Glycerin is one of the most important and widely used ingredients in skincare and cosmetics products, and it’s highly sought after by consumers because it is known as an extremely effective moisturizer. There is even a special term—“glycerin soap.”
Many people think glycerin soap is made without lye and use this term when talking about melt-and-pour soap. So what is glycerin soap, and how does it differ from the all-natural cold-process soap we make at Botanie Soap?
What Is Glycerin Soap?
In fact, the term glycerin soap is a misnomer. All real natural soap, which is not made with synthetic detergent, is essentially glycerin soap because glycerin is a natural by-product of the soap-making process. After glycerin separates from the oils in the cold-process soap-making method, it settles in between soap molecules in the form of thick, clear fluid.
The problem is that most commercial soap manufacturers remove the glycerin from their soaps to create other cosmetics products, for example, moisturizing creams and lotions. We never do that at Botanie Soap—in our bar soaps, glycerin is left completely intact.
All the moisturizing cold-processed natural soap bars we offer for private label use have a naturally high glycerin content and are great for skin care. For example, our pure, organic Unscented Bar Soap is perfect for people with sensitive skin.
What many people refer to as glycerin soap is actually transparent soap. This soap goes through a hot process in which sugar, alcohol, and some extra glycerin are added to the regular soap mixture. The mixture may contain around 15-20% of glycerin and is heated until it reaches a clear, jelly-like consistency.
It is chemically impossible to make soap with only glycerin—it would not have any lathering or cleansing properties. All translucent glycerin soaps are made from oils, water, and lye. They also contain alcohol that prevents the soap from crystalizing, so it remains clear. The extra glycerin is added to balance the drying nature of the alcohol.
Glycerin Soap Benefits
Glycerin is a neutral, sweet-tasting, colorless, thick liquid that is naturally derived from plant-based oils. It was “accidentally” discovered in 1783 by a German-Swedish chemist Karl Wilhelm Scheele when he was working on the saponification of olive oil with lead oxide. He isolated the substance and described it as the “sweet principle of fat.” In 1811, a French chemist Michel Chevreul named it glycerin, which comes from the Greek word “glykys” meaning sweet.
Glycerin is known to benefit the skin because of its moisturizing properties. Being an effective humectant, glycerin absorbs water from the air and thus attracts moisture to your skin, preventing excessive drying and evaporation. As a result, the skin is clean, refreshed, and moisturized.
Natural soap with glycerin has an overall calming effect on the skin and helps keep it soft, smooth, and supple. Glycerin also forms a protective barrier on the skin, which may protect it from environmental irritants and offers antioxidant benefits. Therefore, natural glycerin soap is compatible with any skin type and all age groups. It is often suggested for people who suffer from acne or who have sensitive skin.
Speaking about glycerin soap benefits, it’s important to note that not all glycerin soaps are the same. Even if homemade, some bar soaps may contain artificial fragrances or synthetic colorants that can irritate dry or sensitive skin. Commercial glycerin soap bars may contain such skin-irritating surfactants as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Although SLS and SLES are powerful cleaning agents and help create foam and lather, they may leave your skin feeling dry.
And don’t assume that too much glycerin is a good thing. When used in moderation, glycerin can be highly moisturizing. For example, natural cold-process soap will contain at least 5% of glycerin if none has been removed, making it the perfect soap for skin care. But glycerin can have adverse effects when added in high quantities. Liquid glycerin soaps and bar soaps may feel sticky if the concentration of glycerin is too high. Besides, soap bars with high glycerin content may not last long if exposed to water as glycerin dissolves quickly.
At Botanie Soap, we always make soap using a traditional cold-process method that gives us complete control over ingredients and offers a lot of possibilities for customization. So if you are interested in custom all-natural soap manufacturing, we can help you develop and launch a custom soap line.
Glycerin Soap Making Process
Making translucent glycerin soap is really a two-part process. First, soapmakers make soap from natural oils, water, and lye using the cold-process or hot-process method. The chemical reaction is called saponification. Its final product is soap, and the by-product is glycerin.
During the second part of the translucent glycerin soap-making process, the saponified mixture is partially dissolved in a high-percentage alcohol solution. Then it is melted and continuously heated until it reaches a clear, jelly-like consistency. The sugar solution is added when the soap is fully dissolved, and the mixture is simmered until the soap is clear or translucent.
All natural soap contains glycerin, as it’s a by-product of the saponification process when oil molecules and lye come together to create soap and glycerin. So technically, any real soap that retains its glycerin is glycerin soap.
What many people call glycerin soap is actually translucent soap. It is also made using saponification of oils with added sugars and alcohol to create transparency and may contain added glycerin.