Glycerin: this skincare ingredient is effective at hydrating and treating dry skin

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Dry skin can be uncomfortable and may even cause irritation. Enter: glycerin, the skincare ingredient hailed for its moisturising properties. Here’s everything you need to know.

Whether your skin has been feeling tighter during lockdown, you often find flakey patches thanks to your combination complexion, or you just have a dry skin type; glycerin is an ingredient you should add to your skincare routine.

Hailed as the key to keeping skin hydrated, it was also once named the third most popular skincare ingredient around, sitting behind water and fragrance. So what exactly does it do and how does it fit into your current routine? Here, two skincare experts explain all…

What is glycerin?

“Glycerin is a humectant moisturiser (the other name is glycerol). It exists naturally in the top layer of our skin (stratum corneum) and its function is in keeping the skin moisturised,” explains Dr Shaaira Nasir, Consultant Dermatologist at sk:n.

“In skin care, it works by attracting water from the air and from the deeper layers of the skin. It is a colourless and odourless substance originating from vegetable oils, animal fats or can also be synthetically produced. In skincare it tends to be derived from plants. Of all the humectants, glycerin is reported to be the most effective in increasing skin hydration.”

What are the key benefits of glycerin?

“The key benefits of glycerin is that it hydrates the outer layer of the skin called the stratum corneum,” says Dr Shaaira. “It works by improving the skin’s barrier function and forms a protective barrier against irritants. It has also been shown to accelerate wound healing and helps with penetration of other skincare ingredients.”

What skin type is best suited to glycerin?

“The best thing about glycerin is that it is lightweight and gentle, so it can be used by all skin types, whether you have oily, dry, or combination skin,” says Dr. Joyce Park, dermatologist and bareMinerals Global Dermatology Ambassador. “It is also non-comedogenic, so it doesn’t clog your pores, which may worsen acne.”

Can glycerin irritate the skin?

“Glycerin is considered a hypoallergenic substance, meaning that allergic reactions or irritations to this substance are extremely rare. Glycerin is also a non-comedogenic substance and therefore will not cause breakouts.

Where does glycerin fit in your skincare routine?

“Glycerin can be found in a variety of products, but it is most often found in cleansers and moisturisers where it helps to gently hydrate your skin at each step of your skincare routine,” says Dr Park.

Dr Shaaira adds: “Its main use is in moisturising the skin as it is able to draw and lock in moisture into the top layer of the skin.”

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