Glycerin is a common ingredient that’s added to so many hair products today, but do we really know what it’s used for and if it’s suitable for all hair types? And what benefits does glycerin have for hair? Let’s find out.
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What Is Glycerin?
Glycerin is a natural humectant used in many hair care products. It has the ability to draw moisture from the air which helps to hydrate hair. Studies have also shown that glycerin can prevent dandruff, dry scalp, and split ends.
Glycerin is an odorless and colorless liquid and besides shampoo and hair conditioner, this popular ingredient is also added to pharmaceutical products such as supplements and other beauty products.
There are two types of glycerin – natural and synthetic.
Natural glycerin, also known as glycerol or glycerine, derives from plant sources such as coconut, soy, and castor oil. This is often referred to as vegetable glycerin.
Vegetable oil makes for an effective humectant and can be used on hair in pure form instead of hair serums or other hair products containing glycerin.
Glycerin products made from plant-based oils are therefore vegan.
Vegetable glycerin is particularly popular in the cosmetic industry but has several other uses as well.
It may also provide health benefits, ranging from skin health to better hydration and a strengthened gut.
Other natural sources of glycerin can be made from animal fat but according to ingredi.com, most modern glycerin products no longer contain this.
Do note that this doesn’t automatically mean that the product is vegan.
Synthetic glycerin derives from petroleum.
Now, synthetic glycerin isn’t necessarily bad for you, but there is a chance that it won’t work as well as natural glycerin.
It’s made in a laboratory and is actually more expensive to make than natural glycerin. It may therefore not be used as often.
When choosing a product containing glycerin, read the label carefully and try to find out if there is a natural or synthetic kind added to it, as this can make a huge difference to the outcome of the hair.
Benefits of Using Hair Products with Glycerin
Hair products that contain glycerin are typically very moisturizing because glycerin is a humectant, meaning it pulls water from the atmosphere or the skin and locks it in place.
When added to shampoo products it’s known to smooth frizzy hair and reduce the risk of breakage.
One of the main benefits of glycerin is that it contains anti-inflammatory properties which can help to control an itchy, dry scalp and dandruff.
When diluted so it’s not too potent, it can be used as an overnight treatment to prevent itching and troublesome flakes.
Simply apply it to the scalp by massaging it with your fingertips and leave it on overnight.
You can buy easily buy glycerin online and we prefer NOW Solutions glycerin which we got from Amazon.
It is 100% pure vegetable glycerin and GMP Quality Assured.
After applying glycerin, you should wash it out in the morning with a gentle sulfate-free shampoo like the As I am Curly Clarity Shampoo.
This is particularly helpful during the colder months when hair and scalp are prone to dryness.
Stimulates Hair Growth
Glycerin is a great substance to speed up hair growth, as it helps to moisturize while preventing the hair from breaking and drying out.
Naturally, the healthier the hair is, the quicker it will grow.
Helps Repair Damaged Hair
When your hair is dry, your hair follicles lack a lot of moisture and this can cause hair damage and hair breakage.
This is particularly the case if you live in a dry climate or experience dry weather.
As glycerin attracts moisture, it helps to nourish and condition individual strands, preventing brittle hair as it provides a lot of moisture.
Hydration also helps with blood circulation in your scalp which stops it from becoming too dry.
In effect, glycerin smooths down the hair cuticles, which reduces frizz and flyaways.
The use of glycerin is therefore great for those with dry, coarse hair that struggles to obtain moisture.
Prevents Split Ends
As you know, split ends are a result of weakened, brittle, frayed hair that’s been exposed to weather damage, heat, rubbing with a towel, and using the wrong kind of products.
Trimming the ends certainly helps but you’ll want to avoid recurring split ends by using the right products.
Glycerin can be used regularly on the ends of your hair to avoid them from becoming too dry and splitting.
Helps to detangle
Glycerin’s thick consistency allows hair strands to glide past each other easily, leading to manageable detangling and less friction.
Curly hair is susceptible to knots and tangles, especially when the hair is wet and fragile.
Using glycerin regularly can therefore lead to fewer tangles and less breakage as a result.
What Kind of Hair Products Contain Glycerin?
There are a range of hair products on the market that contain glycerin, including shampoos, hair masks, leave-in conditions, and creams.
We’ve listed a few favorites below:
Does Glycerin Eliminate Frizz?
Although glycerin is effective at treating frizz, it must be used in the right conditions.
When used in moderately moist conditions, it works by absorbing moisture from the air and retaining it.
In turn, this keeps hair feeling moisturized, and hydrated, and it even helps to define natural curl patterns.
Glycerin is highly effective when used on dry, coarse hair, or hair that is damaged from excessive heat, as it returns lost moisture to each strand and leave it feeling noticeably softer.
However, if glycerin is used in the wrong conditions then it can have the opposite effect, resulting in further damage to the hair.
It would then be wise to switch to glycerin-free products.
