All hail glycerine.
Now I realise this may sound a strange thing to say about such an inconspicuous ingredient, but once you appreciate it’s beautifying benefits, you might just agree:
- Anti-ageing: Stabilises collagen and accelerates the healing process
- A natural exfoliant: It has a keratolytic effect, helping with desquamation, the skins natural exfoliating process that breaks down skin cells, preventing dull, flaky skin
- Moisturising: Glycerine is an effective moisturising ingredient, helping to soften and lubricate skin
- Anti-irritant: It is thought to influence the protective function of the skin against irritation
- Hydrating: Glycerine absorbs its own weight in water over a period of a few days, making it the perfect ingredient for a dry skin
As if that’s not enough, it also has a couple of great benefits for your hair:
- It helps to retain moisture in the hair shaft
- It is an excellent hair conditioning ingredient, giving it a glossy shine
With all these beauty benefits it’s no wonder vegetable glycerine is included in a number of my formulas, including H20 pure hylauronic complex, where the list of ingredients read like a drink for the skin.
So What is Glycerine?
Glycerine is often referred to as Glycol, or Glycerol.
Vegetable glycerine is an organic compound traditionally made from vegetable fat, it is a thick gelatinous, odourless liquid that completely dissolves in water.
A complex method of extraction known as hydrolysis is used to create glycerine and fatty acids used in skincare; the raw material is subjected to a temperature of around 400 degrees, at a constant pressure of around thirty minutes.
This process, enables water to absorb the glycerol from the fatty acid phase, once this phase is complete, the glycerol is then purified by distillation to create glycerine.
It is important to note that glycerin can be petrol-derived; I only use 100% vegetable glycerine in my formulas.
Glycerine’s Best Bits
As with urea, I feel it is important to recap on the many benefits of glycerine.
It is a key molecule in skin physiology, in terms of being a primary humectant and because of its important biosynthetic functions.
Maintains Water Balance
Glycerine deeply hydrates the stratum corneum, your outer layer of skin.
Studies have found that it forms a persistent reservoir in the depth of the stratum corneum, thus reducing the evaporation rate of moisture from the skins surface.
Not only is it extremely effective in the treatment of dry skin conditions, new research is indicating that glycerol has a repairing action on the barrier function.
My article the clear skin difference, does a great job of explaining the role water and hydration has on the skin.
Promotes Skin Cell Maturation
Glycerin can fight the effects of topical skin conditions such as psoriasis.
Research carried out by Doctors Wendy Bollag and Xiangjian Zheng, found that when glycerine is applied to the skin, it signals the cells to mature in a normal manner.
Psoriasis is a skin condition, where by the skin cells shed too quickly before they are properly mature, this leads to thickened, scaly skin.
What the Drs found, is that the application of glycerin can interrupt this abnormal process, allowing the skin cells to reach full maturation before shedding.
Improves the Appearance of Skin
In addition to keeping moisture levels buoyant, glycerin helps to maintain skin health, this is due in part to the fact that the skin is hydrated and does not have the characteristic scaly look of dry skin.
It is a natural emollient helping to keep your skin moisturised, this coupled with it’s gentle exfoliating properties, means it keeps your skin looking soft and supple.
As you can see, having a good understanding the mechanism of glycerine’s actions, and how it supports a number of conditions associated with dry skin including psoriasis, ichthyosis, atopic dermatitis and winter xerosis, is key when treating these conditions..
The Naked Truth
There is a school of thought, that glycerine can have an adverse effect on the skin in humid climates.
It is said that it pulls moisture from the skins tissues, however I think this may be an urban myth, because no where can I find evidence to support this theory.
In fact all the research points to glycerine being a great choice as a humectant, helping to keep lipids locked within the stratum corneum our visible layer of skin.
Research has shown that an inclusion of glycerine within a skin care formula, keeps the skin hydrated for as long as two weeks, even after the product has been removed from the skin,
So glycerine stays on your skin working its magic, keeping skin moisturised and hydrated much longer than other humectants.