Glycerin versus Sorbitol Solution

Greetings!  I am trying to compare two formulas for Shaving Cream and one uses the "norm" of Glycerin for "slip and glide" in the product and the other uses a 70% solution of Sorbitol in a smaller percentage.  The second formula which contains the Sorbitol solution appears to have a lighter consistency.  I tried to look it up but was unable to find anything which compares the two.  If anyone has any info or links to something that compares the two for this purpose, I would appreciate it!  Thanks for your help!


  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    it doesn't make much difference either way - if anything, they're more likely to reduce lubricity, as they're both viscous, highly hygroscopic liquids
    UK based cosmetic chemist with 13 years' experience at the bench. I've worked with pretty much everything apart from pressed powders, soap, solid lipstick and aerosols.
  • One listing mentions that  these two ingredients are "humectants/moisturizers (for example, glycerin, glycerol, sorbitol and other polyols)" which in effect create more lubricity in a stearic acid, myristic acid and coconut fatty based soap.  The more glycerin I have used in my formulations the more lubricity is created in the product ideal for shaving.  I have never used sorbitol before and I am just trying to determine the difference between the two in this type of product.
  • chemicalmattchemicalmatt Member, Professional Chemist
    What @Bill_Toge said. Agreed. You can't believe everything the "listings" claim. The "polyols" useful for this are the PPG/PEG block copolymers, not the smaller molecule humectants. Sticky stuff those. BTW @David08848, for a nice, cheap foaming enhancement in your shaving cream try good old sugar (sucrose or  xylose). Offset the stickiness with a PPG/PEG polyol or just butylene glycol and enjoy.
  • Thanks guys,
    Sorry, but I guess I wasn't clear about a few things.  What I am trying to find out is about a particular kind of shaving cream that is soap based and made with Fatty Acids like Stearic and Myristic Acid as well as Coconut Oil or Coconut Fatty Acids which are saponified by KOH, NaOH and TEA.  This type of lathering cream has a history of about 100 years and many of the formulas that are out there in the market still contain all of these more "natural" soap based ingredients and no surfactants.  Since they use Fatty Acids they do not contain the amount of glycerin that it needed in the formula to keep the creamy lather "attached" to the skin for the length of time needed to complete the shave, help maintain the "moisture" level and provide the type of consistency needed for that purpose.  The "listing" that was from a formulation was just pointing out that those two options were considered "humectants and moisturizers" but did l some more research I found information listed on a familiar site by this gentleman named Perry Romanoski!   

    "Sorbitol - This is a 6 Carbon sugar that has 6 -OH groups. It can be derived from glucose so can maintain a natural story. It is more hygroscopic than glycerin and doesn’t suffer from the stickiness problem.  However, it is more expensive which is why it is not used as extensively as glycerin or propylene glycol." 

    This provided the information I was looking for and showed me why sorbitol was chosen as a "substitute" for glycerin from a shaving cream formula that it sold in tubular form!  Sorry that I wasn't as clear as I could have been but I appreciate your input and the information from that Romanoski gentleman!  Regards, David
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
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