When you’re trying to grow your hair longer, you come across so many miracle hair growth ingredients. Some people swear by coconut or castor oil, while others use DIY masks made with yogurt and mashed avocados.
They’re all trendy and exotic, so it’s very exciting and tempting to use only those.
But sometimes, what will help your hair grow the most are the basic ingredients you take for granted. Vegetable glycerin is one of those.
Glycerin is very popular in cosmetic formulas, including hair care products.
From shampoos to curl creams, glycerin is as staple as aqua (aka water) in the ingredients list of many of the things we use in our hair.
But it does more than just hydrate your parched locks; it also helps grow your hair long and strong.
I started using vegetable glycerin as a leave-in moisturizer a couple of months ago.
At around the same time, someone from the natural hair community told me that glycerin thickens hair. I honestly didn’t believe her.
The thing is, I naturally have very thick hair and I couldn’t imagine having to deal with added thickness.
So I took it up as a challenge, and seven months down the line I have something to report.
In this post, I’ve explained in detail how glycerin works and given a few suggestions on how you can incorporate it into your hair care routine to get the tresses you’ve always wanted.
What Is Glycerin?
Glycerin is a sugar alcohol derived from plant-based oils, like coconut and olive oil.
While it is a form of alcohol, pure glycerin kind of looks like a thick, colorless, and odorless fat.
Many products are made with natural glycerin, but they can also be synthetically made.
Glycerin was discovered by German scientist Karl Scheele in 1779.
This is one of the varieties of polyhydric alcohol, which can be in the form of a colorless viscous liquid or crystals.
The very first glycerin was obtained by heating olive oil with iron oxide added to it.
The solution had no color, no smell, and its distinctive feature was a sweet taste.
Because of this sweet taste, the name “glycos” was coined from ancient Greek, which translates to “sweet”.
How Many Types Of Glycerin Are There?
There are two main types of glycerin: synthetic and natural glycerin.
Technical or synthetic glycerin is mainly used in paint and varnish production, instrument making and other industries that are not directly related to the effect on human health.
Synthetic glycerin has a low purity degree (80-85%) and a large number of impurities, that is why it is suitable only for technical purposes.
For medicine, cosmetology, and food production purposes natural glycerin is used.
This type of glycerin is obtained from natural fats, usually vegetables.
The quality of the resulting product is improved by distillation with the addition of water vapor.
As a result of this process, distilled glycerin with a purity degree of 95-99.7% can be obtained.
Benefits of Glycerin In Haircare Products
Glycerin is a super common ingredient in plenty of skincare and hair care products.
In haircare, it has more than just a couple of benefits.
That’s why it’s one of the first ingredients listed on a ton of hair-loving products – a true testament to how important it is for hydrating the hair and strengthening it to boost growth.
First of all, glycerin is a humectant.
That means it works to draw moisture from the environment and pull it into your hair and scalp, holding it there for a long time.
Some even argue that glycerin is the most effective humectant. The jury is still out on that one.
Because glycerin hydrates the hair so well, your locks will end up soft and conditioned.
It also makes your tresses look shiny, frizz-free, and smooth to the touch.
Curly gals will also love glycerin for its ability to promote curl definition.
Like other moisturizing ingredients, it works to encourage your hair’s natural curl pattern, making it springy and bouncy.
This is unlike dehydrated curls that tend to be frizzy, separated, and hold no structure.
How To Use Glycerin For Hair Growth
When you think hair growth, the first things that come to mind are probably ingredients that stimulate the follicles, like rosemary or Jamaican black castor oil.
But another facet of growing out your hair is ensuring that your locks are strong enough not to break off often.
That’s exactly what glycerin does.
Using Glycerin As A Hair Moisturizer
Glycerin is a heavy humectant that pulls moisture from the surrounding environment into the hair and retains it.
For the last seven months, I’ve been mixing vegetable glycerin with water in a spray bottle, using it as a daily spritz.
It’s the first time I’m using glycerin as a hair moisturizer in my adult life.
My mum used it on my hair when I was a kid under the age of ten (before relaxers took over.. lol).
