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There's no denying the transformative power of moisturiser. Without it, skin can often appear dull and dry or feel uncomfortably tight and rough to the touch. Staple ingredients in lots of moisturisers on the market almost always include hyaluronic acid for deep hydration, vitamin C for brightening skin and protecting against pollution, and sunscreen for shielding skin from UV rays. But there's one skincare ingredient everyone's googling right now, and it's a little more under the radar than the aforementioned beauty buzzwords.
What are the skincare benefits of glycerin?
Okay, glycerin doesn't exactly sound sexy, especially if you know it as an old remedy for coughs and sore throats. But in skincare, it has the ability to make skin gleam and solve a handful of other bugbears in the process.
"Glycerin is a colourless and odourless liquid which comes from plant sources," explains Dr Jaskaren Midha, skin specialist and founder of Dr Jaskaren. "It's a humectant, which means it has the property of attracting water to itself." In other words, it's incredibly hydrating and moisturising and can give skin that covetable glowy, supple and healthy look and feel.
In addition to absorbing water, glycerin keeps moisture under lock and key in the skin, says Dr Mahsa Saleki, skin doctor and founder of sas Aesthetics. "As well as its potent hydrating benefits, glycerin is mildly antimicrobial and is commonly used to treat skin injuries such as burns and some inflammatory skin conditions," making it one to know for those who are prone to irritation and redness. It's why you might spot the ingredient in retinol creams or serums (which can cause red, flaky skin) because it soothes, hydrates and restores skin.
Which skin types will benefit from glycerin?
"Glycerin’s moisturising properties will benefit all skin types but in particular dry, sensitive skin will benefit the most," says Dr Midha. "Regularly using a moisturiser containing the ingredient will make skin feel moisturised and smooth."
Dr Saleki also notes that glycerin is especially good for oily skin. "Glycerin draws water from the air into your skin to moisturise it without making it greasy. This is actually why glycerin is present in a lot of oil-free moisturisers." You might also spot glycerin on the ingredients list in non-comedogenic skincare products, which are less likely to clog pores and lead to breakouts.
The best skincare products with glycerin
Unlike acids, which are best used at night or vitamin C, recommended for morning application, glycerin can be used at any point in your skincare routine. Dr Saleki recommends Cetaphil Daily Defence Moisturiser SPF50+, $15.99, as a daily moisturiser. It contains SPF 50, which protects skin against both UVA rays (which cause things like fine lines and pigmentation) and UVB rays (responsible for sunburn and skin cancer). It is also fragrance-free, so is less likely to irritate sensitive or reactive skin.
Dr Saleki also rates The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter, $25, for cleansing skin without stripping it of moisture and Perricone MD Hypoallergenic Nourishing Moisturiser, $105, which quenches dry, tight skin and gives it a glow boost.
R29 recommends Aesop Lucent Facial Concentrate, $125. Glycerin is the second ingredient in this fast-absorbing serum, joined by oil-reducing niacinamide and brightening vitamin C. It is best layered under SPF in the morning and makes skin gleam.
If your skin is oily or acne-prone, try Embryolisse Emulsion Hydra Mat, $46. A team of glycerin, salicylic acid and aloe vera moisturises, soothes and exfoliates skin in one. And if you're on the lookout for a gentle retinol cream that will target fine lines and hyperpigmentation but won't completely ravage your skin in the process, try glycerin-packed Medik8 Crystal Retinal, $108.