Today’s ingredient watch is all about glycerin (aka glycerine or glycerol). Glycerin is a colourless, odourless thick liquid used in a whole host of beauty and medical products.
Important Note: Let me just preface this post by saying I am not a dermatologist or medical professional. Within this and all past and future posts discussing beauty product ingredients, my aim is to collate and summarise information and present it in a way that is accessible and informative. I will always use the most reliable sources of information available to me, and attempt to present it in an honest and unbiased way. If you feel that any of my posts have incorrect information, or you believe there is something important to add, please don’t hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is important to me that I get it right.
What does it do: Glycerin is included in beauty products for a whole host of reasons. It is a very good solvent, it can improve the texture and smoothness of formulations, it can lubricate formulations, making them more slick and also acts as an antibacterial. But, one of its big uses in beauty is its ability to soften the skin. It’s softening abilities are so significant, it is very commonly used for conditions like psoriasis, and is recommended (even in pure concentrations) for people with sensitive skin.
There appears to be some debate as to how glycerin acts to moisturise and soften the skin. One theory is that it does so by drawing moisture from the air to deposit into the skin, another is that it draws moisture up from deeper tissue and yet another is that there is some unknown property that makes glycerin inherently moisturising.
The Good: Glycerin is a relatively gentle chemical, and can even be applied to the skin in pure concentrations. Glycerin’s moisturising abilities and gentleness make it perfect for sensitive skin and dry skin conditions.
The Bad: Glycerin use doesn’t seem to have many side effects. From pretty much all the information I found, it appears to be a fairly safe chemical for most adults. It has a very low toxicity and can even be ingested.
Like with any chemical, there is always a risk of allergic reaction.
Some Considerations When Using: Not a lot is known about the safety of glycerin use for pregnant or breast-feeding women.
How To Find It On The Label: It will usually be listed as glycerin, glycerine or glycerol on beauty products. In food products it is labelled as E422