Ingredient Spotlight: Glycerin

In the world of skincare there are a number of ingredients that everyone has heard of – vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid are amongst the most famous. But there are also a whole host of lesser-known and underrated ingredients that don’t always get the hype that they deserve. A case in point: glycerin. While it may not be an ingredient you think you know, chances are you’re already using it – you’ll notice that it pops up on the ingredient lists of most of the products in your skincare routine. It’s a powerful hydrator which is frequently found in moisturisers and serums, but can also be spotted in masks, cleansers, sunscreens, and mists.

Scroll down for everything you need to know about glycerin’s skincare benefits.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin (also known as glycerine or glycerol) is naturally found in healthy, well-hydrated skin, but can also be made synthetically, or derived from vegetable and animal sources. Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is a powerful hydrating ingredient known as a humectant.

How does glycerin work?

Humectants work by drawing moisture from the air around us into our skin. Regardless of your skin type and concerns, it’s always beneficial to boost skin’s moisture levels. Hydrated skin is better able to deal with environmental stressors like climate, bacteria, irritants, and pollution.

What does glycerin do?

The primary benefit of glycerin is that it hydrates skin and helps skin to better retain moisture. In doing so, the skin barrier is strengthened (which helps to protect skin from bacteria and irritation), skin feels softer and looks brighter and plumper, and consequently applied ingredients will be better able to absorb into skin. Unlike some other hydrating ingredients, glycerin is very lightweight and soothing – this means it’s suitable for even oily and sensitive skin as it won’t clog pores or cause irritation.

When should you use glycerin?

You’re unlikely to find any products that contain pure glycerin or that even shout about featuring the ingredient – but it’s featured in the vast majority of product formulas, especially when it comes to hydrating products like serums and moisturisers. You’ll also notice that it’s often at the top of the INCI list, which means it’s included in a high quantity. Glycerin plays well with all other skincare ingredients so it’s totally safe to use alongside active ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, exfoliating acids, and niacinamide, and you can safely use it at any time of day or at any point in your skincare routine.

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