Is Glycerin Vegan? Is your make-up routine vegan-friendly?

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When becoming vegan we are often surprised by the number of ingredients in our food that do contain animal products. From gelatine to white sugar and carmine, if you chose to follow a plant-based diet you’re now probably used to checking each label whenever you buy food at your local store.

But what about other products such as clothes and make-up? Even though the main focus is usually put on food, there are plenty of items we use daily containing animal-derived ingredients.

This is why today we are going to check whether your make-up routine is fully vegan, by exploring a common substance used in cosmetics and hair products, glycerin. But what is glycerin? And, most importantly, is glycerin vegan? Let’s find out together!

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is a thick gelatinous liquid often used in the cosmetic and beauty industry. This product is, in fact, the third most recurrent ingredient in makeup! Also known as glycol or glycerol, glycerin is widely used for its amazing properties.

Is glycerin vegan?

As often in the vegan world, the answer is, unfortunately, not that simple. Glycerin can, in fact, be extracted from both animal and vegan sources. In the former case, this ingredient is made from animal fat and is obviously not vegan. In the past, this was the main way of extracting glycerin, but luckily nowadays most companies are opting for vegan options. This ingredient can be also derived from a variety of vegetable sources such as corn, canola, palm oils, soybeans, coconut, and more.

Vegan glycerin or non-vegan glycerin, how to tell

But how can you tell whether the glycerin in your makeup was derived from vegan sources? Unfortunately, it is not so easy. But you can try a few techniques.
Manufacturers sometimes label their glycerin as ‘vegetable glycerin’. If this is the case for you then you can relax. This means that this ingredient was extracted from plants and is therefore one hundred vegan.

Unfortunately, when the label simply mentions ‘glycerin’ there is no way to tell. Food manufacturers often source their ingredients from different companies meaning that finding out whether the glycerin used in these products is vegan or not may be a challenge. You may contact the manufacturer and ask for more information but apart from this there is no way to tell and, even in this case, the operator answering the phone may not be able to give you a real answer.

Whether you decide to keep using this product or not is up to you and your level of strictness.

Not only in your makeup

Is glycerin vegan
Food with glycerin in it

Even though glycerin is widely used in the beauty industry, it can also be found in several other products. This substance is, in fact, present in several foods ranging from ice cream to cake icings, baklava, pre-cooked pasta, energy bars, drinks, chewing gum, dried fruit and vegetables, seasoning and condiments, and spices just to name a few. In other words, if you check a few products in your cupboard, you will probably find glycerin in at least one of the labels.

Glycerin is also used in medications, electronic cigarette liquids, botanical tinctures, and other products. Not many people know that this is also the liquid used in Hollywood to make actors cry on demand!

Why is glycerin everywhere?

Glycerin is present in so many different industries because of its great properties. For instance, this substance is a natural solvent as well as a humectant, meaning that it helps maintain moisture levels in a given product.

This is why it is so popular in the food industry, as it helps the food stay fresh and prevents it from drying out too soon. This is also true for non-food items such as cosmetics and toothpaste.

On top of this, unlike common sugar, glycerin does not feed the microorganisms living in our mouths and it’s, therefore, a great ally for companies wanting to add sweetness to their food while preventing dental decay.

Last but not least, glycerin can also be used to form nitroglycerin, a necessary ingredient for every explosive.

Glycerin, glycerine, and glycerol. Is it all the same?

You may have checked out some of the ingredient lists in your cupboard and found glycerine or glycerol instead of glycerin. But are these the same? While glycerin and glycerine are the terms often used by manufacturers in their products, glycerol is the scientific name used to indicate the chemical. Glycerin and glycerine are the same exact thing. The former is widely used in America, while the latter is the common British spelling.

You may have also come across the term glyceride. This is the same substance as glycerin, but it is often made using animal fats rather than plants, so pay extra attention to this ingredient

Other make-up ingredients to pay attention to

Now that you know about glycerin, you may be wondering whether there are any other animal products in your makeup routine. So here is a quick list of five common ingredients to watch out for!

  • Lanolin: Found in most cosmetic and hair products, Lanolin is often derived from wool.
  • Squalene: Used in the lip balm, deodorant, and moisturizer industries, squalene is derived from shark liver oil. Some vegan options are now available on the market, but it’s always better to double-check your labels!
  • Animal hair: Yes, unfortunately, animal hair is still used to this day, particularly for the production of fake eyelashes.
  • Shellac: Unfortunately, every day hundreds of thousands of lac bugs are killed to produce small quantities of this ingredient used in nail products as well as hair lacquers.
  • Carmine: This colorant is used in all sorts of industries to produce a vibrant red color. Its manufacturing process consists in killing tens of thousands of cochineals.

Summary: Is Glycerin Vegan?

Glycerin can be both vegan and not. In case your product lists ‘vegetable glycerin’ among its ingredients, then you can use it without worrying as this glycerin was surely derived from plants such as palm corn, coconut, canola, and many others. When this is not specified, however, there is a chance that your product is not fully vegan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does glycerin have pork?

Glycerin can be extracted from animal fat. So even though it does not contain pig meat it may still be animal-derived.



Cristina is a journalist and traveler with a passion for nutritious and cruelty-free food.

She is now exploring the four corners of the world trying delicious recipes while getting acquainted with the local cultures she meets on the way.

Apart from traveling and cooking, Cristina loves dystopian novels, hot mugs of tea, and jazz.