Fun fact about me, I’m a glycerin groupie. It’s the ultimate skincare underdog that’s deserving of so much more praise in 2022. I’m sure by now that you’re all aware of my stance on hyaluronic acid — in essence, ‘overhyped with some seriously good PR’.
The hydrating, plumping, skin-loving moisturizing agent that hyaluronic acid could only ever dream to be! And I guarantee you you’ll find it in the ingredients lists of some of your most cherished skincare faves. But what on earth does it even do for skin? Well, I’m here to clear up all confusion — here’s everything you need to know about cosmetics’ most underrated miracle unicorn:
Glycerin is an odorless, colorless sticky liquid that does wonders in treating (and soothing) scars and burns — even the FDA vouches for it as a praiseworthy treatment for wounds. So next time you’re browsing for a scar cream or gel to heal your hot tool burn real quick, look out for a product that’s formulated with a glycerin base like Cicatricure’s Scar Gel, which currently retails for $15.
2. It’s an exceptional humectant
As you all know, humectants are hygroscopic — meaning, they’re water obsessed. Think of them as sponges that attract and hold onto moisture (for dear life!) to give your skin that supple, hydrated, and cushiony look and feel. But keep in mind that not all humectants are created equal, and it’s glycerin that’s hailed as one of the best and most effective humectants on the market right now.
Glycerin vs. Hyaluronic Acid: Who Really Reigns Supreme?
Let’s chat about the 500-Dalton rule, shall we? I’m sure a lot of you skin nerds are familiar with it but for those who aren’t, the 500-Dalton rule is a measure of sorts that determines a compound’s degree of skin absorption.
And in user-friendly English?…
Basically, the rule asserts that any ingredient with a molecular weight of less than 500 Daltons can pass through the skin barrier and travel down to the deeper layers of your skin. Glycerin has a molecular weight of 92 Daltons whereas hyaluronic acid, which even at its lowest of lowest molecular weight, can range somewhere between 5000 to 50,000 Daltons! This means even though HA does one hell of a job in drawing and retaining moisture, it will always end up just settling in the upper layer of your skin. As a result, HA will then pull moisture from surrounding skin cells, consequently increasing transepidermal water loss, leaving your skin looking and feeling thirsty. Glycerin, on the other hand, has the ability to travel deep down into the dermis, where it pulls moisture up from there, essentially allowing our skin to plump and hydrate itself from within. (I love science).
So in a nutshell, glycerin provides a holy trinity of benefits: it decelerates water loss while offering both skin penetration and retention properties in the dermis (even shielding skin from dehydration induced by environmental stressors). Tried, true, and approved! Glycerin is one epic overachiever and is hands down thee superior humectant (no shade, HA!).
What to shop: Glycerin-based skin formulations
This non-comedogenic cleanser is super gentle and suitable for daily use. It’s great for drier skin types as it dissolves makeup, oils, and other impurities without leaving your skin feeling stripped of moisture. This is one highly-recommended budget buy.
Hands down my holy grail serum and yours too if you have discoloration or just looking for that instant illumination plus hydration. (I made it, so I'm biased but that's why I can also speak to its abilities)
I love love love this serum — it consists of oat oil, oat extract, and oat flour to condition, soothe and moisturize your skin along with feverfew for an extra dose of anti-inflammatory perks.
With 5% niacinamide and 15% glycerin, this moisturizer tackles discolorations and dehydration to improve skin tone and texture overall.
With squalane, ceramides, and vitamin c ester (tetrahexldecyl ascorbate) this is your 2-in-1 moisturiser for brightening
This multipurpose skin protectant is infused with glycerin, vitamin B5, shea butter, and thermal spring water. With regular use, it alleviates dryness and helps strengthen the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier.
Shop my extended list of glycerin product recommendations below: