What Exactly Is Glycerin and Why Is It in So Many of Your Skin-Care Products?

·2-min read
Smear of natural moisturizer in pink background. Cream, Lotion for face or body. Skin care.
Smear of natural moisturizer in pink background. Cream, Lotion for face or body. Skin care.

Dry skin can be a pain in the heinie, and while there are a handful of ingredients that probably come to mind when it comes to a solution - like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, to name a few - there's another one out there that works just as well but doesn't get as much attention. If you're into updating your ever-growing glossary of skin-care terms, grab a pen and add glycerin to your list of all-star hydrating ingredients that can be found in many of your favorite skin-care products.

Read ahead for a brief explainer on what glycerin is and how to use it for soft, hydrated skin.

What Is Glycerin?

"Glycerin is a natural compound derived from vegetable oil or animal fats," Marina Peredo, MD, FAAD, told POPSUGAR. "It is a moisturizing agent and is typically used with occlusives in skin-care products to trap moisture into the skin." In other words, it's a humectant that attracts water from the air and allows it to penetrate the skin for optimal hydration.

What Are the Benefits of Glycerin?

The main benefit of glycerin is to hydrate dry skin and prevent moisture loss, but the ingredient can also provide a layer of protection against environmental factors and pollution by creating a barrier.

Not only that, but it's also safe to use on all skin types. "For those with dry or sensitive skin, glycerin is ideal because of its moisturizing properties," Dr. Peredo said. "It also won't clog your pores, so it's safe for those with acne-prone skin to use as well."

What Are the Side Effects of Glycerin?

According to Dr. Peredo, glycerin doesn't have any known side effects, but if you've been using a product with the ingredient in it and skin becomes red, itchy, or irritated, you should stop using it immediately and consult with a dermatologist if possible.

How Should I Incorporate Glycerin Into My Routine?

You can find glycerin in dozens of moisturizers and cleansers, and it's safe to use during any step in your skin-care routine. "In cleansers, glycerin works to prevent the skin from getting dry and stripped of moisture," Dr. Peredo said. "It is very easy to add it in and there are some great products that contain glycerin such as the Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($5) and the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($11).

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