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Glycerin Skin Benefits: The Unsung Hero of Skincare Hydration

Medically reviewed by:
 Dr. Lucy Chen, MD – Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dr. Lucy Chen, MD – Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dr. Lucy Chen, MD, is a highly regarded board-certified dermatologist with a wealth of expertise in skin health, surgical dermatology, and cosmetic dermatology. She is known for her commitment to patient care and her dedication to advancing the field of dermatology. Her journey is marked by academic excellence, specialized training, and a genuine dedication to […]

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By: Christina Davies
Updated on: February 02, 2024

In the skincare world, ingredients like hyaluronic acid often dominate the conversation around hydration. But glycerin, its equally potent yet less glamorous sibling, deserves equal recognition for its incredible moisture-enhancing abilities.

Glycerin isn’t just a fancy term to toss around – it’s an essential element that deserves a place in your skincare glossary. Though it may already quietly assist behind the scenes in your products, cozying up and improving your skin, it’s time to spotlight this skincare hero.

What Is Glycerin?

Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a colorless, odorless, and sweet-tasting liquid that belongs to the alcohol family. Glycerin is versatile and has various applications in industries ranging from food and pharmaceuticals to cosmetics and personal care products.

One of its primary properties is its ability to attract and retain water, making it a valuable ingredient in moisturizers and skincare products. Glycerin is hygroscopic or a natural humectant, meaning it can absorb and hold onto moisture from its surroundings, helping to keep the skin hydrated. 

This makes it a common component in lotions, creams, and soaps, contributing to their moisturizing and emollient properties. Imagine Glycerin as a magnet for moisture, beckoning it from the air into the top layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum.  It delves deep into the skin, reaching the dermis and continuing its moisture-pulling mission. 

So, what’s the source of this skin-saving ingredient? Glycerin can be derived from various sources, and the most common methods involve either plant-based or animal-based raw materials.

Vegetable glycerin is often favored in cosmetic and personal care products, as it is considered vegan-friendly and generally more environmentally sustainable. IT is derived from plant oils, such as soybean oil, palm oil, or coconut oil. Coconut-derived glycerin, in particular, is popular for its moisturizing properties.

Benefits of Glycerin for Your Skin

When applied topically, glycerin forms a protective layer on the skin, preventing moisture loss and enhancing the skin’s overall hydration. This is particularly beneficial in skincare formulations designed to address dryness, flakiness, or dullness. Glycerin’s hydrating properties also contribute to a smoother and softer skin texture, promoting a more youthful and radiant appearance.

Moreover, glycerin is often used in combination with other ingredients to improve the efficacy of skincare formulations. It is compatible with various actives and botanical extracts, allowing cosmetic manufacturers to create products that not only hydrate but also deliver additional benefits such as anti-aging, soothing, or brightening effects.

Glycerin is a part of so many cosmetic chemical formulations because of its unmatched moisturizing potential. Imagine your skin feeling parched, desperately in need of a hydration boost. A few dollops of a moisturizer with glycerin as a component can be a much-needed ally

Beyond its role as a hydrating agent, Glycerin acts as a protective shield against the potentially harsh impact of skincare products on your skin.

A crucial distinction between glycerin-based and non-glycerin-based products lies in their function. Oils and serums penetrate the skin barrier, getting absorbed internally. In contrast, products infused with Glycerin work to fortify the outer layer of the skin, enhancing the protective barrier. These formulations effectively lock in moisture, preventing water from escaping the skin, and allowing natural oils to nourish and repair.

Side Effects of Glycerin

Glycerin is generally considered safe for use in cosmetics and skincare products, and it’s well-tolerated by most people. However, like any substance, there is the potential for individuals to experience side effects, though they are typically mild. Here are some potential side effects associated with the use of glycerin:

  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to glycerin. Allergic reactions can manifest as redness, itching, or a rash. If you suspect an allergy, it’s advisable to discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional.
  • Irritation: In rare cases, glycerin may cause irritation, especially if applied to broken or irritated skin. It’s important to avoid using products containing glycerin on damaged skin unless otherwise directed by a healthcare provider.
  • Increased Sensitivity to Sunlight: Glycerin can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you use glycerin-containing products during the day, it’s advisable to use sunscreen to protect your skin from potential sun damage.

For the most part, Glycerin takes center stage as a super-safe skincare component. However, it’s essential to read product labels, follow recommended usage guidelines, and perform a patch test before using new skincare or cosmetic products containing glycerin, especially if you have sensitive skin or a history of allergies.

If you experience persistent or severe reactions, we recommend seeking advice from a dermatologist or healthcare professional.

How To Use Glycerin

Glycerin’s versatility knows no bounds – it’s the jack of all trades that complements every step of your routine. As a testament to this affinity, glycerin finds its way into many skincare products – moisturizers, cleansers, serums – offering a swift route to velvety-smooth, moisturized skin sans the hassle of multiple products.

From the moment you wake up to your nighttime ritual, glycerin can find a spot, often blended with other ingredients for optimal effects. So let’s take a look at what products you might find glycerin in:


Glycerin can be used as a cleanser to remove dirt and impurities from the skin, maintaining skin moisture while cleansing.


Glycerin acts as a hydrating toner, helping balance the skin’s moisture levels. Look for toners with it mixed with rose water or witch hazel and apply it to your face with a cotton pad after cleansing.


Glycerin is an excellent humectant, attracting and retaining moisture. Apply a small amount of glycerin directly to damp skin or choose a moisturizer with it for added hydration.

Hair Conditioner

Glycerin can be applied to hair as a natural conditioner. Mix it with water to add moisture and improve hair texture.

