ingredients. These soaps are usually quite expensive but great for sensitive skin.

These kinds of soaps are actually rare to find on the market today since most companies will add other ingredients, such as fragrance oils or preservatives. The reason why they do this is because pure glycerin soap has a short shelf life and, therefore, cannot be sold as a retail product.

Many companies market their soaps as containing glycerin when, in fact, they don’t. They also tend to use different names for their products, such as “all natural” or “organic.”

Such terms can also be misleading because they do not specify what type is used in making these soaps. While some may use only 100% natural, others may use synthetic ones.

How to Spot Pure Glycerin Soap


1. Transparency

  • As a general rule, if your soap looks opaque or has an off colour, it is not pure glycerin soap.
  • The real ones are translucent and clear, very similar to glycerin in its raw state apart from now being solid. You can see through it, which is why it’s called “transparent” soap.

2. Texture

  • Pure glycerin soap will have a slightly waxy texture when touched but will not be sticky or greasy.
  • If you rub your fingers across the bar of soap, you’ll feel a slight resistance as the surface tension of the water that has evaporated from the bar pushes against your fingers.
  • This is why pure glycerin soap stays moist longer than other types of soap — it doesn’t dry out as quickly because there is no water left in it.

3. Fragrance

  • Pure glycerin soap does not have any fragrance added to it, so some people may find this off-putting when compared with other soaps on the market today, which are scented or coloured with fragrances of your choice.

What Are the Benefits of Glycerin Soap?

Glycerin soap can improve your skin’s tenacity and clarity while reducing blemishes. But, that’s not all this soap can offer! Here are some other great benefits of its uses.

  • Glycerin soap is the mildest of all the different kinds of soap, so it should be the go-to choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
  • Glycerin soap has a particularly high moisturizing ability. Glycerin soap is a great option for those who want to experience softer, smoother, and healthier-looking skin without having to worry about potential allergic reactions.
  • Glycerin soap bars are linked to higher success rates when it comes to clearing up skin problems such as acne and psoriasis.
  • These soaps also help to prevent drying the skin, a problem many people suffer from due to frequent hand washing with regular soap bars during the winter months.

Is It Really Hypoallergenic?


Glycerin can be made synthetically or derived from natural sources like palm and coconut oils. While glycerin is considered nontoxic and environmentally friendly, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s hypoallergenic.

The FDA doesn’t regulate the term “hypoallergenic” when it comes to personal care products. Therefore, manufacturers can use this claim on their packaging without having any scientific proof to back it up.


Many soaps that claim to be moisturizing are little more than sudsing detergents. Genuine glycerin-containing soaps act as an external moisturizer for your skin. Many might not be aware that it can help alleviate the long-term effects of constant moisture loss, such as prematurely wrinkling skin, sagging skin, or deep wrinkles.

If you have dry skin, consider using glycerin soap on a regular basis to help keep your skin looking young and healthy.

In the end, it’s all down to personal preference. Now that you know what is glycerin soap and the benefits it can bring to your skin, why not give it a try?

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