When Should You Avoid Using Glycerin On Hair?
Glycerin is a natural substance that is usually fine to use on all hair types, even the rarest type.
But let’s look into the reasons why it’s not always sensible to use glycerin on your hair.
High Humidity Weather
Unfortunately, glycerin isn’t suitable for all conditions.
If the environment is drier than the hair itself then this can result in the humectants releasing moisture from the hair back to the air to create a balance.
The conditions have to be just right for the glycerin to work.
Therefore, in dry climates with low humidity, you would expect the glycerin to draw out moisture from the hair and leave it feeling dry and unmanageable.
In these environments, it’s best to avoid using glycerin entirely.
If You Suffer From Moisture Overload
Moisture overload can cause breakage, split ends, and hair that lacks volume.
As glycerin is mainly used to lock in moisture, this could have a negative impact on the hair and result in hygral fatigue, which is a hair condition that you need to avoid.
Getting the balance right is hard, so for the time being it’s best to avoid using any products containing glycerin until you’ve overcome the issue.
If You Use Heat Appliances On Daily Basis
Glycerin transfers heat to the hair very easily, which can result in further breakage and damage to the hair shaft.
Be extra cautious when using heat appliances and ensure you combine it with a non-glycerin containing protective moisturizer for improved results.
Also, use glycerin sparingly when testing it on the hair to see how it reacts.
If You Use Non-Permanent Hair Color
Those with freshly colored hair should avoid using glycerin in the first few days because this is when the hair is more susceptible to color loss.
Glycerin has properties that can dissolve dye molecules, resulting in hair that fades very quickly and potentially unevenly.
For this reason, it might be best to avoid using it on semi-permanent hair color.
Side Effects to Using Glycerin on Hair?
Fortunately, not many side effects are reported, as glycerin is a natural substance that doesn’t often cause extreme reactions following use.
However, there are some reports of allergic reactions when glycerin is applied directly to the skin.
Here is a list of some of the other reported side effects to look out for:
Due to the small risk of these side effects, it’s always recommended that you begin trialing the glycerin by using a small amount on the hair and scalp.
We would suggest diluting with another liquid before applying it directly to the skin, as this minimizes the risks of any negative reactions.
How to Use Glycerin
Now you’re aware of the benefits of using glycerin on your hair, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can add it to your hair routine:
Use A Shampoo Containing Glycerin
A simple but effective method of adding glycerin to your hair routine is to switch to a different shampoo.
There are many shampoos that contain glycerin as one of the main ingredients.
Try our favorite, Aunt Jackie’s Power Wash Intense Moisture Clarifying Hair Shampoo. This contains no sulfates or drying alcohols.
Use A Serum
Instead of replacing your shampoo, you can opt for a hair serum instead.
Try the As I Am Long and Luxe Scalp Serum which is enriched with Biotin, Aloe Vera, and Saw Palmetto.
After using shampoo, just add a small amount to your hair and leave it in, ensuring that your curls stay moisturized all day.
Try A DIY Recipe
Glycerin works best when diluted with other liquids and essential oils.
If you would prefer to make your own natural hair product then it’s very simple to achieve that.
Here are some recipes that will leave your hair feeling soft and healthy:
Leave-in Hair Spray #1
- Add ¼ distilled water, 2 tbsp aloe vera juice, 2 tbsp pure glycerin, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp coconut oil and 7 drops of essential oil such as lavender oil to a spray bottle.
- Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed and spray the homemade solution onto damp hair that’s been freshly washed.
- Let it dry and style your hair as usual.
Leave-in Hair Spray #2
- Add 4 ounces of rose water, 1 teaspoon glycerin, 1 tsp argan oil, 1 tsp aloe vera gel and 6 drops of essential oil to a spray bottle and shake thoroughly.
- Spritz the mixture from the root to the tip and leave to dry. Rosewater is highly effective when combined with glycerin; this mixture will help to soothe dry, frizzy hair and lock in moisture.
- Add ¼ castile soap, 3 tbsp coconut milk, 2 tsp distilled lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon of glycerin, and 10 drops of lavender oil.
- These ingredients need to be mixed on medium heat for 5 – 7 minutes before being left to cool completely.
- When the solution has thickened, it can be transferred to a container or bottle.
This homemade shampoo is very gentle on the hair and it will definitely help with any recurring scalp irritation or dryness, however, it will not lather up like other shampoos.
It still cleans the hair very effectively, and it can work out more affordable over time. It’s also free of chemicals and preservatives so it will be sure to leave the hair feeling soft and looking healthy.
- Add 2 tsp vegetable glycerin and 2tsp aloe vera gel to a container and mix it thoroughly so it forms a kind of paste.
- Apply it all over the hair and leave it to soak for 5 minutes before rinsing it off.
This can be used on dry, damaged hair either after shampooing or once a week to prevent frizz.
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.
Coralle is an experienced beauty writer with a passion for wellness, women’s health, and sustainability.