Is Glycerin a Preservative?

Glycerin can be found in almost all skincare products. It is often added as a moisturizer, but did you know that glycerin might also be used as a preservative? 

Glycerine is a natural and non-toxic preservative used in many products as food preserving agents or as cosmetic ingredients. It can be sourced from either animals or plants and obtained as a by-product in soap making.

Whether you’re seeking a fun hobby, saving money, or pursuing a new business venture, our step-by-step guide makes crafting spa products enjoyable and easy, perfect for hobbies, saving money, or starting a business. Explore 126+ recipes, from soaps to lotions, with our beginner-friendly Quick Start Guide. Ditch store-bought products with unknown chemicals and embrace personalized, high-quality creations that cater to allergies and sensitivities using The Handcrafter’s Companion.

I bet you’ve even seen the word “glycerin” somewhere before? That’s because this wonderful substance has been around since at least 500 B.C Egyptians would use it as a formulator during mummification processes. 

However, what makes glycerin such an interesting product is its versatility. And if you are searching for a natural preservative, this might be the best option currently out there.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a clear liquid substance taken from vegetable sources, including coconut and palm oil. It is also obtainable from soybean, among many other vegetable materials. It does not have an odor and has a sweet taste. It has a texture similar to syrup. Glycerin is also categorized as alcohol.

It’s worth noting that glycerin is also obtainable from animal fat and oil. However, vegetable alternatives have been predominant in the last decade or so. Many of the products based on glycerin are cruelty-free.

Vegetable glycerin is obtained from two methods:

  1. It can be obtained if you heat triglyceride-rich vegetable fats under pressure.
  2. After mixing the same fats with a powerful alkali, like lye, which basically means when you make soap.

Either of these processes will separate the glycerin from fatty acids. This way, It’ll mix with water and end up having the syrup-like consistency we’ve mentioned earlier. When using liquid glycerin, it is crucial to mix it with water before so I can contribute with the necessary humectation. Otherwise, it may not have the desired effect.

This substance is known for its moisturizing and antibacterial properties, which is why it’s prominently used in the cosmetic industry. You can find it in lotions, balms, and certain types of soap. It is absent from commercial soap as it is destined to be used in other products.

Is glycerin a preservative?

Glycerin is a preservative. It’s natural and non-toxic, and with proper procedure, it can be used in food and cosmetics. However, it’s mainly used as a moisturizing agent in different skincare products, like lotion or even soap.

If the product contains water, it requires a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria. Products without preservatives have less shelf life and might, in some cases, work as effectively. When it comes to glycerin, it also preserves other of the components found in the product’s structure, such as dried herbs. 

However, the effectiveness of glycerol as a preservative depends on its percentage present in the product.

Consequently, a product with a high concentration of glycerin won’t require any other preservative to be effective. Now, that is only possible if the glycerol concentration is higher than 50%.

With that being said, glycerin is an all-in-one product. The moisturizing and preservation effect it has in different products make it essential in the cosmetic industry. It keeps many products all-natural and effective throughout the time.

Is vegetable glycerin a preservative for cosmetics?

Yes. Vegetable glycerin is widely used in the cosmetic industry due to its moisturizing and preservative effects. If the recipe has a high concentration of glycerin (more than 50 percent), it will keep the product as good as new for a long time.

Vegetable glycerin can preserve many of the ingredients used in your DIY recipe. Combined with its moisturizing and antibacterial properties, it is a must-have ingredient in cosmetics and many other products.

Is vegetable glycerin a natural preservative?

Vegetable glycerin is considered a natural preservative, but only if you keep its percentages at more than 50%. If your product has a lower glycerol percentage, you may want to use a different preservative to extend its shelf life or at least to keep its effectiveness in the long term. 

Please note that glycerin is alcohol. And what’s alcohol characterized for? That’s right – it has antibacterial properties. Thus, adding vegetable glycerin to either of your DIY cosmetic products can be an excellent choice if you want to be as effective as possible.

Vegetable glycerin is obtained during the manufacturing process. Thus, it will become part of your product pretty much after you’ve finished making it, acquiring the moisturizing and preservative effect of this substance. It should be good as new for a considerable amount of time.

Is glycerin a preservative for lotion?

Yes. Lotions are considered cosmetic products. If you’re following some DIY lotion recipe that contains vegetable fat like palm or coconut oil, it will “produce” glycerin as a result of the manufacturing process. However, if you want to work as a preservative for the lotion, it is necessary for you to keep its levels at around 50% or higher.

