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Glycerol vs. Glycerin: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 25, 2023
Glycerol is a simple polyol compound, while glycerin (or glycerine) is the commercial name for glycerol, especially when used in food or pharmaceuticals.

Key Differences

Glycerol is a chemical compound, specifically a trihydroxy alcohol, known for its versatility in various industries. Glycerin, essentially the same compound, is the term more commonly used in commercial and pharmaceutical contexts.
As a component in biochemistry, glycerol forms the backbone of lipids known as triglycerides. In everyday products, glycerin is recognized for its moisturizing properties and is widely used in cosmetic formulations.
Glycerol's chemical formula is C3H8O3, and it is known for its sweet taste and hygroscopic nature. Glycerin, when referred to in products like soaps or lotions, usually denotes glycerol in a purified and standardized form.
In scientific and industrial settings, the term glycerol is more prevalent, emphasizing the compound's chemical nature. Glycerin is more often found on ingredient labels for consumer goods, highlighting its role in product formulation.
While glycerol is used in various technical applications, including as an antifreeze and plasticizer, glycerin is more associated with its uses in food, personal care products, and medications.

Comparison Chart


A simple polyol compound.
Commercial name for glycerol, particularly in food and pharmaceuticals.

Usage Context

More common in scientific and industrial settings.
More common in commercial, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical contexts.

Chemical Nature

A trihydroxy alcohol (C3H8O3).
Same as glycerol, often referring to a purified form.


Used in technical fields like antifreeze production, plasticizers.
Widely used in consumer products like soaps, lotions, and foods.


Labelled as glycerol in technical products.
Labelled as glycerin in consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.

Glycerol and Glycerin Definitions


A substance used in food industry as a sweetener and humectant.
Glycerol is often added to foods to help retain moisture.


A moisturizing agent commonly used in skin care products.
Glycerin is a key ingredient in many moisturizing lotions.


A trihydroxy sugar alcohol that is an intermediate in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.
Glycerol is produced during the breakdown of fats in the body.


A sweet-tasting liquid used as a food additive for flavor and preservation.
Glycerin is added to cakes to keep them moist.


A colorless, odorless, viscous liquid used in pharmaceutical formulations.
Glycerol is added to cough syrups for its soothing properties.


A humectant in cosmetics, attracting moisture to the skin.
Glycerin helps maintain hydration in face creams.


A compound forming the backbone of triglycerides and phospholipids.
Glycerol combines with fatty acids to form lipids in cells.


A compound used in pharmaceuticals for its soothing and lubricating properties.
Glycerin is found in many ointments for its healing effects.


A versatile chemical used in various industrial applications.
Glycerol is utilized as a plasticizer in manufacturing.


A non-toxic antifreeze and lubricant used in various applications.
Glycerin is utilized in antifreeze formulations for its freezing point depression properties.


A syrupy, sweet, colorless or yellowish liquid triol, C3H8O3, obtained from fats and oils as a byproduct of saponification and used as a solvent, antifreeze, plasticizer, and sweetener and in the manufacture of dynamite, cosmetics, liquid soaps, inks, and lubricants.


Glycerol or a preparation of glycerol.


(organic compound) 1,2,3-trihydroxy-propane or propan-1,2,3-triol; a trihydric alcohol


(organic compound) glycerine.


A syrupy sweet liquid obtained as a by-product in the manufacture of soap from animal or vegetable oils and fats; it is used as an antifreeze, a plasticizer, and a food sweetener and in the manufacture of dynamite, cosmetics etc.


An oily, viscous liquid, C3H5(OH)3, colorless and odorless, and with a hot, sweetish taste, existing in the natural fats and oils as the base, combined with various acids, as oleic, margaric, stearic, and palmitic. It may be obtained by saponification of fats and oils. It is a triatomic alcohol, and hence is also called glycerol. See Note under Gelatin.


Same as Glycerin.


A sweet syrupy trihydroxy alcohol obtained by saponification of fats and oils


A sweet syrupy trihydroxy alcohol obtained by saponification of fats and oils


What is glycerin?

Glycerin is the commercial and pharmaceutical name for glycerol, especially when used in food or personal care products.

What is glycerol?

Glycerol is a simple polyol compound, known for its viscous nature and hygroscopic properties.

Are glycerol and glycerin the same?

Yes, they refer to the same chemical compound but are used in different contexts.

What are the uses of glycerol?

Glycerol is used in pharmaceuticals, food industry, and various industrial applications.

Can glycerin be used in food?

Yes, glycerin is used as a sweetener, humectant, and preservative in food.

Is glycerol safe for skincare?

Yes, glycerol is considered safe and is commonly used for its moisturizing properties in skincare.

Are there any side effects of using glycerin?

Glycerin is generally safe, but excessive use can sometimes lead to skin irritation in sensitive individuals.

Where is glycerin commonly found?

Glycerin is commonly found in cosmetics, personal care products, and as a food additive.

Can glycerol be used in hair care products?

Yes, glycerol is used in hair care products for its moisturizing and conditioning properties.

Can glycerol be used as a sweetener?

Yes, glycerol has a sweet taste and is used as a sweetener in some food products.

How is glycerol produced industrially?

Industrially, glycerol is produced either by the hydrolysis of fats and oils or synthetically from propylene.

Can glycerol be used as a laxative?

Yes, glycerol can be used as a laxative due to its hygroscopic properties.

What is the role of glycerin in pharmaceuticals?

In pharmaceuticals, glycerin is used as a solvent, sweetener, and lubricant.

Is glycerol edible?

Yes, glycerol is edible and is often used as a food additive.

Is glycerol vegan?

Glycerol can be vegan if derived from plant sources, but it's important to check the source for animal-derived glycerol.

Is glycerol natural or synthetic?

Glycerol can be both naturally occurring in fats and oils or synthetically produced.

What is the source of glycerin in cosmetics?

Glycerin in cosmetics can be derived from plant oils, animal fats, or synthesized chemically.

What are the industrial applications of glycerin?

Industrial applications of glycerin include its use in antifreeze solutions, as a plasticizer, and in manufacturing.

How does glycerin help in maintaining skin moisture?

Glycerin attracts moisture to the skin, helping to keep it hydrated and soft.

Is glycerin good for the skin?

Yes, glycerin is highly effective as a moisturizer and helps maintain skin hydration.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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