Glycerol | Use, Benefits, and Chemical Safety Facts


Updated January 21, 2022

Glycerol, often referred to as glycerin, is a sugar alcohol with a variety of applications. Manufacturers use it in pharmaceutical, personal care and food products.

Uses & Benefits


Glycerol is a common ingredient in pharmaceutical and is used to improve smoothness and taste of medicines. Glycerol is added to cough syrups to help prevent irritation in throats which leads to coughing.(1) It is also used to make tablets easier to swallow.

Personal Care Products

Glycerol is widely used in a variety of personal care products, including toothpaste, hair condition, cosmetics and moisturizers.(2) It is added to skin care products to help protect the skin from irritants. It can also help to bring moisture to the surface of the skin, to help keep skin smooth. It is added to hair conditioner, shaving creams and eye drops for the same purpose.

Food Products

Glycerin is used in a variety of food and beverage products to help retain moisture, and add smoothness, bulk and sweetness.(3)

Safety Information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the primary regulator of over-the-counter products and food packaging materials. FDA has approved glycerol for use as food additive.(4) It is also generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and as an additive to food packaging materials when used as intended.(5) An example of this is when glycerol migrates to food from paper and paperboard products.(6)

Glycerol is approved for use in cosmetics and skin care products,(7) and the FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program shows that it is the third most frequently used ingredient in cosmetics.(8)

Answering Questions

Is glycerol used in pharmaceutical drugs?

Glycerol is a common ingredient in pharmaceutical drugs, including cough medicines and heart medication. It is used to improve the smoothness and taste of medicine, and to make tablets easier to swallow.

What are some uses of glycerol in personal care products?

Vegetable glycerin is used in toothpaste to help prevent it from drying out. It is also commonly added to liquid soaps and lotions as a humectant. Glycerol is also added to cosmetics as a humectant, solvent and lubricant.(9)

Is glycerin added to food products?

Glycerol is used as a solvent for flavors and food colors. It is also a humectant to keep food moist, and as sweetener. Glycerol is also used as a sweetener for low-fat food products.


  1. How to get rid of a cough using over the counter cough syrups (
  2. Glycerin – Cosmetics Info
  3. International Food Information Council What Is Glycerin? – Food Insight
  4. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 ( (Food for Human Consumption (continued)
  5. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 ( (Food for Human Consumption)
  6. eCFR :: 21 CFR Part 182 — Substances Generally Recognized as Safe
  7. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 ( (Drugs for Human Use)
  8. Personal Care Products Council – Glycerin – Cosmetics Info
  9. Glycerol | C3H8O3 – PubChem (