THE UNDERRATED HERO INGREDIENT: GLYCERIN

I’m sure that we can all agree that dry skin is the absolute worst. While there is no magic recipe to cure dry winter skin, glycerin is certainly one underrated hero ingredient that may just help you in the fight against it!

Read on to find out more!


What Is Glycerin?

Glycerin (also known as glycerine or glycerol) is a colourless liquid found in all natural fats (animals and plants). It is naturally found in the outermost layers of our skin (the stratum corneum) and is a part of our natural moisturising factor (NMF). Like many things, however, it can become depleted as we age.

Glycerin can be derived from plant oils, fermentation of sugars, or manufactured synthetically. Once extracted the clear, odourless liquid can be put into our cleansers, mists, serums, and moisturisers.

It has a long history of safe use (over 50 years), and is considered an effective ingredient which is also non-allergenic.


What Is It Used For? 

As we’ve already seen, it’s important to replenish our skin’s NMF because it depletes as we age.

Whether derived from vegetable or animal sources, or made synthetically, glycerin works as a humectant. This means that it attracts moisture from the air around us to the upper layer of the skin (the stratum corneum), where it is applied. Other humectants include propylene glycol, AHAs such as glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate.

In this way glycerin keeps moisture in our skin, preventing dryness and scaling by maintaining the skin’s barrier against the elements. As well as helping with dry skin, glycerin is also often used to treat medical conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. It can also be used to promote wound healing. As well as being used in skincare, glycerin is a common component of natural soaps due to its moisturising properties and its ability to cleanse gently.

Now, if anyone remembers me talking about the 500 Dalton Rule in my previous blogs, you’ll know that for any ingredient to be absorbed into our skin, its molecular weight must be under 500 daltons. Glycerin’s molecular weight is 92 Daltons, so it is able to penetrate deep into the skin and draw moisture to the deeper layers.


The Pros & Cons Of Glycerin

The Pros

Glycerin primarily serves to hydrate the skin and help it hold on to moisture. However, it has many other benefits which include:

  • Helping to shield skin from environmental sources of irritation.
  • Working well with emollients and oils to make dry skin feel soft and supple.
  • Reinforcing the skin’s precious moisture barrier to keep it functioning effectively.
  • Enhancing the penetration of other ingredients into skin’s uppermost layers.
  • Improving skin’s resiliency

Glycerin is also involved in the activity of aquaporins. These aquaporins (proteins) are water channels which transport water (and other substances such as glycerol/glycerin) between cells and to the skin’s uppermost layers. They play a key role in maintaining skin’s moisture balance.

The Cons

Because of the way that glycerin works, in that it attracts moisture to the uppermost layer of the skin, it can sometimes work to a disadvantage to our skin. So what I mean by that is if you live in a dry environment (where there’s not much moisture in the air for glycerin to use), moisture will instead be drawn up from the deeper layers of the skin (the dermis). By doing this the surface of the skin will feel plumped and moisturised but the deeper layers can become compromised and dehydrated. This can also happen if you use a product with a concentration of glycerin in it which is higher than 40%.

To counteract this, it’s best if glycerin is used in combination with other ingredients rather than in pure form. For example, it is best used in combination with occlusive emollients to reduce the risk of losing moisture, and with hydrating oils so that it can penetrate deeper and provide lasting moisture. 


Who Can Use Glycerin?

Glycerin is suitable for all skin types, of all ages. This is because we naturally have glycerin in our own skin, as part of the skin’s NMF. So, when glycerin is applied topically, it mimics the glycerin naturally found in our skin and is accepted by our bodies.


How Can I Include It In My Routine & In What Concentration?

Glycerin can be added into almost every single step of your routine. You can find it as an ingredient in a lot of skincare products, especially in moisturisers, cleansers, serums and even mists. It’s an easy and quick-fire way to get super smooth and moisturised skin without needing a separate product. 

*Check the ingredients list of some of your products and I’ll bet that you find this underrated hero ingredient somewhere in there! It sneaks its way into many products!*

FYI with glycerin, you might need to look a little further down in the ingredients list of a product to find it. It can be quite a sticky material! So this is why you don’t want to see it too high up on the ingredients list as it will affect the way the product feels. 

In terms of concentrations, anything above 3% is effective but the benefits of glycerin really tend to increase up until around 40%. 10% seems to be the real sweet spot for glycerin though in terms of effects and usability (since higher concentrations of glycerin in a product makes it more sticky). Above 40% concentration might lead to water being pulled out from the deeper layers of the skin, to the surface, and evaporating (trans-epidermal-water-loss (TEWL)). 


Products Containing Glycerin – Recommendations?

Clinique Moisture Surge

glycerin, clinique

CeraVe Moisturising Cream
I’ve reviewed this cream here.

glycerin, cerave

The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA - 30ml

Heritage Store Rosewater and Glycerin Mist

Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner

glycerin, fresh

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

glycerin

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate Facial Serum

glycerin

PSA SKIN The Most: Hyaluronic Super Nutrient Hydration Serum

glycerin

For me personally, I really noticed a difference in my skin when I included the above Heritage Store Rosewater and Glycerin mist into my routine. I use it after serums and before I use my CeraVe Moisturising Cream at night. This way it seems to lock in lots of moisture underneath the moisturiser. When I wake up I no longer have skin that looks parched! Just making this small addition in my routine has really increased how plump and glowy my skin looks!

That’s it from me this week but next week I’ll be back with lots of product reviews for you all!

Love & Knowledge

S A M A N T H A

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