The Benefits and Uses of Glycerin for Skin Health
by Blake Cooley on Feb 05, 2021
Glycerin is one of the most valuable substances in the world and is found in a wide variety of everyday products. Due to its outstanding moisturizing properties, glycerin is commonly used in skin care products. Whether you only use natural skin care products or household brands, it's highly likely you'll find glycerin on labels throughout your home.
Natural glycerin exists in all animal and vegetable matter, and has many uses and benefits when it comes to beauty and skin care. However, not all glycerin products are created equal.
What is glycerin?
Glycerin, also often called glycerol or glycerine, is a colorless, odorless, syrupy liquid with a sweet flavor. In terms of chemical composition, glycerin is a trihydroxy sugar alcohol. The name glycerol comes from the Greek word "glykys," which means "sweet."
It has been around far before the 18th century. For example, soap-making using animal fats is described in Sumerian clay tablets dating back to the third millennium B.C, yet today, glycerin has more than 1500 known end uses and can be found in products from cosmetics to foods.
The uses of glycerin for skin care
Because glycerin is found in many moisturizing skin care products and soaps, it is as well-loved as a lotion and soap ingredient due to it being a humectant. A humectant is a substance that pulls water from the second layer of the skin and brings it to the top layer of the skin. If the humidity is high, humectants also draw moisture from the air.
As a result, glycerin hydrates skin, helps you shed dead skin cells and gives your skin a smooth, youthful glow. And due to it's gentle, moisturizing qualities, glycerin is a preferred soap ingredient for individuals with sensitive skin, as the purity of the product will not dry out the skin or make it itchy and irritated like harsh soaps with fragrances and various chemicals. Glycerin keeps your skin moist and soft while gently cleaning the surface layer.
Since glycerin is so effective as a skin moisturizer, you can find it in products such as:
- Cleansers - Glycerin won't add oil to the skin or clog pores, making it an excellent cleanser for individuals who have acne-prone skin. Any skin type can use facial cleansers containing glycerin to wash away dirt and grease without drying out their skin.
- Toners - Toners containing glycerin are a great way to freshen the skin without making skin feel sticky or greasy. These toners allow individuals with naturally oily skin to hydrate their skin with a light, refreshing mist.
- Sunscreen - Sunscreen helps guard the skin against damaging UV rays. Glycerin can be found in some sunscreens as a natural moisturizer and to help make the sunscreen more spreadable.
- Moisturizers - Glycerin's most impressive feature is its moisturizing capabilities. As a humectant, glycerin can be found in many moisturizing products like face creams and hand and foot lotions — just to name a few. As it draws moisture to the skin's surface, it fills in wrinkles for a smooth, soft feel and appearance.
- Face Masks - Some face masks contain glycerin to brighten and moisturize skin. You can use a glycerin face mask for fast hydration and immediate age-defying results.
- Soaps - Glycerin is commonly found in many different types of soaps and body washes, and because glycerin is gentle and won't dry out the skin, it’s also a common ingredient in baby skin products.
The benefits for the skin
There are many benefits of glycerin in skin care, whether you have oily skin, sensitive skin or dry skin. All-natural, pure glycerin skin care products also have no harmful impact on the environment. If you choose vegetable glycerin, you can also feel good about using products that did not involve harm to animals.
The top eight benefits of using natural glycerin for skin care include:
1. Keeps skin youthful
Applying glycerin to your skin traps in moisture and gives it a youthful, healthy glow. By drawing moisture to the top layer of your skin, glycerin helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and keeps skin looking soft and smooth. It also improves skin function to slow down aging, making it the perfect ingredient for gentle cleaning and moisturizing.
2. Reduces acne breakouts
Some ingredients commonly found in cleansers and moisturizers for acne are actually too harsh for the skin. Strong skin care products can make acne worse for some individuals by causing inflammation and irritation. Glycerin, however, can be used to beautify your skin without the side effects of harsher products. Also, glycerin is oil-free and non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores, the very thing that leads to acne breakouts.
3. It’s safe
When it comes to choosing skin care ingredients, you'll want to consider safety above all else. Your skin plays a critical role in protecting your body by keeping fluids in, keeping harmful bacteria and viruses out, and regulating your body temperature to even. Therefore, you'll want to use safe products that promote healthy skin.
4. It’s gentle
Gentle cleansers and moisturizers are important for keeping skin comfortable and healthy, especially for individuals who are prone to acne. Acne-prone individuals are often told to use exfoliators to remove dead skin cells, however gritty and abrasive scrubs can remove dead skin cells and leave skin feeling soft, but they can also be too harsh for acne-prone skin and cause further irritation and redness where there's a breakout. Glycerin offers a gentle way to exfoliate, clean and moisturize skin without causing irritation. Gentle cleansers that include glycerin are ideal for individuals with dry skin, as it's important for all skin types to treat their skin gently and prevent irritation.
5. Healing of the skin
Where the skin is dry, damaged and cracked, glycerin can come to the rescue and increase skin hydration. Glycerin may be used to help skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis and to help heal wounds resulting from cracked skin. Overall, glycerin promotes skin health by improving skin function, accelerating the wound healing process, protecting skin against irritants, and has even demonstrated antimicrobial effects.
6. Acts as a skin moisturizer
Glycerin acts like a sponge and draws more moisture to itself. It also helps slow down the evaporation of water from the skin, which can help keep skin moist and hydrated in the middle of winter. Overall, glycerin has considerable anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Protects your skin
During the winter, humidity levels drop outside, and cold air causes moisture in your skin to evaporate quickly. As a result, winter air can make skin dry, cracked and flaky. When skin breaks down, it becomes more susceptible to wounds and infection. Yet, a moisturizing lotion containing glycerin locks moisture in your skin and can be especially helpful in protecting hands, feet, elbows, knees and other parts of the body that typically get dry. Glycerin can also help protect skin from the effects of wind or dry indoor air.
8. Preserves other ingredients
If you create your own glycerin skin care products, say on a DIY basis, for consumers or personal use, you'll be pleased to know that glycerin acts as a preservative in addition to all of its other health benefits. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, glycerin has outstanding antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It's both a solvent and preservative in skin care products that contain herbal extracts.
It's very easy to add glycerin to your skin care routine. In fact, you may already use it since it's in so many products. To make sure you benefit from glycerin's superior moisturizing power, check the ingredients of your favorite lotions and creams and make sure they include this sensational ingredient and its numerous benefits. If you're just getting started on a focused skin care journey, look for high-quality, natural products that include glycerin in their ingredients list.