Does Glycerin Hydrates Or Dries Out Your Skin?

by Gio
glycerin skincare benefits

Glycerin is like parsley. It’s everywhere. Pretty much ALL your skincare products.

Don’t take my word for it. Have a look in your stash. Chances are 90% of your beloved lotions and potions are loaded with Glycerin.

Why? What makes Glycerin omnipresent while other ingredients are so hard to find (yes, BHA, I’m looking at you).

Let’s investigate:

What Is Glycerin?

Glycerin goes by many names. Some call it Glycerine. Others Glycerol. I call it Glycerin. Either way, it’s the same thing: a thick, gelatinous liquid found in all natural fats (plant, animal, and human).

The glycerin in your skincare products can be derived naturally by the fermentation of sugar or hydrolysis (decomposition of a chemical by reaction with water) or fats, but it can also be made in a lab.

Either way, it’s both safe and effective.


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How Does Glycerin Benefits Skin?

Glycerin is a humectant. That’s a fancy way to say it attracts water from the environment into the skin and binds it there. Why this matters?

Moisture is the foundation of healthy, younger-looking skin. When skin has all the moisture it needs, it looks and feels better. And Glycerin does provide it with a waterfall of moisture.

Here’s what happens when you use glycerin:

  • It banishes dryness: It increases your skin’s hydration levels, making it feel super soft and supple and preventing flaking.
  • It boosts your skincare routine: Well-hydrated skin is more permeable. That means those precious actives in your lotions and potions more easily penetrate skin, so they work better and faster.
  • It helps treat psoriasis and dermatitis: Strengthening your skin’s barrier is key in healing these conditions.
  • It reduces the appearance of wrinkles: Moisture plumps up fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller to the naked eye (but the effect is only temporary).
  • It strengthens the skin’s protective barrier: This barrier keeps moisture in and germs, pollutants, and other skin enemies out. By reinforcing it, glycerin helps protect your skin from irritations.

FYI, glycerin is a godsend for dry skin, but everyone can use it. Because it mimics your skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF, a.k.a. your skin’s barrier), it hydrates all skin types without causing breakouts or irritations.

Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin

Can Glycerin Dry Out Skin?

Remember when I mentioned that glycerin draws moisture from the environment into the skin?

In humid weather, glycerin draws this moisture from the environment, i.e. the air, around you. But most of the time, glycerin “robs” moisture from the dermis (the deeper layers of your skin) and gives it to the surface layers.

Isn’t that drying as hell?

Not really. Here’s why: your skin is made up of 60% water. Rather than leaving your skin without moisture, glycerin simply takes the moisture available and redistributes it around.

Only if your skin has very little moisture to begin with, this can be a problem. But that’s why I don’t recommend you use glycerin alone – especially if you have dry skin.

While oily skin benefits from humectants (like glycerin only), most skin types need to use it together with occlusive emollients, like natural oils, that seal this moisture in and keeps it into your skin.

Most moisturisers out there contain a mix of both. Problem solved.

Related: Here’s What A Moisturiser For Dry Skin Should Contain

niod multi-molecular hyaluronic complex

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Glycerin?

The Bottom Line

Glycerin is a must for all skin types. It delivers a waterfall of moisture to the skin that helps to keep it soft, supple, and hydrated for hours – without causing irritations or breakouts.

What do you think of Glycerin? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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24 comments

Dee May 24, 2011 - 8:37 pm

I love using glycerin as a mixing medium with pigments. It helps them to really stick and makes it extremely vibrant!

beautifulwithbrains May 25, 2011 - 10:47 am

Dee, I love using it like that too. It really improves the color payoff of eyeshadows. 🙂

Makeup Morsels May 25, 2011 - 5:45 am

I didn’t know about the side effects of too much glycerin, although I did know about its properties and chemical structure! Thanks for another cool ingredients post 🙂 I feel so much more knowledgeable when I look at labels now.

beautifulwithbrains May 25, 2011 - 10:48 am

Makeup Morsels, aww I’m so glad to hear that. It’s too important to know what ingredients do. 🙂

Tammy May 26, 2011 - 6:22 am

I’ve known about the benefits of glycerin, but I didn’t know there were negative effects as well. I love glycerin in my products because it keeps my skin moisturized without breaking me out.