Based on the benefits I’ve been seeing in the last few months, I guess my mum’s generation understood that glycerin was a great solution for hair dryness.
I have low porosity hair and I’ve been struggling with keeping my hair moisturized.
I’m glad to report that the perpetual dryness seems to be gone.
For the first time since my first big chop, my hair is able to retain moisture and it feels so soft.
My mane is also so smooth.
Using Glycerin To Promote Hair Growth
Glycerin moisturizes your hair, making it stronger so that it doesn’t fall victim to unnecessary shedding, breakage, and split ends.
That helps you retain your length, making hair grow faster.
This optimizes how your hair grows because you’re getting the most out of every inch it gets longer by.
Plus, scalp care is key for growing hair.
After all, your locks won’t grow if you have a dry and irritated scalp or follicles that are clogged with toxins and dirt instead of moisture.
Glycerin helps nourish the scalp to ensure it’s the optimal environment for hair to sprout.
Your scalp needs hydration to be able to grow thick, fortified hair.
Dehydrated roots and follicles that don’t get the right nourishment will grow hair at a slower rate, and the strands won’t be particularly strong and resilient.
It’s kind of like planting a seed – it won’t grow in the soil without being watered.
So glycerin hydrates the hair deeply, ensuring your follicles have enough moisture to grow out your locks.
Glycerin Soothes The Scalp
Glycerin also soothes the scalp to alleviate flaking, itchiness, and dryness, especially in the winter months.
This eliminates issues with dandruff and excess sebum production, thanks to its antimicrobial, balancing, and highly hydrating properties.
So while glycerin doesn’t exactly stimulate growth from the follicles, it cares for your hair and scalp to ensure that it’s the best environment for healthy hair growth to occur.
Incorporating Pure Glycerin In Your Hair Routine
There are many ways you can use glycerin in your hair care regimen.
You just have to be creative and knowledgeable about this ingredient to figure out the best way to use it on your hair.
The important thing is to remember that you shouldn’t use pure glycerin by itself on your hair.
It’s quite dangerous because glycerin is such a powerful humectant that it can suck out the moisture from your hair instead of blessing it with more.
You must dilute glycerin with a carrier oil or some water (or both) to ensure that it actually moisturizes your hair instead of drying it out even more.
Using pure glycerin by itself can also leave your hair sticky and overly oily since it’s a very thick and viscous substance.
Use It As A Nourishing Pre-Poo
Fifteen minutes before you jump in the shower, pamper your hair with a mixture of equal parts glycerin and olive oil.
Olive oil is perfect for a quick pre-wash treatment because it penetrates the hair deeply to condition and adds softness to it.
It also boosts blood circulation, aiding in hair growth alongside the power of glycerin.
Brush this cocktail through your hair and let it sit before you get it wet and wash it.
This helps your hair retain moisture even when you expose it to your shampoo’s possibly harsh surfactants to cleanse it.
Add It To Your Daily Conditioner
Give your conditioner a leg up by adding a couple of squirts of glycerin into it.
Mix them together and condition your hair in the shower as you normally would after shampooing.
Let the conditioner sit in your hair for about five or so minutes.
During this time, detangle your locks so that it doesn’t have any unruly knots that will be harder to take out later.
The slip from the conditioner and the glycerin will make it super easy to smooth out those tangles.
You can either use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb for this.
Create A DIY Leave-In Conditioner
A quick and easy way to ensure your hair and scalp are being fed the glycerin it needs to grow long and strong is by creating a spray-on leave-in with it.
Combine half a cup of glycerin with a cup of water in a spray bottle.
Don’t worry about them reacting to one another; glycerin is water-soluble and mixes well with it.
Then, add your favorite natural oil.
We highly recommend jojoba oil, which mimics your natural sebum and hydrates your hair without being too heavy.
Three tablespoons of this oil will be more than enough.
To further boost the hair-growing power of this mask, you can add a few drops of rosemary essential oil.
This oil is known to stimulate fast hair growth.
It also adds a calming, earthy scent to your leave-in to help you freshen up.
