You might have heard of Glycerin before – or Glycerine and Glycerol – which it’s also known by. But if you haven’t, you’re not alone. Despite Glycerin being one of the most formulated-with skincare ingredients, it hasn’t quite had its moment in the spotlight as other skincare stars like Hyaluronic Acid and Squalene have.
So then, why do we use Glycerin in skincare and more importantly, what are the skin benefits of doing so? Best known for how it helps the products themselves - as an excellent and affordable humectant, stabiliser, solubiliser, bacteriostat (which means it stops bacteria from reproducing) and an aesthetics modifier - this wonder ingredient has many benefits for the skin too. And the good news is that anyone can reap the rewards because it’s so well tolerated.
This hard worker simply doesn’t get enough credit. Here’s why it’s well worth looking out for on your product INCI lists...
It moisturises the skin
The main role Glycerin plays in skincare is moisturisation - so if you’re dealing with dryness or sensitivity, get it into your routine, stat. It is hygroscopic, which means it attracts water and holds it to the skin like a magnet, keeping it well hydrated.
As a humectant (its technical name) Glycerin attracts and retains the moisture in the air and in deeper layers of the skin. But it’s this clever role that also means it’s better as a team player, rather than in its pure form - otherwise in dry climates it could even draw moisture out of the skin rather than into it, because it latches on to its nearest source. Paired with emollients and oils however, it’s a real powerhouse for parched skin.
Found naturally within the skin – which is why all skin types respond so well to it – it helps keep the skin moisturised inside and out. And if you’ve ever experienced dry or dehydrated skin, you’ll know that’s the key to a calm, comfortable complexion.
It helps protect the skin
A skin-restoring ingredient is one that is found naturally in skin. Glycerin is one of those – alongside others like ceramides and collagen. It mimics what’s known as the skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF). Thanks to ageing, environmental factors and stressors, these substances can deplete over time, so they need to be replaced in order to help the skin look and feel its very best.
That’s where your skincare routine comes in. By choosing products containing Glycerin, you can top those levels up - and it’s important you do. This unsung hero works to protect the skin from external irritation, by strengthening its protective moisture barrier. That means fewer skin issues and a lot less sensitivity too.
We use organically derived vegetable Glycerine alongside Shea Butter, Calendula and Jojoba Oil in our Polly Plum body cream to do just that. It’s a rich, buttery formula that calms and soothes while relieving dry patches - and it’s even patch tested to be suitable for eczema-prone skin too.
It helps skin feel soft
It’s not all behind-the-scenes benefits for your skin, however. Glycerin can also improve your skin’s appearance and texture. When combined in a formula with emollient ingredients such as botanical oils - like our Salvation Jane moisturiser or Feather Canyon eye cream - Glycerin helps leave the skin feeling soft and importantly, supple. Plus, all that moisture that it's holding onto will help to make the skin look extra plump.
It's even said to be good for oily skin too, because it'll help to moisturise the skin without making it greasy. More hydration, less shine - happy days.
It helps to speed up skin healing
As well as making sure your skin feels more comfortable thanks to its proven ability to hydrate, Glycerin has been shown to help skin heal faster too.
By improving the skin’s function, it’s thought that it can help ensure your skin cells mature properly, directing them through their production cycle. That makes it helpful for dealing with wounds and cracked skin, and could even be effective for dry and flaky skin conditions such as psoriasis*.
It helps your skincare work better
Finally, just like this clever multitasker can draw molecules like water into the skin, it can do the same thing with your skincare products too. That means Glycerin teams up with the serums, facial oils or moisturisers you apply, then enhances the penetration of the formula’s actives into the skin.
So that’s more beauty benefits for you, and more bang for your buck when it comes to your routine.
Where to find products containing Glycerin
Ready to try Glycerin for yourself? You’re probably a fan without even knowing it - it's likely to be in lots of formulas you’re already using. It even keeps your toothpaste from drying out!
Unsurprisingly, you’ll find our natural, plant-sourced Glycerin in four of our most hydrating formulas – Polly Plum, our calming body moisturiser; our Back To Life hydration serum; Salvation Jane, our face moisturiser formulated for dry and mature skin; and last but not least, our lightweight, sting-free eye cream Feather Canyon.
*Medical College Of Georgia, 2003