First things first: are you checking the ingredients in your skincare products?
If the answer is no, it might be time to start taking a look at those lists so you can work out what your skin loves and what it doesn’t. No judgement here, but your skin definitely feels and looks better when you use the right products.
The science behind skincare can feel unnecessarily complicated at times, which can make it hard to stay interested. In our ingredients spotlight series, we’re going to be decoding some of the most common ingredients used in skincare to help you understand what you’re using on your skin and why.
Let’s start with the third most common skincare ingredient found in beauty products (including skincare of course): glycerin.
What is Glycerin?
Glycerin occurs naturally in all animals and plants as fats and oils. It’s a thick, clear, syrupy liquid that can either be derived from natural sources (i.e. plants and/or animals) or petroleum. It was first used in soap-making hundreds of years ago so has been a part of cleansing and skincare for a long time.
It’s a triglyceride (basically a type of fat) that’s still used in skincare today as it’s considered to be gentle on the skin. Coconut oil and olive oil both contain glycerin, and are two of the most commonly used glycerin sources in skincare.
You’ll sometimes see it listed as glycerol or glycerine on product labels – it’s all the same thing.
What’s glycerin used for in skincare?
Glycerin is used in skincare to replenish, restore, balance and hydrate. It can help to combat dryness, make your skin look better and to keep it hydrated. It can also act as a barrier against the elements and promote wound healing.
It’s what’s known as a humectant, and one of the most effective at that. This means that it attracts moisture (yes, that’s right – a moisturiser that attracts moisture) to the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, when it’s applied, preventing dryness, and adding hydration to the skin. It protects the skin against irritation and helps maintain a healthy skin barrier.
This is why it’s sometimes used to treat medical conditions like very dry skin, psoriasis and dermatitis (we’d always recommend speaking to a medical professional if you’re struggling with any of these skin conditions before trying new products). Glycerin diffuses into the stratum corneum, increases skin hydration (by retaining water) and relieves clinical signs of dryness.
It works really well when it’s combined with other hydrating ingredients and occlusives too. Just FYI, an occlusive is a moisturising agent that forms a protective layer on the surface of your skin to prevent water loss, they can be used with a humectant but work in different ways.
Benefits of glycerin
The hydrating and moisturising benefits of glycerin are the big ones for this ingredient. This makes it great for parched, cracked skin (all over your body) and things like chronically dry winter skin.
When glycerin is used in a cleanser it can have real moisturising benefits. This is really important as your cleanser should never make your skin feel dry, tight or sore.
You can actually add glycerin into your routine at pretty much any stage in the process. It’s a really versatile ingredient with all-round hydrating benefits.
Any downsides to glycerin?
Glycerin sometimes gets a bad reputation as a “cheap” or “filler” ingredient. This absolutely isn’t the case! Whilst it isn’t an expensive ingredient (and there’s nothing wrong with that, expensive skincare doesn’t always mean effective ingredients), it has ton of moisturising and hydrating benefits for the skin. When an ingredient has real benefits like glycerin, there’s no way it can just be called a filler.
Which of our products can you find glycerin in?
You’ll find glycerin in our Gentle Daily Cleansing Balm, along with other hydrating ingredients like shea butter, safflower oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil and rosehip seed oil to keep your skin feeling smooth, soft and nourished.