What is Glycerin?

Glycerin is a humectant, a sweet tasting by-product of soap, and is used in all kinds of things from food to hair care products and cosmetics. As such, it has hygroscopic properties, meaning it attracts and retains moisture from the air. In its most pure form, according to the FDA material data safety sheets, pure glycerin is an extremely dangerous product, because it wicks moisture quickly from anything it touches and causes burn-like blisters to your skin. Food and cosmetic-grade glycerin products are highly refined and deemed safe for human consumption and use.

To work effectively in hair products, humidity levels need to be around 60 percent. When levels are lower, like during the winter or in drier climates, contrary to popular belief, glycerin doesn’t actively dry your hair out — it simply can’t work because there’s no moisture in the air to attract. In these instances, you’ll need to find alternate sources to moisturize your thirsty naps. Another myth has it that using too much glycerin can dry your hair out as well. Simply not true. Over saturating your hair with a glycerin or a product with this ingredient will merely leave you with yucky, sticky feeling hair.

28 Responses to “What is Glycerin?”
  1. Eleasah says:

    In high school, my hair was natural. I had problems finding products that helped me retain that wet-curly look. Believe it or not, jherri curl gel (it’s glycerin based) was the best thing for my hair. My hair stayed moist and my it grew so well. I think I should start using it on my new TWA. Hawaiian Silky gel worked best for me because it had a really nice scent.

  2. nappyme says:

    Yep, that’s how I discovered my hair likes glycerin. After I stopped wearing braids, and started experimenting with twists, I was using grease…didn’t know what else to use. But my hair just looked and felt so dry…as well it should have because grease and oil is NOT moisture. Well one day I was in the beauty supply store, and I looked over and spotted some jheri curl moisturizing products. At the time I didn’t know anything about glycerin, but I theorized that if they worked on keep a curl moist, why not natural hair. I had once had curl for a hot second and I was just a little leary of using that stuff again. But I decided to give it a try. Worked like a charm. Took some and gave it to my mom, who’s a nappy as well. She love’s it. I’ve since stopped using it, but now that I understand, I can use practically any water and glycerin based product on my hair and get good results.

    Yea for glycerin!

  3. augusta says:

    why did you stop using it though? I was thinking of buying a glycerin based product like that jheri curl stuff…is it safe to use for long periods of time?

  4. nappyme says:

    Hi Augusta. I still use it on occasion. My hair goes through periods of not wanting to respond to certain products so then I give it a rest and try something different. I have heat damage in the front still, that doesn’t easily coil up. When I wear all of my hair in micro twists, I use the carefree curl moisturizer on my front twists and they respond quite well by coiling up better than if I used my ProLine Lite Creame Moisturizer. In fact, I just used my curl spray earlier this week.

    My mom uses the curl moisturizer all the time. And her hair is soooo healthy. It’s like past her bra strap now. lol! I’m jealous!

  5. Oneya says:

    Is Shea Butter also a good moisturizer?

  6. nappyme says:

    Oneya, oils and butters do not eqaual moisture. They’re lubricants and sealants. If you use these substances on dry hair well then you just get oiled/buttered up dry hair. If you have a good moisture balance, they may help seal in that moisture. Many people report success in using certain oils and butters by applying to hair when wet to seal in the moisture. In addition, they may also act as emollients, which can help soften the hair shaft. But in the end, please don’t confuse oils and butter for moisture (water) because they are not one in the same.

  7. Oneya says:

    I hate to ask another question 😦 I should have included this is the first question..is aloe vera juice or jelly a good moisturizer?

  8. nappyme says:

    Hi Oneya,
    I honestly can’t vouch for aloe vera personally. I’ve never used it. I also can’t say that I’ve seen where a lot of nappies use aloe vera as a moisturizer. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t. You can always try it and see. One thing about being natural is that it can be a lot of trial and error trying to figure out what our hair likes and dislikes. And for sure, it can’t hurt to try it. So go for it and then if you’re so inclined, come on back and me know how it worked!

  9. Oneya says:

    Well the aloe vera was working pretty good( i think I need to buy another brand), but right now I am addicted to Giovanni’s Direct Leave in Conditioner. It’s all natural and it makes my hair feel hydrated and soft.

