What is Glycerin: Hero or Overhyped

Skin Science, Skin Care

What is Glycerin: Hero or Overhyped

by Diana Kelly Levey
June 16, 2023

Glycerin is all over social media right now, being praised as the next best thing in skincare. When you think of glycerin you may realize that you've seen this ingredient before, on food labels. Glycerin, also called glycerol, is an additive in food that can help products retain moisture and aid with digestion. But what is glycerin, exactly? Glycerin is a natural compound derived from vegetable oils. This ingredient can help protect skin from irritants and pollutants while also acting as a humectant. In other words, it delivers moisture to the skin. For those reasons — and a number of other skin benefits of glycerin — you'll find this superstar ingredient in a lot of skincare products.

So, is glycerin a hero ingredient or simply overhyped? Read on to learn more about glycerin for skin .

What Is Glycerin?

If you're wondering, "Is glycerin good for your skin?" the answer is a resounding yes! It helps retain moisture so your skin doesn't try out as quickly, it can protect the skin, calms inflamed skin , and can be used in daily cleansers without causing your skin to dry out.

Here are a few "fast facts" about glycerin:

What to use it for: Glycerin brightens, helps skin stay hydrated, protects from outside elements, and can help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

When to use it: You can use it as part of your cleansing routine, or to add moisture to your face or body.

Who it's best for: Glycerin can be used on and benefit any skin type.

Warnings: Glycerin is safe to use but should be combined with other ingredients for best results. If you're using the pure form of glycerin, dilute first with rosewater or vitamin E.

There are many benefits of glycerin, especially if you're looking for supple, healthy-looking skin (who isn't?). Read on for more reasons why glycerin is a hero ingredient.

It's a Great Humectant

A humectant is an ingredient that can draw moisture from the surrounding air and help increase the water content of the top layers of skin . These moisture attractors help skin retain water when it's needed most.

Glycerin is one of the best humectants on the market right now because it sucks up all the moisture it can, delivers it to the skin and then works with other ingredients to lock that moisture in .

It Helps Protect Skin Against Harsh Elements

Glycerin protects the skin barrier because it has natural antibacterial properties, can strengthen the skin barrier, and protects the skin from irritants in the environment like frigid temps, wind, dry heat and air conditioning that mess with skin's moisture properties.

It Can Help Heal Skin

Not only does glycerin have anti-aging properties, but according to one study it can help heal and prevent torn skin , particularly in people over age 50. In the study, people who applied lotion with glycerin showed signs of improved skin hydration and reduced skin tears.

Glycerin vs Hyaluronic Acid

Both glycerin and hyaluronic acid are humectant ingredients, but they're very different. The key difference between glycerin and hyaluronic acid is that hyaluronic acid can cause the skin cells to swell and be less scaly while improving the appearance of skin . It acts as a sponge for the skin but also locks the moisturizer in all day. On the other hand, glycerin only pulls in the moisture.

You'll probably notice that your anti-aging skincare products contain both ingredients, like Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Water Cream . You'll reap the benefits of both ingredients and your skin will look healthier when you use a product that packs this kind of one-two punch of moisturizing benefits.

How to Use Glycerin

Whether you have dry skin, sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, combination skin, or normal skin and want to know how to incorporate glycerin into your skincare routine — you're in luck! This ingredient plays nice in all skincare regimens.

Here's how to use glycerin in a face lotion product like Non-Comedogenic Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid .

  • Use one pump and apply evenly to the face and neck after cleansing.
  • Wear it alone or under makeup.

End your day with an evening cleansing routine that includes a glycerin product, like the Neutrogena® Glycerin Soap Bar for Acne-Prone Skin .

  1. Wet your face and hands
  2. Lather soap into hands.
  3. Massage onto skin in a circular motion.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water.
  5. Pat dry.

Then, follow it up with a hydrating serum like Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Hyalauronic Acid Serum to replenish and retain moisture.

Is Glycerin a Hero Ingredient or Hyped-Up Beauty Trend?

Glycerin is a definite hero ingredient thanks to its ability to play nice with most skincare routines and ingredients and the way it can help a variety of skin types.

Overall, there don't seem to be negative side effects of using glycerin, though you should speak with your dermatologist if you have concerns. It's a mild ingredient and the concentration levels in beauty products that contain glycerin aren't very high. Think of it as a small-but-mighty moisturizing ingredient.


Can you use glycerin on your face?

Yes, you can use glycerin on your face when it's part of skincare products. Consider using products by Neutrogena that contain glycerin and are designed as gentle daily cleansers for acne-prone skin. Someone who has dry skin might look for a face lotion that contains glycerin to protect the skin from elements and seal in moisture, too.

Does glycerin boost collagen?

Some studies have shown that applying lotion with glycerin could have positive impacts on collagen production in the skin. But the research is still ongoing.

What's the difference between glycerin and vegetable glycerin?

What is vegetable glycerin? Glycerin and vegetable glycerin usually mean the same thing in skincare products. Some haircare companies will specify where the glycerin is derived from and clarify that it's vegetable-based glycerin.

Is glycerin non-comedogenic?

Yes, glycerin is non-comedogenic so it won't clog pores and cause breakouts or blackheads for people with oily skin. Try Non-Comedogenic Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid as a daily moisturizer if you have sensitive skin.

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I’m a New York City area writer, runner, reader, adopted dog mom, and believer in wearing sunscreen every day.

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