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Is Glycerin Good or Bad for Your Skin?

glycerin drops
May 22, 2014 Reviewed by Christina 7 Comments

Glycerin (aka, glycerine or glycerol) is a commonly used ingredient in many cosmetic and personal care skin care products. Yet it also an ingredient that stirs up quite a bit of debate. Glycerin is a humectant that can be naturally derived from plant oils, or it can also be synthetically produced. As a humectant, glycerin works to moisturize the skin by drawing water from the air into the skin's outer layer. It also forms a protective layer that helps prevent moisture loss. However, the moisturizing effects of glycerin are dependent upon the climate — if the air has less than 65% humidity, glycerin will draw moisture from the lower layers of the skin and hold it on the surface, drying the skin from the inside out. Another drawback is that products formulated with high levels of humectants such as glycerin will leave a tacky feel on the skin.

For these reasons, glycerin is best combined with other emollients and occlusive ingredients when used in skin care products. Emollients, which are mainly lipids and oils, will improve the feel of a moisturizer and how well it applies. Occlusive ingredients, when combined with glycerin, will help create a barrier against water loss and stop the water from evaporating out of your skin. The problem with some common occlusive ingredients, such as petrolatum, mineral oil, waxes and silicones, is that they are heavy and pore clogging — which would certainly be an undesired side effect of trying to soften skin! These 10 recommended skin care products combine hydrating glycerin with natural and botanical ingredients in order to deliver maximum moisturizing and anti-aging benefits.

Products with Glycerin: For Face

Michael Todd True Organics Honey and Oat Cleanser ($24) — In addition to glycerin, this gentle hydrating face wash contains several organic botanicals, including lavender, oats, and acai fruit, as well as honey and vitamins B5 and E. All this in a base of refreshing aloe vera juice.

Amarte Aqua Veil Hydrator ($65) — Infused with cucumber and flower extracts, this light gel-serum combines glycerin with sodium hyaluronate to optimize your skin's ability to absorb and retain moisture.

Snowberry Bright Defence Day Cream No. 2 ($63) — The emollients used in this cream include rosehip, grapeseed, passion flower and macadamia and the New Zealand harakeke. Very natural ingredients combine to brighten, moisturize, fight inflammation, prevent cell damage and more.

Arcona Wine Hydrating Mask ($38) — In addition to wine extract, which is rich in antioxidants with resveratrol from red grapes, this nourishing mask contains hyaluronic acid, shea butter and glycerine to hydrate, repair, revitalize, repair, and firm the skin, as well as stimulate cellular renewal and reduce wrinkles.

Eslor Active Night Cream ($95 in the shop) — In addition to glycerin, aloe vera gel and hydrolyzed soy milk protein, this intensive formula night cream contains actives such ginseng extract, sea buckthorn oil, peach kernel oil, mango butter, almond butter, carrot oil and squalane (vegetable derived). As if that weren't impressive enough, there's also Matrixyl 3000 to fight fine lines and wrinkles.

Products with Glycerin: For Body

Prana Attar Firming Body Milk Moisturizer ($28) — Highly refined oils of grape seed, safflower, sweet almond and shea butter combine with glycerine in this anti-aging body lotion that alleviates dryness and tackles cellulite while also firming and protecting skin.

Kat Burki Body Butter ($62) — Kat Burki uses kosher vegetable glycerin in her intensely hydrating yet fast-absorbing body butter. Rose hip, coconut, tamanu and evening primrose oils repair skin and restore elasticity and combine with her "proprietary organic herb blend."

Mukti Pink Grapefruit Body Lotion ($47) — This non-greasy vegan moisturizer hydrates, nourishes and protects skin with certified organic glycerin (vegetarian), shea nut butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil and has a delightfully invigorating scent of pink grapefruit.

Stemulation Relance Body Lotion ($98 in the shop) — For those who wouldn't think glycerin had a place in a powerful anti-aging formula, consider this intensely hydrating body lotion. Its heavy hitters include human stem cell cultured media along with exfoliating lactic and fruit acids. Its formula will even out skin tone, increase cell turnover and stimulate collagen production.

Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Age Repair Body Lift ($95) — This potent anti-aging treatment prevents and reduces stretch marks while also smoothing cellulite and crepey skin. Glycerine is joined by vitamins E, A and B-5, as well as essential lavender oil, copper PCA, green bean extract and allantoin.

Read more:

Glycerin: Does It Really Moisturize the Skin?

What Causes Dry Skin and How to Get Rid of Dry Skin

  • June 3, 2018

    by Laura

    I have dermatitis and want some kind of cream to control it. Right now I'm on steroid cream again. It is itchy and I think its best not to take real hot baths. Also I have alkaline water so I add a small amount of baking soda. This makes the water acidic instead and better for skin.

  • April 2, 2018

    by justin

    Thank you for the article, I was researching as I realize I pay too much for skincare products when I do not know what it really in them and felt I may just be paying for the designer name at a department store. Something else I have been seeing on the ingredients list is ( ) Derived from Glycerin, I can not recall the chemical names of course but is that a sneaky way of mentioning glycerin without containing any?
    It's confusing as even in google searches some cheaper drugstore brands will come up alongside the very expensive dept store ones. It's hard to know what you are buying when you do not understand the ingredients label.

  • March 29, 2018

    by Aprilia

    I'm in teenager can I still use? It's harmful to my skin?

  • April 24, 2017

    by eddie

    No need for for the fancy products mentioned above. With vegan diet, regular exercise, a nice home blend glycerin is great for skin.

  • January 13, 2016

    by Caitlin

    Yes, thank you for the information. I try to avoid products with a high glycerin content because I always notice dryness in my skin afterward.

  • July 25, 2015

    by Alli

    Thank you for this review. It will help me to choose ingredients more wisely.

  • February 7, 2015

    by jorge

    i started using suave advanced therapy around 4 months ago with a high content of glycerine.When I use it my face look good but after taking a shower my face skin look the worst ever in my life. Reading on internet I found that glycerine absorbs water,so by logic i thought it could dry my skin cells. This article confirm what I was fearing. Or skin care producers are complety stupid or they just want to destroy consumers skins so we keep buying their products

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