  10. ProMiss_2me_4me says:

    hello mizz.
    My name is Promiss and i just did the big chop sat. feb 16 2008. Ive never felt so good about my hair in my life. I want to grow long hair. Thats why i cut it. The perms where to damaging because my hair is very dense, and thick i needed a super perm that still didnt straighten. So the hell with it is what i said. Im 20 years old. I plan to reach my desired length by 25. My hair loves moisture. seems to be forever thirsty. Anyway im a natural person. So i planned on using shea butter for moisture in my hair. i see from other comments thats prolly not the best moisturizer i can use. Do you have any suggestions on natural, all natural moisturizers. I also have “gel twist” right now. minus a lot of gel. I need to wash my hair. i NEED a solution i can just pour over my head and massage a little to break up the filth until i have them removed. any suggestions. By the way…i think your a bueatiful woman, with a wonderful smile an best of all….Lovely nappy hair.

  11. nappyme says:

    Hi Promise and welcome!

    Congrats hon on your big chop! Many people swear by Sta Sof Fro. I in fact love the way it makes my hair feel. Instant moisture. My only gripe is that to me it has a rather strong oder but that’s probably my perfume allergies talkin to me. But I do recommend that you take the cap off and smell it first cause some others can’t stand the smell either.

    You might also try curl products. Carefree curl and Wave Nuveau moisturizers also work well for me.

    Stay nappy and good luck!


  12. Icequeen says:

    you know, i have to try the glycerin thing; i will start looking around and seeing what i can find. maybe i can mix up my own concoction with some natural oils. have you tried castor oil? i know everyone’s hair is different and what may work with me may not work with you, but i really love how it makes my hair soft and manageable without overdoing the greasy thing. gives a nice sheen, too.

  13. ProMiss_2me_4me says:

    HELP. As you know i did the big chop feb 16. the stylist put “gel twist” in my hair minus a lot of gel. my scalp is itchy and my hair need to be washed. did plan very well just went and had it chopped. only thing around here is a sally’s,target, and walmart. and anyway, do i undo the curls first or wet first or what….???

  14. nappyme says:


    How long is your hair? So you have curls? What kind of curls? Are you wearing your hair natural or did flat iron it and hot curl it? I’m confused girl. If you’ve got some kind of freeze straight hair style don’t try to comb your hair without rinsing all that stuff out first. Can’t you just put your head under some running water, get it soaking wet and apply shampoo like normal? Make sure you use a non-sulfate shampoo and then condition it well.

    I don’t know what else to tell ya cause I don’t have the entire picture. If you have any additional questions, please email me at NappymeHappyme@aol.com.


  15. knicole says:

    okay so this glycerin stuff is good huh. what about a good natural shampoo and conditioner? I have been going natural now for maybe 8 months. I dont have thick hair. I guess i would describe it as more baby fine than anything else. I had originally thought that I could just keep it braided in micros but realized that I need to embrace it. what are some ways to get some styles that give the appearance of thickness and texture and products that will support this goal. well there is a pretty loaded question..

    peace and thanks in advance for your response.

  16. Stine123 says:

    I’m reading all the comments and I’m a little confused….

    I get that oils and moisturizers are not the same, but that oil can be used to seal in moisture (yes?). Ok, so for those that do not use oils, are you only using the moisturizers (ex: Carefree Curl) in your hair? And if yes, is this used when the hair is wet or dry?

    I’m still trying to overcome the miseducation from my youth that grease = moisture.

    Any clarification on how to use oils and moisturizers properly on a daily basis would be much appreciated! Thanks 🙂

  17. nappyme says:

    Hi Stine,
    There are other ingredients in commerical moisturizers that can help your hair retain moisture while at the same time acting as an emollient which help to soften your hair as well. Also, consider that your cortex (the second layer of hair) is where it naturally holds some moisture. Some folks’ hair can retain that moisture better than others. I have more of an issue with keeping my hair properly moisturized in the winter than I do in the summer because glycerine works so well for me. After I shampoo I immediately saturate my hair with moisturizer let that air dry and then I’m generous with my application of moisturizer when I go to put my hair in some type of protective style…usually twists. This winter I found myself moisturizing almost daily but in the summer time I can go three to four days before I have to apply moisturizer again.

