Wondering what gives with glycerin? This versatile and widely used ingredient is found in a variety of skincare products, from cleansers to lotions, serums, and more. As a humectant, glycerin helps draw moisture from the air into the skin, making it an excellent choice for dry or dehydrated skin. In addition to having hydrating properties, glycerin may also strengthen your skin’s barrier function,¹ condition your skin, and improve its overall radiance. Whether you have dry, oily, or combination skin, glycerin may be a beneficial addition to your skincare routine. Here’s the 411 on glycerin’s skin benefits, how it may help your skin type, and tips for adding this ingredient to your skincare lineup.
In short, yes! Glycerin is a colorless, odorless liquid commonly found in many skincare and cosmetic products. Glycerin is a type of humectant,² which means it helps the skin retain moisture by attracting water molecules from the air and drawing them into the skin. When applied to the skin, glycerin helps keep it hydrated³ and smooth, which can help improve its overall texture and appearance.
If you take a quick look at the ingredients in your favorite moisturizers, chances are you’ll find glycerin. Often mixed with other moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, this powerhouse humectant is popular for a reason. Here are a few of its potential benefits for your skin:
It’s a humectant: As mentioned, glycerin helps to moisturize the skin by drawing in water molecules from the air. This can help to relieve dryness and improve your skin’s overall texture and appearance.
It’s hydrating: Research shows that glycerin may hydrate the skin’s outermost layers.
It’s conditioning: Glycerin may help condition your skin, which may help soothe irritation and boost your skin health.
It’s strengthening: Another critical benefit of glycerin is its potential ability to strengthen the skin barrier function. This may help protect the skin from environmental stressors and irritating stimuli and keep it looking radiant.
It’s healing: According to a recent study, glycerin may accelerate wound healing.
It may help improve symptoms of some skin conditions: The topical application of products containing glycerin may help improve the symptoms of skin conditions characterized by abnormally dry skin and impaired skin barrier function, such as atopic dermatitis.⁴
Because it’s typically gentle, it’s generally suitable for all skin types, including skin that’s acne-prone or sensitive. It’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores and cause breakouts, and it also may help soothe irritation and redness. That’s why many skincare products contain glycerin, including Curology’s cleanser and moisturizer, which are dermatologist-designed to wash away dirt and excess oil and help seal in hydration.
While we always suggest reading the directions on the packaging of your skincare items, here are a few easy steps you can follow to get the most out of using products that contain glycerin:
Cleanse your face: Use your favorite gentle cleanser designed for your skin type to wash your face.
Add a serum: If desired, follow up your moisturizer with a face serum to help give your skin an extra dose of richness.
Let it sink in: Once you’ve applied the serum give it a few minutes to fully absorb into your skin.
Apply a small amount of moisturizer: Take a small amount of your glycerin moisturizer and apply it to your face and neck in a gentle, circular motion. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package for the recommended amount to use. If it’s morning, finish with sunscreen!
While some skincare ingredients can help improve your overall skin health, consulting a licensed dermatology provider may save time, effort, and money. Medically backed treatment can help alleviate specific concerns, such as signs of aging, acne, and rosacea. That’s where Curology comes in.
Curology was founded in 2014 by board-certified dermatologists, and we believe everyone’s skin is unique. We’re a full skincare service offering products made with proven, effective ingredients, including those that treat fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. Our experts help take the guesswork out of your skincare routine by providing a custom treatment plan and personalized prescription formula to help you meet your skincare goals. We’ll determine the products your skin needs to help you tackle your skin concerns, with active ingredients such as tretinoin, a topical vitamin A derivative, azelaic acid, and niacinamide.
Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap some selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our in-house licensed dermatology providers who will be with you every step along your journey to healthier skin.
Despite any rumors you may have heard or read, glycerin is unlikely to darken your skin. This ingredient is actually found in some products that claim to lighten the skin, but there’s little scientific evidence that glycerin works in this way, too. What we know glycerin can do, however, is potentially improve your skin’s hydration.
Rosewater is a skincare ingredient that may have a few potential benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may soothe the skin, calm irritation, and even reduce the appearance of the signs of aging. A study showed that rose petal extract has skin anti-inflammatory effects.⁵ When used on the skin, you’re unlikely to experience serious side effects of glycerin and rosewater. Still, we suggest speaking with your dermatology provider before adding new ingredients or products to your routine.
Enhancing skin hydration and barrier function via skin penetration of monoglycerides and sustained glycerin release. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2017).
Becker, L., et al. Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics. International Journal of Toxicology. Ibid.
Enhancing skin hydration and barrier function via skin penetration of monoglycerides and sustained glycerin release. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ibid.
Fluhr, J.W., et al. Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. Br J Dermatol. (2008).
Lee, M.H., et al. Skin anti-inflammatory activity of rose petal extract (Rosa gallica) through reduction of MAPK signaling pathway. Food Sci Nutr. (2018).
Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.
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Erin Pate, NP-C