Glycerine substitutes

Updated November 21, 2016

Glycerine is a water based liquid that attracts moisture as a humecant and has antiseptic properties; because of these two properties, it has many uses. The most common uses for glycerine are in baking to create a smooth consistency in confectionery items, in fog effect machines to make fog, in beauty products to moisten skin, in laboratory preservation or for various medical uses. Some forms of glycerine would be poisonous if consumed and therefore each of these uses has its own substitute that works as well as glycerine, but should not be substituted for each other.

Beauty Products

Glycerine is used in beauty products as a humecant, meaning it attracts moisture when applied to the skin. It also acts as an emulsifier to bind all of the ingredients in the lotion to make a creamy, smooth mixture. Glycerine is naturally created when lye soap is made. Coconut oil and lanolin should be used to replace glycerine in lotions. Use one half part coconut oil and one half part lanolin instead of glycerine to equal the same amount of glycerine that is needed. Coconut oil acts as a humecant to attract moisture and lanolin acts as an emulsifier to create the smooth texture. Together they give a similar effect as glycerine and can still be referred to as natural products.


Food grade glycerine is used in baking to create a smooth texture and a shiny finish. Either liquid glucose or light corn syrup can be used in equal parts to replace glycerine to create the smooth texture. To recreate the shiny finish achieved with glycerine, heat the ingredients together in the microwave in 15 second intervals until they reach 80 and no more than 32.2 degrees Celsius. Stir well between each heating to ensure that a crust does not form on top or the ingredients could scald in the process. Heating the glycerine with the ingredients to over 32.2 degrees Celsius will dull the finished product.

Laboratory Preservative

Glycerine is used to preserve once living items in laboratories that would otherwise rot. Formaldehyde is an acceptable substitute for glycerine in equal amounts. The item should be completely submerged in formaldehyde and enclosed in an airtight jar to effectively preserve the item. Glycerine and formaldehyde will both preserve the item for up to 24 months at 21.1 degrees Celsius.

Fog Machine

Glycerine is used in making fog in fog machines at Halloween or for a scary effect any time of the year. Propylene glycol is a good substitute for glycerine as fog juice, however eight times as much propylene glycol must be used to get the same effect as glycerine. To make a fog juice with propylene glycol, mix 283ml. propylene glycol with 1814gr. water and pour into the fog machine before turning it on. This gives the same effect as 22.7gr. of glycerine and 4309gr. of distilled water.

Medical Uses

Glycerine can be used over the counter as a suppository laxative. Glycerine works as a laxative by drawing water into the intestines to create a bowel movement. Psyllium, polycarbophil and methylcellulose are over the counter substitutes for glycerine suppositories; all these substitutes should be taken orally instead of as a suppository. These products can be found under brand names at most pharmacies. Glycerine can be used orally to reduce the pressure in the brain and as treatment for conditions like cerebral oedema. This form of medical glycerine is only available by prescription, however acceptable substitutes for this are Mannitol and Furosemide which also require use under a doctor's supervision. Controlled hyperventilation and fluid restriction are both methods that can be used as well to treat cerebral oedema, however these are only temporary substitutes or in addition to medication under a doctor's supervision.

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