Spray it into your locks when it’s feeling a bit thirsty and is in dire need of moisture between wash days.
You’ll get the double benefit of hydration and slowly encouraging your hair to grow.
Get Creative With Weekly Hair Masks
Give your hair a weekly rejuvenation session with a DIY hair mask with glycerin as the star ingredient.
A quick, effortless mask could be combining equal parts glycerin and aloe vera, another botanical that boosts hair growth.
Aloe vera is rich in vitamins and amino acids that can thicken up the hair shaft and stimulate hair growth.
Like glycerin, it’s a humectant, so you’ll get a crazy boost of hydration when you use them together.
If you have thick, damaged hair that needs to be repaired, you can make something a bit heavier.
Combine half a cup of glycerin, half a cup of coconut oil, and one egg yolk for a creamy, protein-rich treatment.
Glycerin and coconut oil are known to moisturize the hair and help grow it efficiently.
They also add tons of shine to the strands.
Meanwhile, egg yolks are high in protein and biotin, which are essential for strengthening the hair to allow it to grow longer.
Whatever DIY glycerin hair mask you come up with, leave it in your hair for at least half an hour before rinsing in the shower.
Can We Use Glycerin For Thinning Hair?
Apart from the moisturizing benefits, glycerin helps in strengthening the hair, leading to less formation of split ends.
The strengthening nature of glycerin also helps prevent further hair breakage.
This is good for people dealing with thinning hair.
Since I started using glycerin, I have experienced less hair breakage.
This is not the same as saying that glycerin thickens hair.
My hair thickness has not changed at all in those seven months.
I think since glycerin also causes a general improvement and strengthening of hair, some people might tend to think that glycerin thickens hair.
Moreover, glycerin is also used for hair growth.
Glycerin Mix For Natural Hair
This awesome ingredient can be mixed with water and many other products to make a leave-in moisturizer to be used as a daily spritz on natural hair.
To do this, add glycerin to water.
Since glycerin is a heavy humectant, my preferred ratio is 1:5 (glycerin: water).
You can also add rose water and/or aloe vera juice to the spray bottle to make a great moisturizing mix.
As mentioned above, glycerin is also very effective in enhancing hair growth when it’s mixed together with some essential oils.
You can also make hair shampoo from glycerin, olive oil, and soap chips.
Another type can also be made using glycerin, chamomile, and soap flakes.
Homemade shampoo with glycerin will moisturize your hair.
You’ll also be sure that the cleansing mix is made of natural products that cannot dry out your hair.
You’ll also be saving some bucks since the cost of producing this shampoo is a fraction of the cost of store-bought shampoos.
Does Glycerin Make Hair Frizzy?
Well, it’s not all roses when it comes to glycerin use on the hair.
If you are in a climate that is very hot and humid, glycerin will absorb a lot of moisture from the surrounding environment.
This will cause your hair to swell, raising the cuticle and disrupting your curl pattern, creating frizzy hair.
Moreover, in a very dry climate, glycerin draws the moisture out of your hair so as to help balance the moisture in the surrounding environment.
You should limit your use of glycerin during winter since cold air tends to be quite dry with low to no humidity.
Your hair is at risk of dehydration if glycerin pushes moisture out of it.
This can lead to hair damage and even breakage.
One way to ensure that glycerin doesn’t act up in extreme weather is by sealing it in your locks with an emollient.
So after using a glycerin-infused leave-in, be sure to lock in that hydration with finishing oil.
Careful! Glycerin Can Be A Traitor When Used Wrong
Although glycerin sounds like a godsend in the hydration and hair growth departments, you must know that it’s not always smooth sailing when you use it.
For example, glycerin conducts heat very well.
So if you apply it into your hair and immediately use a flat iron or curling wand, you could burn and damage your hair shaft in seconds.
Hair experts advise that people who have semi-permanent hair dye should be careful.
This is because, as glycerin penetrates the hair cuticle, it strips away any present chemical colors.
On the other hand, if you have permanent hair dye, then there is no cause for worry.
