Glycerin: A Time-Tested Skincare Ingredient
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Glycerin: A Time-Tested Skincare Ingredient

Key takeaways:

  • Glycerin is a popular and common hydrating skincare ingredient that’s safe to use on a variety of skin types, including sensitive skin.
  • As an ingredient in skincare products, glycerin provides many benefits, including moisturizing, moisture retention, and skin barrier support.
  • Glycerin is most effective when used with other types of moisturizing ingredients; it should not be used by itself on the skin.

When you check the list of ingredients in your skincare products, you’ll see one name over and over again: glycerin (glycerol/glycerine). Glycerin may not have the same cultural cache as hyaluronic acid or ceramides, but this widely used moisturizing agent is an essential component in many of today’s skincare products.

At Gladskin, we love glycerin for its simplicity, its reliability, and its ability to pair well with others, ensuring lasting hydration. Let's take a closer look at this humble and hard-working ingredient.

What is glycerin and what does it do for your skin?

Glycerin is a humectant, meaning that it attracts moisture. More specifically, glycerin has a unique molecular structure composed of three hydrophilic (water-attracting) hydroxyl groups configured in such a way that they attract moisture from the environment. Because glycerin’s molecular weight is relatively low, it will then draw that moisture deep into the layers of your skin, making it easier for your skin to maintain moisture as well.

These properties are what makes glycerin such a valuable asset in skincare formulations, especially for individuals with dry skin prone to irritation. Most skincare companies, including Gladskin, use vegetable-derived glycerin.

In skincare, glycerin doesn’t and shouldn’t operate alone

You can technically buy glycerin — it’s an odorless, syrupy, sweet-tasting liquid — but DIY-ers beware, we wouldn’t recommend slathering undiluted glycerin on your skin. The application of a high concentration of glycerin runs the risk of drawing moisture from inside your skin, creating the exact conditions for dryness you were trying to eradicate in the first place.

Without getting into the chemistry-degree specifics, glycerin works best when it's formulated with other ingredients, including occlusives and emollients. Occlusives help you retain moisture by creating a barrier over your skin, reducing transepidermal water loss. Emollients give your skin a softer, smoother feel and appearance.

Some skincare ingredients fit into multiple categories. For example, while glycerin is primarily a humectant, it is also semi-occlusive and has some emollient properties. Again, that doesn’t mean it should be used by itself. Glycerin alone does not a moisturizer make, but when paired with other ingredients in a thoughtful formulation it can provide effective moisturization to the skin.

The benefits of glycerin for sensitive skin

1. Glycerin is an extremely effective at moisturizing

If you have sensitive skin, you want moisturizing and hydrating ingredients that won’t rock the boat and disrupt your skin’s microbiome. Glycerin’s ability to attract water molecules and lock moisture without causing irritation make it a best-in-class ingredient.

2. Glycerin supports a healthy skin barrier

By keeping your skin moisturized, glycerin works to strengthen and support your skin’s function as a natural barrier. A healthy skin barrier helps keep harsh chemicals, pollutants, and other irritants (including some skincare ingredients) from creating dryness and itchiness when they penetrate the skin.

3. Glycerin is non-comedogenic

Non-comedogenic means that an ingredient won’t block your skin’s pores or contribute to breakouts. Since glycerin isn’t a heavy, oily ingredient, it is classified as being non-comedogenic. Just make sure you don’t stop reading the ingredient list before you buy a product with glycerin in it, as other ingredients might cancel out glycerin’s non-comedogenic properties.

Incorporating glycerin-containing products into your skincare routine

At Gladskin, we know that introducing a new product to your skincare routine isn’t always easy. We’ve created a guide for how to add new skincare products to your current regimen with minimum hassle, but you can also start by:

Trying Gladskin’s Daily Care Cream. This product features glycerin to moisturize the skin and is microbiome friendly.

Incorporating Gladskin’s gel-to-milk Face Wash and hydrating Body Wash into your routine. Both products contain glycerin and use as few ingredients as possible.

Gladskin: Minimally formulated skincare

Glycerin has maintained its status as a skincare staple because it’s generally safe for all skin types, plays well with other ingredients, and is very good at hydrating skin. Choosing the right glycerin-infused products and incorporating them into your daily routine can help your skin feel moisturized and comfortable.

Gladskin creates skincare products that are minimally formulated and designed to foster skin health. We carefully select ingredients like glycerin and leave out the fragrances, steroids, preservatives, parabens and more.

To learn more, explore our best sellers today.


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