Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/15/2021
If you’ve ever glanced at the ingredient list on any of your skin care bottles, there’s a good chance you’ve spotted glycerin. In fact, in a 2014 study, it was found to be the third most common ingredient in cosmetic products.
Glycerin is used in everything from makeup to facial cleansers and moisturizers, and there is research that suggests it can be beneficial for your complexion — especially if you have dry skin.
Keep reading to uncover more about this common ingredient in skin care products — including what it is and how it may benefit your skin.
Glycerin is naturally in things like soybeans and cane, though when used in skincare, it’s generally man-made.
It is sometimes called glycerol, and is odorless liquid. When it is used in skincare products, it’s considered a humectant.
Translation: Glycerin can be a great help to dehydrated skin and is worth considering for your skin care routine.
There’s a reason glycerin is in so many skin care products; it has some solid benefits for all skin types.
According to one study, glycerin can hydrate, improve skin barrier function, protect against irritants, and accelerate wound healing.
Generally, you won’t find skin products that are 100 percent glycerin. Instead, this ingredient is mixed with other things to create effective products.
One study found that glycerin combined with hyaluronic acid and Centella asiatica (a type of plant) extract can boost skin barrier function for up to 24 hours after application.
Note: When you see glycerin in a product, you may also want to look for the inclusion of occlusives. While humectants help pull hydration in, occlusives create a protective barrier to keep that moisture in.
As for side effects, there aren’t any that are widely known to be associated with glycerin. Though, it is possible you could notice adverse effects when using products that contain this ingredient.
If you notice any skin irritation or have an allergic reaction, contact a healthcare professional.
Additionally, if you already have a skin addition, it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional before switching or adding any skin care products.
As outlined above, one of glycerin’s main benefits for skin is that it moisturizes. Hydration can give you radiant skin — and who doesn’t want that?
Moisturizer is a crucial component of any skin care regimen. (Find out what else should be a part of your regimen by reading our guide to building a skincare routine)
While your skin naturally hydrates itself by secreting oil, it can often use some help. That’s because natural oil can be worn away by environmental factors (like the sun). Heck, even oily skin and acne-prone skin needs moisturizer.
A study done in 2011 found that when women between the ages of 30 and 60 used a topical hyaluronic acid cream, they found significant improvements in skin hydration.
Other key ingredients that can boost moisture in your skin include:
Alpha Hydroxy Acid
If you’ve ever wondered if glycerin is bad for your skin, rest assured that it is not. In fact, the opposite may be true. Glycerin can be good for your skin — especially when it comes to hydrating it.
Glycerin is a humectant, which means that it attracts water. That makes it good for dry skin.
It’s a good idea to make sure that products you use that have glycerin also contain an occlusive (like squalene) to help keep that moisture locked in.
In addition to glycerin, there are plenty of other moisturizing ingredients — like hyaluronic acid, lactic acid and others — that can help your skin go from dull to dewy.
If you’re interested in a professional opinion about whether glycerin could help you achieve healthy skin, make an appointment with a healthcare professional.
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