Chapped Lips

For dry or chapped lips, apply a small amount of glycerin directly for an extra hydrating effect.

Shaving Cream Substitute

Glycerin’s moisturizing properties make it a suitable alternative to shaving cream. Apply a thin layer before shaving for smoother results.

Sunburn Relief

Glycerin can soothe sunburned skin. Mix it with aloe vera gel and apply gently to the affected areas for relief and hydration.

Hand and Nail Treatment

Massage glycerin into your hands and nails to combat dryness and promote healthy nail growth.

Massage Oil Base

Glycerin can serve as a base for massage oils. Mix it with essential oils for a customized massage blend that nourishes the skin.

DIY Face Masks

Combine glycerin with other ingredients like honey, aloe vera, or essential oils to create DIY face masks. This can provide a boost of hydration and nourishment to your skin.

While dabbling in DIY chemistry for other products might be tempting, it’s best left to the professionals – cosmetic chemists who meticulously balance ingredient ratios for optimal results. Additionally, it’s crucial to use vegetable glycerin for skincare applications.

Finding the Right Concentration of Glycerin

When scanning ingredient lists, it’s like playing a game of hide and seek with glycerin. You should spot it around the third or fourth ingredient, with a usual concentration of about 10 percent. A higher percentage could be detrimental to a skincare product’s texture.

The ideal concentration of glycerin often depends on your skin type. Individuals with dry skin may benefit from higher concentrations to enhance hydration, while those with oily skin might prefer lower concentrations to avoid excess oiliness.

Consider, too, the climate of your environment. In dry or cold climates, a higher concentration of glycerin can provide intense moisture retention. Conversely, in humid conditions, a lower concentration may be better to prevent a sticky or heavy feel on the skin.

Best Products of Glycerin

Let’s dive into a treasure trove of skincare products that boast the magic touch of Glycerin, delivering a nourishing embrace for your skin.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment 14 Ounce

When glycerin teams up with Aquaphor, you know you’re in for some serious TLC. 

This Healing Ointment is a masterstroke for dehydrated skin. Glycerin’s moisture-attracting prowess combines with Aquaphor’s healing touch, creating a dynamic duo that your skin will adore.

“This product is a holy grail and I recommend it frequently,” says Dr. Chen. “Put it on dry lips, cracked heels or around your cuticles especially in the wintertime.”

ELEMIS Exotic Cream Moisturizing Mask 

Elevate your skincare routine with ELEMIS’s Exotic Cream Moisturizing Mask, where Glycerin indulges your skin in a spa-like experience. 

This mask doesn’t just moisturize; it transports you to a realm of tranquility, leaving you with a dewy, refreshed glow that’s hard to miss.

The Ordinary Mini Natural Moisturizing Factors

In the realm of skincare, The Ordinary needs no introduction. The Mini Natural Moisturizing Factors combine the power of Glycerin with a minimalist approach. 

Don’t let the “mini” fool you – it’s a giant when it comes to delivering the dose of hydration that your skin craves.

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream 

Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream lives up to its name, and Glycerin is one of the show’s stars. This anti-aging, whole-body moisturizer is a testament to skincare wizardry. 

Let Glycerin’s moisture-retaining charm and Charlotte Tilbury’s expertise weave their magic on your skin.

Dove Intense Care 2pc Bundle 

Dove knows a thing or two about pampering, and their Dove Intense Care 2pc Bundle is a symphony of hydration. 

Enriched with Glycerin, this duo takes your skincare routine to luxurious heights. Bid farewell to dryness and embrace supple, moisturized skin – the Dove way.

Fast Facts

DefinitionGlycerin is a humectant that attracts moisture, promoting hydration and smoother skin.
Cosmetic UseIt’s widely used in moisturizers, cleansers, and serums to improve skin’s hydration.
Impact on Skin TypesSafe for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.
Potential BenefitsMoisturizes, smoothes, and imparts a dewy appearance.
Potential DrawbacksRare allergic reactions or irritation in high concentrations.
Recommended UsageCan be used daily.
CompatibilityWorks well with other moisturizing ingredients like rose water or hyaluronic acid.
Precautions/RecsAvoid high glycerin concentrations. Do patch test for sensitivity.
Who Should UseSuitable for everyone seeking hydrated and radiant skin.
How Often to UseTopically multiple times a day.
Works Well WithOther moisturizing ingredients.
Don’t Use WithNo known interactions, but avoid high glycerin concentrations.


What does Glycerin do for the skin?

Glycerin acts as a humectant, attracting moisture from the air to hydrate the skin’s top layer and deeper dermal layers. This results in moisturized, smooth, and dewy skin that’s the envy of all.

Is Glycerin good for the skin every day?

Glycerin is good to use every day. It’s good for all skin types, so you can enjoy its hydrating benefits daily without worrying.

Is Glycerin good for skin whitening?

While Glycerin doesn’t directly lighten skin, its moisturizing prowess can improve skin tone and texture. Glycerin indirectly contributes to a more radiant appearance by keeping your skin well-hydrated and healthy.

Does Glycerin make skin glow?

Glycerin can make the skin glow with its capability to lock in moisture and maintain the skin barrier leading to a natural, healthy glow. Regular use can leave your skin looking luminous and full of life, like a radiant masterpiece.

Final Thoughts

As we bid adieu, let’s recap Glycerin’s enchantment on your skincare journey. It’s not just a moisture magnet but a humectant hero that penetrates deep into the skin’s layers, reviving hydration. 

Glycerin’s portfolio includes moisturizing might, protection against harsh elements, and prevention of moisture loss. And the best part? 

Its unassuming nature creates a haven for your skin – no known side effects, just a burst of moisture.


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