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A Quick Refresher On How Glycerin Benefits Your Skin

  • Potent humectant with high retention 
  • It sinks into the deeper skin layers due to its small molecules 
  • Quenches parched skin and balances sebum
  • Plumps fine lines and wrinkles
  • Fortifies the protective barrier
  • Enhances penetration of other ingredients into the skin

Chances are you’re using glycerin in your skincare routine at this point, as this underrated ingredient is the most frequently utilized cosmetic ingredient after water. But unlike its counterpart, hyaluronic acid, glycerin is not as lauded — even if it’s a better humectant than hyaluronic acid. Touted for its gentle, yet potent hydration replenishing properties, glycerin boasts a myriad of potential benefits for many skin types and concerns. Here’s what you need to know.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is a colorless liquid from animal or plant sources, petroleum, or lab-made. When added to skincare products, glycerin works as a humectant, meaning it pulls water from the environment into the skin, bursting hydration and locking moisture in.

Benefits of glycerin for skin

You can find glycerin in concentrations of up to 78.5% in leave-on products and 68.8% in rinse-off ones, all addressing moisture loss, dullness, and even oily skin.[1] Yes, due to its moisture-infusing capacity, glycerin balances oil levels, regulating sebum production, which in turn may hinder the apparition of pimples.

When applied to the skin, glycerin makes fine lines and wrinkles less visible, providing moisture and preventing transepidermal water loss. This is why you’ll find glycerin the second on the ingredient list of most anti-aging serums and moisturizers for mature skin. Due to its water-binding capacity, glycerin also relieves dryness, itchiness, and flakey skin, the reason it’s a go-to if you struggle with eczema or dermatitis. It’s even better than urea at tackling lack of moisture and calming rough skin.[2]

Lesser known is the fact that glycerin speeds up wound healing, reduces swelling and redness, and makes the perfect choice for post-dermal procedures.[3] As a pro tip: pair glycerin with hyaluronic acid serum and Centella asiatica-infused products for a strong barrier. This winning trio not only improves the protective barrier role, making skin more resilient, but it enhances hydration for up to 24 hours.[4]

As with any humectant, glycerin pulls water from the inner deeper skin layers in the lack of environmental humidity. To prevent it from evaporating, always trap it with an occlusive moisturizer.

To end

Glycerin has a plethora of skin benefits, being a powerhouse ingredient that all skin types can use. From moisture-binding to oil-balancing to plumping wrinkles and giving you the glow, there’s not much glycerin can’t do. P.S. Due to its small molecular size, glycerin can penetrate the skin while also having a high retention capacity, aka it stays in the skin for a few days, maintaining hydration for longer. This makes it better than hyaluronic acid at adding moisture and bouncing skin.[5]

  1. Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in CosmeticsInternational Journal of Toxicology. 2019;38(3_suppl):6S-22S. doi:10.1177/1091581819883820
  2. Lodén M, Andersson AC, Anderson C, Bergbrant IM, Frödin T, Ohman H, Sandström MH, Särnhult T, Voog E, Stenberg B, Pawlik E, Preisler-Häggqvist A, Svensson A, Lindberg M. A double-blind study comparing the effect of glycerin and urea on dry, eczematous skin in atopic patients. Acta Derm Venereol. 2002;82(1):45-7. doi: 10.1080/000155502753600885. PMID: 12013198.
  3. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Therapeutic glycerin-based ointment provides healing benefits, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2008.11.880
  4. Milani M, Sparavigna A. The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded studyClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:311-315. Published 2017 Aug 11. doi:10.2147/CCID.S144180
  5. Ventura SA, Kasting GB. Dynamics of glycerine and water transport across human skin from binary mixtures. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2017 Apr;39(2):165-178. doi: 10.1111/ics.12362. Epub 2016 Sep 26. PMID: 27566278.
Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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