What exactly is Glycerin?
Called Glycerin, Glycerine or Glycerol, one of the most widely used ingredients in skincare, is a substance present in all human and animal fats. It can be derived naturally by the fermentation of sugars, or by hydrolysis of fats, but it can also be synthetically made in a lab from petroleum based oils. ( Noooo way do we want that one !! )
There are several different grades of refined glycerine, but in our natural or green lovely cosmetics we prefer the highest USP grade, naturally derived & made from 100% vegetable or plant oils, such as palm kernel or coconut oil. Glycerin derived from corn or soy are both Genetically Modified Organisms.
Glycerine is also a humectant, (like honey!!) and can draw water from the environment and the dermis (the lower layers of skin) into the outer layers of the skin. They attract moisture to themselves; it keeps skin and hair moisturized, soft, and is a huge plus in our products!! But we have to be careful here, we shouldn’t: use more than 10% in general in a formulation, & should : use in combination with other natural emollients and botanical oils to help improve the finished feel of the moisturizer. A small % will help create a barrier against water loss which is exactly what we want. Too much can have negative effects, such as drawing too much moisture from your precious deeper dermis, which can dry out skin, or cause your final product to be too sticky.
And what is a Glycerite?
A glycerite is the final result of the strained liquid left after maceration of dried or fresh herbs, vegetables, or fruit, by using glycerine as the extraction method. Traditionally, dried or fresh herbs or plant matter are added to glycerine and left in a cool dark place to sit and macerate , while shaken gently daily, for anywhere up to 2 to 6 weeks. Many medical remedies are made this way .They can also be heated very gently in a slow cooker for 3 days, while the closed jar is immersed in water, as a faster method of extraction.
Now, for the exciting bit!
Here’s the basic steps…..and you can really use just about any fruit or vegetable, herb, plant, dried or fresh, get glycerite happy and watch the magic happen.
How to make Colorful Glycerites
Warning!! This practice is highly addictive, fun and so easy to do, so save some fridge space because you are going to go crazy making all sorts of different wonderfully colored and scented stuff to use in those wicked formulas you will be creating! And make sure nobody eats them!!! (This did actually happen in my house!!!)
- Take your washed, fresh, organic fruit , vegetable, plant or herb ( I used blueberries, cherries, pomegranates, rose petals , cinnamon, all full of super nutrients great for the skin) and chop it into smaller pieces , while making sure your workspace and equipment are super clean. Research your ingredients to see their benefits in skincare.
- Weigh the fruit /plant matter and note it in your special glycerite notebook. Buy a pretty one to keep it fun and just for these glycerite recipes, it will fill quickly with notes you can refer back to!!!
- Put them in a sterilized jar, I recommend making small doses at first, as we use such small amounts (3-10% max) in our products, a little will last quite awhile, and stay fresh. Fill with your vegetal glycerine , let it fill between the spaces, and then top off the jar to the rim. Weigh accurately to see exact amount of glycerine and note it down. You can also prepare the exact measures you would like in a formula beforehand like this:
- 55% glycerine,
- 44.4% fresh fruit,
- 0.6% preservative
This is just an example formula, other percentages for different foods or herbs will vary. Just experiment as there are no exact rules here. For dried herbs, you can pour a small amount of boiling water onto the herbs first; infuse a few minutes, and then top off jar with glycerine.
Add your preservative.
- Label your jars with dates, ingredients, batch number, preservative name, as you’ll totally have no idea which is strawberry, raspberry, or cherry in a few days!!
- I store all my glycerites in the fridge. A wine cooler could also work. Try to remember to gently shake your jar daily. For fresh foods or plants and flowers , I keep them about 14-20 days to get the maximum benefits of the ingredient, though some keep them only 6-10 days. This is experimental, without scientific backup, so see how your finished product looks and smells and take notes. The glycerine will absorb and hold the smell and color of the fresh food wonderfully; a dash in a toner gives an amazing yummy boost of originality and freshness to your cosmetic. Dried herbs can be kept a bit longer; some herbalists recommend 2-6 weeks!!
- Once your glycerite is ready and bursting with color, you need to filter it. A coffee filter works well, or I have even used cleaned, washed stockings. This is much faster than the coffee filter method and I do it twice to strain fully. The coffee filter strains drop by drop, and could take hours. You can change the filter several times (with your gloved hands ) as the paper gets fully soaked and stops to strain after awhile .Be gentle so as not to tear the filter. Cover with a clean lid or foil while it’s being filtered to keep off dust. Then just go do your thing while it drips away into glory!!
- Once fully strained, close jars, label them, don’t forget to note in detail the final weight, the smell, texture, dates, length of maceration time, preservative used, and store in fridge. The more water content in your food or plant, the more liquidly your glycerite will be. ( kinda logical )
So what can we do with these Beautifully Colored Macerates?
Add them to your natural skincare products like toners, creams, gels, lotions, and have fun!!!! How glorious is that???
Keep in mind that a small % will not always affect the final color of a cream, it works better in gels, but the colors are natural so not super stable and can fade after some time. Experiment, keep samples, and take notes!!Shelf life can last from 6 months till about a year, according to its’ water content and storage method. If you see funny bits floating on the bottom or it smells funny, bye bye lovely glycerite. When in doubt, do a microbial count test, & learn from these experiences.
Last Note about Vital Preservatives
The shelf life depends much on how much exposure to the air the glycerite receives. Anytime you add water to a preparation, you invite bacteria, mold, yeast, and other undesirables. As a side note, even though glycerin has preservative properties at 50%-60% concentration of a formula, and even though it is a humectant and a lovely addition to skin cream, it cannot be used effectively alone to preserve a typical lotion or cream recipe. I highly recommend using a water soluble broad spectrum natural preservative , ( I use leucidal or sorbate & benzoate, or cosgard ) from the start of maceration in your beautiful glycerites, we don’t want to take any risks or have them go off after one or two months only.
And now fellow formulaters ….You know how it’s done, easy as pie, start with small quantities and get glycerite happy!!! Please post us your lovely results and photos, we’d love to have a look at your creative efforts!!