In this edition of Hip & Healthy’s Beauty School series, we’re shining a spotlight on glycerin. A natural humectant that helps draw in moisture, this powerhouse ingredient offers a myriad of beauty benefits, including keeping skin hydrated come heat or humidity. Just the ticket as summer rolls in.

But what exactly is it and how should we be using it in our skincare routine? We tapped celebrity dermatologist Dr. Fazeela Abbasi to find out everything you need to know. So, get ready to swot up on this must-have beauty ingredient and bag yourself an A+ when it comes to all things glycerin.

So, What Is Glycerin?

Also called glycerine or glycerol, glycerin is a colourless, odourless, sweet-tasting liquid that’s considered to be non-toxic. This natural compound can come from animal fat or vegetable oils, such as palm, coconut or soybean oil. It can also be made synthetically from propylene.

Glycerin is a natural component of the body. Fats are constantly being processed during metabolism, with glycerol being produced as a by-product. This is then transported into the skin, where it supports the barrier function.

It helps to store water in the deeper layers of the skin and thus creates an additional moisture depot. Although dry skin can be genetic, normal skin also tends to dry out more as it matures. A good moisturiser becomes more and more important over time!

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using It?

It moisturises the skin down to the deeper layers, which improves elasticity and tightens. In addition, this deeper water deposit cannot be washed away so easily when cleaning the face.

Since it binds water from the environment, two factors are crucial in the formulation of these products: the concentration of glycerin in the product and what it is combining with in terms of other ingredients. For instance, some holistic skincare experts encourage the use of rosewater to dilute glycerin, because rosewater is known to naturally hydrate the skin. Using rosewater also provides antioxidant effects and helps to improve glycerin’s skin barrier function up to 24 hours after application.

Glycerin attracts water like a magnet. This effect is desirable because it makes this ingredient the best moisturiser of all, which is a positive. But the negative flipside to that is that the glycerin doesn’t really care where the water comes from, so long as it is easily available. It can come from three sources:

·       Water from the ambient air (at high humidity)

·       Water from other ingredients in the product

·       Water stored in the skin

For this reason, it’s important to use it along with other moisturising ingredients. Then it doesn’t bind water from your skin but uses the water from the product you are using alongside it instead. This will ensure it moisturises your skin deeply and for a long time.

Can All Skin Types Benefit from It?

Because it is a natural substance, glycerin is very well tolerated. All skin types can benefit from it, but it is especially effective on dehydrated skin.

Although it’s is not known to have many serious side effects, it’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any substance, so it’s always important to do a skin patch test before using a product with glycerin for the first time.

What’s the Best Way to Incorporate It into a Skincare Routine?

Products with glycerin can be used topically multiple times a day and it is most beneficial when used in tandem with moisturising ingredients, such as rose water, hyaluronic acid, or vitamin E.

What’s the biggest misconception about glycerin?

That it dries out skin. However, today’s skincare products are formulated with this knowledge. This means that glycerin is dosed and combined in high-quality moisturising creams and serums in such a way that it offers only its moisturising benefits.

words by Frankie Rozwadowska