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Liquid Paraffin vs. Glycerin: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 1, 2023
Liquid paraffin is a mineral oil used for its lubricating and coating properties, while glycerin is a sweet-tasting, viscous liquid used as a humectant and moisturizer.

Key Differences

Liquid paraffin, derived from petroleum, is a highly refined mineral oil used for its lubricating properties. However, glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a natural compound, a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid often derived from plant or animal fats.
Liquid paraffin is used in various industries for lubrication, as a laxative in medicine, and in cosmetics for its skin-softening properties. Whereas, glycerin is widely used in the cosmetic industry as a moisturizer, in pharmaceuticals as a sweetener and humectant, and in food as a solvent and sweetening agent.
Liquid paraffin is inert, lacking flavor and smell, and does not react with other substances. Glycerin is known for its hygroscopic properties, attracting moisture, and is sweet to the taste.
Liquid paraffin is generally safe, it should not be ingested in large amounts. While, glycerin is considered safe and is often used in food and pharmaceutical products.
Liquid paraffin, being a petroleum derivative, raises concerns regarding sustainability and environmental impact. Glycerin, especially when derived from natural sources, is considered more environmentally friendly.

Comparison Chart


Mineral oil, derived from petroleum.
Natural compound, derived from plant or animal fats.

Primary Uses

Lubrication, skin softening, laxative.
Moisturizer, sweetener, humectant.


Inert, odorless, tasteless.
Hygroscopic, sweet-tasting, viscous.

Health and Safety

Safe but not for ingestion in large amounts.
Generally safe, used in food and medicines.

Environmental Impact

Concerns due to petroleum origin.
More environmentally friendly, especially when naturally derived.

Liquid Paraffin and Glycerin Definitions

Liquid Paraffin

A highly refined mineral oil used for lubrication.
Liquid paraffin is used in this machine to reduce friction.


A viscous liquid used as a moisturizer in cosmetics.
Glycerin helps keep the skin hydrated.

Liquid Paraffin

A skin softener in cosmetic products.
This lotion contains liquid paraffin to moisturize dry skin.


A sweet-tasting compound used in food.
Glycerin is added to this candy for sweetness.

Liquid Paraffin

A lubricant in medicinal formulations.
Liquid paraffin is used in some laxatives.


A solvent in pharmaceutical preparations.
Glycerin is used in cough syrups for its soothing effect.

Liquid Paraffin

A non-reactive, inert substance.
Liquid paraffin is added to cosmetics for its stable properties.


A humectant that attracts moisture.
We use glycerin in our products to retain moisture.

Liquid Paraffin

A petroleum derivative used in various industries.
The manufacturing process utilizes liquid paraffin for its smooth operations


A compound derived from natural sources.
This glycerin is sourced from vegetable fats.


Glycerol or a preparation of glycerol.


(organic compound) glycerine.


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.


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


What is glycerin?

A viscous liquid used as a moisturizer and sweetener.

Can glycerin be ingested?

Yes, it's safe in food and pharmaceuticals.

Can liquid paraffin be used as a laxative?

Yes, it's used in some laxative formulations.

What is liquid paraffin?

A refined mineral oil used for lubrication and as a skin softener.

Is glycerin natural?

It can be derived from natural plant or animal fats.

Is liquid paraffin safe for skin?

Yes, it's used in cosmetics for skin softening.

Is liquid paraffin edible?

It should not be ingested in large amounts.

Is liquid paraffin natural?

No, it's a petroleum derivative.

What is the main difference between liquid paraffin and glycerin?

Liquid paraffin is a lubricating mineral oil, while glycerin is a moisturizing and sweetening compound.

Is glycerin good for dry skin?

Yes, it's an effective moisturizer.

What are the uses of glycerin?

In cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals as a moisturizer and sweetener.

Does liquid paraffin have a taste?

No, it's tasteless.

Is glycerin vegan?

It depends on the source; it can be animal-derived or plant-derived.

Does glycerin attract water?

Yes, it's hygroscopic.

Can I apply liquid paraffin to my hair?

It's not commonly used for hair, as it can be greasy.

What are the environmental concerns with liquid paraffin?

It's derived from petroleum, raising sustainability issues.

Can glycerin be used in baking?

Yes, as a sweetener and moisture-retainer.

Is liquid paraffin used in industrial applications?

Yes, for lubrication in various industries.

Can liquid paraffin expire?

It has a long shelf life but can degrade over time.

Why is glycerin used in food?

For its sweet taste and as a solvent.
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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