Your face: flaky, dry, dehydrated, and inflamed.
Your heart: betrayed by a 7-step foolproof skincare routine.
But stop there’s no time for tears – instead, it’s time to take action.
There are a number of factors that can trigger dehydration and skin irritation—allergens and pollutants to name a few, they all produce a similar effect – compromising your skin’s natural moisturising factor.
When we think of moisture boosters in skincare, we immediately think of hyaluronic acid, with glycerin considered its less glamorous cousin.
In fact, that’s not the case at all, and we’re on a mission to set the record straight.
The Beautifying Benefits of Glycerine
Glycerine has a molecular weight of approximately 92 g/mol, which means it is able to penetrate deep into the skin.
It’s slow and steady maneuver comes with lasting benefits – drawing moisture deep into the skin’s layers, which is continuously released throughout the day.
Anti-Ageing: It stabilises collagen and accelerates the healing process.
Moisturising: Glycerine is an effective moisturising ingredient, helping to soften and lubricate.
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 dehydrated skin.
Natural Exfoliant: It has a keratolytic effect, helping with desquamation – the skin’s natural exfoliating process that breaks down skin cells to prevent dull and flaky skin.
As if that’s not enough, it’s also great for your hair, helping to retain moisture in the hair shaft, it’s also an excellent conditioning ingredient giving hair a glossy sheen.
The Humectant That Keeps on Giving
The effects of glycerin last well beyond the usage of the product containing it. Even in the wash-out period, thought to be 2 weeks after the end of the application has been completed,
A study on the corneometry values of those previously treated with cream containing glycerine remained higher than in the placebo group. What this means, is that glycerol exerts its hydrating effect not only on healthy skin but also on those subjects whose skin was primarily characterised by xerosis and barrier impairment.
In other words, it keeps working on your skin, long after you’ve stopped using it.
So, What is Glycerine?
Glycerine is often referred to as “Glycol”, or “Glycerol”.
It is what is called an endogenous humectant, meaning it’s part of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF).
Vegetable glycerine is an organic compound traditionally made from vegetable fat; a thick, gelatinous, and 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° C at constant pressure for 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 glycerine can be petrol-derived; We only use 100% vegetable glycerine in my formulas.
Glycerine’s Best Bits
As with urea, it is a key molecule in skin physiology because of its important biosynthetic functions, including being a primary humectant.
Improves chronic dry Skin conditions
A study found that when applied to skin that was deficient in AQP-3, only glycerin was able to help to restore the normal hydration levels in the outer layer of skin, increased skin elasticity, and improved impaired barrier recovery was also discovered. Other humectants, like propylene glycol, did not have the same effect.
It is important to keep in mind here that dry skin may be a result of mutated or skin lacking in AQP-3, so it could just be that a product formulated with glycerin might be a great choice if you are suffering from dry skin conditions.
Glycerine plays an important role in treating a number of conditions associated with dry skin, including psoriasis, ichthyosis, atopic dermatitis, and xerosis. This is why having a good understanding of the mechanism of glycerine’s actions is the key to treating these conditions. Not only is it extremely effective in the treatment of dry skin conditions, but new research is indicating that glycerol also has a repairing action on the barrier function.
We apologise for getting a bit technical here -but stay with us as its important.
Glycerine has been suspected to improve dry flaky skin by facilitating the digestion of desmosomes cells in the epidermis. Desmosomes appear as thick patches in the cell membrane between two cells, they contain specialised proteins–like keratin which is found in fingernails and hair, which increase the rigidity of tissues
Glycerine possesses a keratolytic effect which reduces the formation of the scales on the surface of the skin, breaking stubborn cells apart, which means you won’t get those big flaky patches of skin but nice smooth desquamated skin instead.
This is a very convoluted way of us trying to say, that glycerin can help exfoliate our skin, by breaking apart these connectors and allowing our skin cells to shed easily. Phew, we’re glad that is over.
Maintains Water Balance
Glycerine deeply hydrates the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of your 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 skin’s surface.
Our article, “The Clear Skin Difference“, does a great job of explaining the roles water and hydration have on the skin.
Has a Protective Role on the Skin
It helps protect skin against harsh ingredients. Glycerin is often found in pharmaceutical formulas – promoted by doctors to repair dehydration and extreme dryness. It keeps the skin soft, supple, and hydrated, which is essential in rebuilding the skin’s protective barrier, which allows the natural oils to nourish and repair the skin.
Promotes Skin Cell Maturation
Glycerine 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 whereby the skin cells shed before they have a chance to properly mature, resulting in thickened, scaly skin. What the doctors found is that the application of glycerine can interrupt this abnormal process, allowing the skin cells to reach full maturation before shedding.
With all these benefits, it’s no wonder you can find vegetable glycerine in our H₂O Hydrating Complex, or our moisture bomb formula Quench, where the list of ingredients reads like a drink for the skin.
The moisturising effects of glycerin can last well beyond the use of the product that contains it. Even up to two weeks after it is stopped being used.
It can help to restore an impaired barrier, very gently encourages natural exfoliation, it can help restore hydration, and it can possibly increase skin elasticity and hydration, even in those who are deficient in AQP-3.
How should we use glycerin to get maximum results?
The moisturising effects of glycerine are dependent on the quantity of the absorbed humectant. Therefore, the concentration and the composition of the formula you use is important if you are to benefit from the product.
From previous studies mentioned, we can see that a rise in the glycerine content from 2% to 5% in an occlusive oil in water lotion (cream), significantly improves skin.
On dry skin of the legs, a benefit was achieved at 20 to 40% concentration; we supply a foot lotion with 25% glycerin in our clinic, and whilst it does feel tacky, it takes our client’s feet from really dry to amazing in one night.
A question we are often asked is, can glycerine be applied directly to the skin? We recommend against this, as it could possibly draw water out of the skin, which completely defeats the purpose.
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 skin’s tissues – however, we think this may be an urban myth as we can find no evidence to support this theory.
In fact, all the research points to glycerine being a great choice as a humectant – remember the study earlier, that showed the inclusion of glycerine within a skincare formula keeps skin hydrated for as long as two weeks, even after the product has been removed from the skin.
It keeps working its magic on the skin much longer than many other humectants.
So we think you’d agree if your suffering from dry, dehydrated, and mature skin it could just become the holy grail ingredient you have been looking for.
The placebo effect of glycerine: http://www.scientificspectator.com/documents/personal%20care%20spectator/Glycerol%20a%20Moisturizer.pdf
Glycerine may help skin disease: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031203075525.htm
The science of skincare: https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/the-science-of-skincare/5494.article
8 benefits of glycerine: https://www.ah18c.com/en-us/news/benefits-of-glycerine-for-skin-care