The color particles are much smaller so glycerin is not able to strip the color away.
You Can Find Glycerin In Essential Hair Products
If you’re not exactly crafty and don’t have time to DIY your routine, there’s good news for you. Because so many hair care products already contain glycerin, it’s never that hard to build a glycerin-centric shower routine for hair growth.
A good glycerin-based shampoo and conditioner are those from the TRESemmé Thick & Full line.
The glycerol in these products thickens and plumps up your hair strands, making them look and feel strong.
It’s also pH-balanced, which is a must for creating a good environment in your scalp to boost hair growth.
It’s common practice for hair lovers to treat their locks out to an intensive hair mask once a week.
The Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask is fantastic if you’re looking for one formulated with hair-growing glycerin.
This thick and creamy deep conditioning mask is made with argan oil.
It’s rich in vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, restoring your hair to the right moisture levels when it’s feeling parched.
Argan oil is also known to deliver immense shine.
Another star ingredient is good old glycerin, which draws as much moisture as it can from the air to feed to your thirsty strands and scalp.
To get the full benefits of this mask, massage it a little bit into your scalp.
Make sure it stays in your hair for five minutes or more before washing it all out.
Other Uses Of Glycerin
The following are some of the other ways that glycerin is used.
Glycerin In Skincare Products
There’s a high chance you’ll find glycerin as one of the ingredients in many skincare products.
Manufacturers love including glycerin in their formulas because it’s such an effective hydrating ingredient.
It moisturizes and softens the skin.
It does this by creating a thin film on the surface of the skin that doesn’t allow water to evaporate from it.
Glycerin is suitable for all types of skin and rarely causes allergic reactions.
Therefore, products with glycerin are widely used all over the world.
But these products containing glycerin have some limitations.
If the air is very dry, glycerin begins to absorb the moisture of the skin, making it even drier thus causing irritation.
This happens when there’s a high glycerin content in skincare products – it shouldn’t be more than 7%.
Glycerin In Medicine
The purest glycerin which has passed the distillation process is often used in medicine.
The pharmacies sell food glycerin that is used to reduce intracranial and intraocular pressure.
Among other things, it has antiseptic properties, so it is part of the balms for wound healing and skin repair.
Glycerin is used as a solvent for various substances; it replaces water for the preparation of highly concentrated medical solutions.
Glycerin In Food
When it comes to food, glycerin is often hidden behind the name “food stabilizer E422” or simply “food glycerin”.
This food supplement is officially recognized as harmless and approved in most countries in the world.
It can be found in almost every confectionery and bakery product.
Glycerin improves the consistency of the dough and the product becomes more voluminous.
Glycerin In Agriculture
Seeds, seedlings, and trees are treated with glycerin to protect against pests and accelerate growth.
Glycerin In The Tobacco Industry
Glycerin softens the taste of tobacco.
It gives it a pleasant aroma and regulates humidity.
Glycerin is a terrific all-around ingredient to improve your hair’s health.
It hydrates thirsty strands, defines limp curls, and soothes the scalp.
But one of its biggest benefits is paving the way for strong and healthy hair growth so that you can achieve the length you’ve been dreaming of.
Never use pure glycerin without diluting it in a carrier oil, lest you end up with sticky hair.
And try not to use glycerin without sealing it in your locks with oil if you’re looking to visit the beach or any other place with high humidity levels.
As mentioned in the article, glycerin is highly recommended for people who struggle with moisture-related challenges.
We should also go for a moisturizer that has glycerin as one of the first few ingredients.
This humectant helps our hair to retain moisture and leaves it soft and smooth.
However, it’s not true to claim that glycerin thickens hair.
After my seven-month experiment, I can confirm that my hair did not thicken at all.
Finally, depending on your surrounding environment, glycerin can work against you.
Please remember to minimize its use during humid weather conditions your hair might end up in a frizzy mess.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a better appreciation for glycerin and how it can help you grow out your tresses.
Try this underrated ingredient out for yourself and see how it contributes to your hair growth journey.
Recommended Brands Of Vegetable Glycerin