What Is the Difference Between Glycerin and Glycerol?

Glycerin and glycerol are two different products although they can be confused as being one and the same. Glycerol is the byproduct of the manufacture of biodiesel, which is made from animal fat or soybeans. In its raw state, glycerol can be converted into vegetable glycerin. If the glycerin is approved by the U.S. Pharmacopeia, it is typically used in beverages and food.

Glycerin is used extensively as a sweetener in chocolate filling, cookies and cakes. The colorless compound also serves as a humectant in soaps and lotions. Glycerin-based remedies treat such skin issues as rashes, acne, burns, psoriasis, bites and calluses. Glycerin soaps treat fungal and yeast infections and soften and ameliorate dry skin. Cough syrups and dietary supplements are also manufactured using glycerin. Adding the ingredient to weight-loss products prevents dehydration during exercise and enhances physical stamina. The ingredient is also added to toothpastes and mouthwashes to kill bacteria.

Used in supplements and weight loss products, glycerol improves performance and replenishes water during exercise. Healthcare providers use the ingredient in IV applications to reduce pressure within the brain and to treat such conditions as encephalitis, stroke, meningitis and central nervous system traumas. The liquid is also used to reduce corneal fluid buildup during an eye exam.