beautifulwithbrains May 26, 2011 - 3:01 pm

Tammy, glycerin is an amazing ingredient, moisturizing but non-comedogenic. Too much of it can be drying but properly-formulated products won’t cause any problems. 🙂

Janessa April 22, 2012 - 12:43 am

I never thought of having too much glycerin! But now I see that a too high concentration is a big nono. I have learned more about beauty science through your blog than anywhere else! 😀

beautifulwithbrains April 22, 2012 - 7:42 pm

Janessa, I’m glad you learned a lot through my blog. It’s really important to know more about the science of beauty so we can choose the best products for our skin. 🙂

Janessa April 23, 2012 - 1:40 am

Most definitely! I pick products because of their ingredients after learning about them through your blog. :] Reading your replies brighten my day! I’m always so excited to read them because you sincerely reply and say more than just ‘thank you for reading’ or ‘thank you’ or ‘ty’ haha. You should really know that it’s very wonderful of you to take so much time into this. I’m sure other readers feel the same way! Makes us want to keep commenting! At least for me. ;D

beautifulwithbrains April 23, 2012 - 6:07 am

That’s wonderful that you’re paying more attention to the ingredient you use now, your skin will thank you! And you’re always so sweet. It really makes my day every time I receive a comment from a reader, and it’s a pleasure to reply to them too. I hope my replies will help you or just make you smile and make visiting the blog a better experience for you all.

El-harun Isa June 15, 2012 - 8:27 am

I really enjoy glycerin in all my cosmetics. I strongly recommend it to anybody using cream or soap to use the one that contains glycerin.

beautifulwithbrains June 16, 2012 - 11:11 am

El-harun Isa, it’s a wonderful ingredient, isn’t it?

Louise March 11, 2013 - 3:52 pm

Is there proof that glycerin extracts water from the dermis of the skin? I was unaware of this and think its a disadvantage to draw moisture from the inner layers of the skin. Can you be sure this is true? Do you have any evidence of this?

beautifulwithbrains March 11, 2013 - 10:00 pm

Louise, yes, glycerin can draw moisture from the dermis, but only in low humidity conditions. You also have to consider that glycerin isn’t used alone. When used with occlusive ingredients that create a barrier on the skin, it will prevent the moisture it draws from evaporating. In any case, the risk of glycerin drying out your skin is really low. You can find out more about it here: http://swiftcraftymonkey.blogspot.it/2012/02/question-does-glycerin-draw-water-from.html

Rita August 30, 2014 - 2:04 pm

how much glycerin should i add to my body cream

Gio September 2, 2014 - 8:42 pm

Rita, just a few drops should be enough. If you add to me, you’ll get an unpleasant sticky feeling.

Rita September 2, 2014 - 10:05 pm

ook thnx soo much

Gio September 3, 2014 - 2:34 pm

You’re welcome. 🙂

Cat September 7, 2016 - 1:30 am

Hi Gio! This is an interesting read. I never thought glycerin had negative effects too. I just bought a whole bottle because I am thinking of making DIY sheet masks (glycerin, non-alcohol toner/lotion, essence/serum, facial oil). I will make sure not to add too much! 🙂

Gio September 27, 2016 - 9:23 pm

Cat, it seems so innocent, doesn’t it? But too much of a good thing is never a good thing. 🙂

Grace Esan September 23, 2016 - 6:04 pm

can I mix glycerine with argan fair and white gold oil nd use it as body cream?

Gio November 24, 2016 - 11:50 am

Grace, I’ve never tried this combination but I think it should be ok.

Mel December 22, 2016 - 3:48 am

Hello so I’m searching online and trying to figure out what to do? So I just purchased pressed glitters from a company and on the pallet the ingredients say glycerin and I have heard of lime crime having a mold issue and I’m just worried for that happening but what actually got me looking into the ingredients was if it’s acually cosmetic glitter and not craft glitter so what should I do or does anyone know what I should do?

Gio December 22, 2016 - 8:06 pm

Mel, mold happens when the product has a poor preservative system or it’s so old, the preservatives have stopped working. Does the manufacturer say whether it can be used on the eyes or not? Even so, if you don’t 100% trust the manufacturer or seller, don’t put it on yourself. Better be safe than sorry.

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