As we’ve mentioned throughout the article, glycerin can work as a preservative in tons of cosmetic products, but only if its composition has fifty percent or a higher percentage of it. Otherwise, you may have to use a different preservative to make sure that the product lasts for a longer time.

It’s highly recommended to use glycerin in your lotion due to its preservative and moisturizing effects. There are almost no drawbacks to the use of glycerin in lotion. Only on rare occasions, it causes negative reactions, not even due to glycerol itself, but rather from it its source (palm, coconut oil).

Does glycerin preserve food?

Glycerin does preserve food, but it isn’t as simple as you may think. Again, it all depends on how much you use a particular substance. Unfortunately, although we can all agree that glycerin has a preservative effect, we don’t seem to agree on the optimal percentage for it to work. While you will find tons of websites that will tell you how effective glycerin is to preserve food, you won’t likely find any post that tells you how much glycerin to use. 

All sources say either 50% as a minimum, below or above that percentage, too.

Now, it is quite complicated to determine the exact percentage of glycerin you’ll need to preserve food, but again, general guidelines say that keeping the levels at around 50% or higher can diminish bacterial growth. That’s all we can tell you – there is no simple answer, and today’s world doesn’t seem to focus that much on glycerin’s effect as a preservative.

Do I need a preservative if I use glycerin?

You may or may not need a preservative if you use glycerin in your recipe. If you don’t want to use another preservative, then you’ll need to keep the glycerin levels at 50% or higher. Keeping the glycerol concentration below this level will require you to use a different preservative to extend the product’s shelf life and keep it free of bacteria.

We can’t accurately say if you need a preservative if you use glycerin because the percentage varies based on the recipe. While keeping the levels at fifty percent or higher will diminish the possibility of bacterial growth, we can’t assure you that this information is accurate all the time. Since there is no real research to back up this issue, all we can tell you is that you’ll need to calculate how much glycerin you’ve used on the recipe, and then you can determine whether you’ll need a different preservative or not.

What concentration is glycerin a preservative?

Glycerin is only effective as a preservative if you use it at a 50% percentage. Although this concentration is enough in most cases, most people would recommend a concentration between 60 and 70 percent. Keeping the concentration higher than 50% will increase the substance’s effectiveness as a preservative.

No one seems to agree on the exact percentage of glycerin you need for cosmetic or other recipes. Although the paragraph above describes some general guidelines, it all depends on what you’re making.

In what way can you use glycerin as a preservative?

There is no accurate “technique” to use glycerin as a preservative – it should become part of the structure once it has been added to the product. Thus, its preservation effect should be active with no preservation effect.

You will not find any specific how-to post or instructional video because once you’ve used glycerin in your product, it will already gain all the properties associated with glycerin. 

We’ve discussed that glycerin only acts as a preservative if it is at 50% within the product’s composition. The FDA recommends keeping the levels of glycerin within this level for it to be effective as a preservative. There are no specific guidelines or instructions to active glycerin’s preservative effect. It should be okay as long as you keep it as part of the recipe.

Are there any drawbacks to using glycerin as a preservative?

We can’t accurately say whether it has advantages or disadvantages as the use of glycerin in different products is quite subjective. It all depends on the use and the reaction of the user’s body to it. However, it’s pretty rare for people to react negatively to glycerin.

You should also know that there is no actual research about the use of glycerin as a preservative. All of its “drawbacks” are related to how you use it, but even then, it causes bad reactions on the user only on rare occasions.

No institution has prohibited the use of glycerin in any country. It is safe to consume and use on your skin, but keep in mind that it may cause an allergic reaction to your skin as a natural ingredient. If that’s the case, you should suspend its use immediately. Presumably, the negative reaction may actually come from the palm or coconut oil you’ve used in the recipe, for example.

If you’re not sure if it’s safe for you to use glycerin, we recommend consulting with a professional.


Glycerin is an exceptional substance. It is quite versatile, and it can be effective for multiple purposes. Its moisturizing effect makes it especially useful in the cosmetic industry, which is why it is present in lotion, creams, and many other products for the skin.

When it comes to the usage of glycerin as a preservative, all we know is that keeping the levels above 50% in the recipe will diminish the possibility of bacterial growth.

Recent Posts