The Benefits of Glycerin for Skin

In the world of skincare, there are several hardworking ingredients that get very little attention but can be vital to the performance of a skincare product here in Singapore. Glycerin is one such ingredient. Glycerin’s uses in skin care are numerous, but what exactly does it do for you? Let’s delve in.

What is Glycerin?

Glycerin is a natural component of healthy skin. It’s also known as glycerine or glycerol, the latter being the term most often seen in studies about the uses of this hardworking ingredient.

When used as a skincare ingredient, glycerin can be derived from vegetable and animal sources or made synthetically. In any of these forms, glycerin is hygroscopic, meaning that glycerin can draw moisture from the air around us and help keep that moisture in the skin. Another word for hygroscopic is humectant. Other well-known humectants include hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate.

Glycerin Skin Care Benefits

Glycerin’s skincare benefits are numerous, but it primarily serves to hydrate skin and helps it hold on to moisture. Other benefits of glycerin include:

  • Helping to shield skin from environmental sources of irritation
  • Working with emollients and oils to make dry skin feel soft and supple
  • Fortifying and strengthening skin’s moisture barrier
  • Enhancing the penetration of other ingredients into the skin’s uppermost layers
  • Improving skin’s resiliency and youthful look

Glycerin and Skin Hydration 

Glycerin plays an important role in skin care hydration. Glycerin is also involved in the transport and activity of aquaporins within our skin’s surface. Aquaporins are key players in maintaining skin’s moisture balance, keeping it feeling smooth and comfortable even in drier climates. They work by channelling proteins that channel the flow of vital hydrating substances (including water and glycerol) to the skin’s uppermost layers.

Is Glycerin Good for all Skin Types?

Glycerin is good for all skin types because research shows it mimics what’s known as the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF). As we age and are subjected to environmental stressors, the skin’s NMF becomes depleted. Whether you have dry, oily, or even breakout-prone skin, replenishing it with glycerin makes the skin's moisture barrier more resilient.

Glycerin and Dry Skin

Glycerin is what’s known as a skin-replenishing ingredient, meaning it helps keep the skin’s surface strong and protected from environmental damage. Over time, environmental damage causes the skin to become dull, dry, and flaky. Glycerin’s ability to defend skin and help it retain vital hydration is part of why it’s included in so many moisturizers for dry skin.

Glycerin and Oily Skin

Despite this ability to retain moisture, glycerin is an excellent choice for oily skin as well (and oily skin needs hydration just as much as any other skin type!). Glycerin is so lightweight and non-pore-clogging that it’s an ideal ingredient for oily skin that needs moisturization to stay younger-looking and healthy. If you are looking to upgrade your skincare routine, you might want to add this ingredient in. 

Glycerin and Sensitive Skin

Glycerin is also a good choice for sensitive skin. Because it’s a natural component of skin, it calms redness and inflammation. It’s one of the gentler ingredients you can find in skin care products and can even help alleviate sensitivity over time.

As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman puts it, “Glycerin is great because it appeals to a wide variety of skin types and works well with most skin regimens. It provides light moisturization that soothes sensitive skin, relieves dryness, and doesn’t clog pores.”

Is Glycerin Safe for Skin?

Glycerin has a long history of safe use for skin and is considered a non-allergenic, fragrance-free ingredient.

In 2019, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel evaluated relevant data and concluded that glycerin, “is safe as a cosmetic ingredient in the practices of use and concentration” as described in the panel’s safety assessment. Their report looked at maximum use concentrations of up to 79.2% glycerin in leave-on products and 99.4% in rinse-off products.

How to Use Glycerin

Wondering how to use glycerin? You don’t need to overhaul your routine. Glycerin can be easily incorporated into your skincare routine because it’s already widely available in a variety of personal care products.

How and When to Use Glycerin in Your Skin Care Routine

Here’s what’s even better – you can safely and effectively use glycerin in nearly every single step of your skincare routine. Several skincare brands use glycerin when formulating everything from cleansers and toners, to serums and moisturizers. There’s no wrong way to use it — just look for skin care products that contain this unsung hero along with other beneficial ingredients.

Learn more about other skincare essentials you should include in your routine.

Shop best selling skincare holy grails from Paula’s Choice.

References for this information:

Journal of Pharmaceutical Investigation, March 2021, pages 223-231
American Journal of Physiology, May 2020, pages 1,144-1,153
Dermatologic Therapy, November–December 2020, page e14287
International Journal of Toxicology, December 2019, pages 6S-22S
Clinics in Dermatology, July-August 2019, pages
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2016, ePublication
Journal of Allergy and Therapy, 2013, pages 1–6
European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, December 2013, pages 638–645
Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, 2009, pages 205–217
British Journal of Dermatology, July 2008, pages 23–34
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2007, pages 75–82

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