Breaking Down Why Glycerin is the Key to Maintaining Healthy Skin
What is Glycerin?
If you browse through your top shelf, chances are you will find “glycerin” in the ingredient lists of multiple, if not all, products. This is because glycerin is a true skincare superstar with tons of skin-enhancing benefits and it works well in a diverse range of formulas.
Glycerin is a naturally occurring compound in our bodies. In skincare, it is a plant-derived sugar alcohol that is clear, odorless, and has a slightly sweet taste. Cosmetic chemists love glycerin so much that over the past 50 years, it has become one of the most widely used raw materials in the cosmetic industry. It is beloved by formulators because it is safe for all skin types, plays well with other ingredients, and maintains skin health in a number of pretty amazing ways that we explain below.
One caveat: while we LOVE glycerin for its amazing topical skincare benefits, you may notice we point out that we do not have glycerin in our Body & Intimacy Serum. This is because the serum can be used internally as a lube, and the sugar in glycerin can cause yeast overgrowth in the vagina. It is best to avoid glycerin in lubes because a yeast overgrowth can throw off your vagina’s pH and cause a yeast infection. If you want to learn more, check out our blog post on ingredients that should not be in your lube with everything you need to know!
Skincare Benefits of Glycerin
Prevents water loss
Glycerin, like many of our spotlighted skincare ingredients, is a humectant. Humectants work by attracting moisture from the air and drawing it into the skin and replenishing the moisture that evaporates from your skin. Generally speaking, the lower the molecular weight of a humectant, the better. This is because a low molecular weight will allow the ingredient to penetrate further into the stratum corneum (aka: the top layer of your skin), allowing for deeper and longer lasting hydration. Glycerin has a remarkably low molecular weight of 92 g/mol, making it a true superstar in the humectant family. In fact, a 2016 study found that glycerin is the “most effective humectant” for increased hydration on the top layer of the skin, even when compared to hyaluronic acid.
Improves skin barrier function
Not to get too scienc-ey here, but glycerin helps our skin with osmoregulation, a process that helps us stay hydrated by maintaining an ideal balance of water and electrolytes. Glycerin also helps maintain a healthy physical state of our cell membranes and intracellular lipids. By balancing hydration levels in the skin and keeping moisturizing lipids perfectly crystalized, glycerin keeps our skin barrier healthy and strong.
Protects against harsh products
Glycerin is a nourishing ingredient that helps protect our skin against irritation after we wash it, or use harsh products such as chemical exfoliants. Since both washing our face and exfoliating regularly are important steps of maintaining clear skin, it is important to balance those activities by applying products with glycerin that heal and replenish.
Soothes and softens dry skin
Glycerin is not only used in cosmetics, but also pharmaceutical creams as a treatment for extreme dryness. This is because glycerin has a remarkable ability to repair dry, cracked skin by signaling your superficial (or dry) skin cells to mature more rapidly, helping speed up the process of getting smooth and supple skin.