    Hope this helps!

  18. naijame says:

    Hi Nappyme!

    I have been natural for about 4 years now, and I although I notice that my hair is growing, I still feel like it is “behind schedule”. I think it is interesting how you discussed how one product can work for awhile and then suddenly not work so well. This is exacly the case for me. I went from using Pantene Pro-V relaxed and natural for women of color to using ( I can’t really remember the name) this product that was like a gel but it contained no alcohol. It was more of a conditioner; it’s green. But it’s not really grease…I can’t think of the name right now. And a woman just suggested that I use glycerine and water in a bottle. My hair also experiences massive shrinkage…which gets kind of frustrating because I can’t really see the length when I would like to. So I usually end up (if I want to wear it in some-sort of “ponytail”) I section my hair and moisturize it the night before I have to go somewhere and put big ugly twists in it or braids…just so I can actually come through it the next morning. But anyways, my question to you comes in two parts: 1) What other things besides doing this nightly ritual can I do with my hair so that I can see more length and 2) I would love to just “comb and go”, do you think the glycerine procedure in the morning (instead of the ritual before I go to bed) will allow me to just be able to go?

    Please respond…


  19. naijame says:

    I just remembered what the gel like product is called…JAM…lol


  20. nappyme says:

    Hi Naijame,
    The things that you’re doing are what I would have suggested you do to help stretch your hair and show your length a little better.

    So how are you wearing your hair in the morning. I’m in protective styles most of the time so it’s nothing for me to just take my scarf off and go. I hate having to do my hair in the morning so that is best for me. But if you’re wearing a puff, to minimize your get ready time, I’d continue moisturizing and twisting it up and tying your head up at night, and then styling in the morning. That’s the only way I can cut down on my styling time with a puff.

    That might work for you as well. Hope I answered your question.


  21. Linda says:

    Hi Nappyme,

    I am certainly enjoying your site! Thanks so much for the information! My issue is: I want my hair to grow as fast as it will grow. I’m not going to put a relaxer in it for a while. My hair broke in places the last I did a relaxer. I haven’t had one for 2 months now and my new growth is growing in slowly. I take care of my hair as if it were natural. I wash, deep condition once a week and oilI with coconut oil every 3 days. I keep it braided most of the time. How will the moisturizer work on relaxed hair? Is it okay to use glycerin USP as well as vegetable glycerin and how often? I can’t find the vegetable glycerin. Can you suggest anything else I can do for growth?

  22. huh? says:

    naijame — I would also check out youtube for ideas on how to allow your hair to stretch. Here’s a link to a particularly good one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nkwqE6kERM&feature=user

    I recommend watching the rest of this person’s videos as well for more tips and ideas.

    (Nappyme — I hope you don’t mind my jumping in. I am transitioning as well and looking for all the help and info I can get.)

  23. Carol says:

    I am using water and glycerin as a moisturizer. Is there an esscential oil that I can add to the moisturizer to stimulate or promote growth? Should I make sure the moisturizer is applied to the scalp as well? HELP!

  24. Nikki says:

    Hey! I love how helpful your web site is and your attention to every comment/question! I’m currently still transitioning with about an inch of relaxed ends on the top. I’ve noticed that my hair is really dry…which I’ve accounted to using products with a lot of protien. What conditioners/leave-ins do you suggest that don’t have protien in them to give my hair moisture?

  25. A.T. says:

    Your commends are great. I had severe dry skin and I am using glycerin with no water. Immediately I get cure. After reading your commends I want to try it to my hair with 50% water

  26. Marchelle says:

    Carol – rosemary is an essential oil that promotes growth. I use a 50/50 glycerin and water mix with about 15 drops of rosemary e.o. It’s awesome, cheap and my hair is growing strong and healthy!

  27. Lorrett says:

    Hi! I love all of the advice here!!! I still have some relaxed on my hair. I’m gonna get rid of it slowly but surely. My question is have you heard of the “No-poo” method? If so what is your take on it?

  28. marie washington says:

    Great information!!!

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