The Underrated Ingredient That Makes Dull, Dry Skin Glow

Photographed by Anna Jay.
There's no denying the transformative power of moisturizer. Without it, skin can often appear dull and dry, or feel uncomfortably tight and rough to the touch. In many of the formulas on the market, you'll find hyaluronic acid for deep hydration, vitamin C for brightening skin and protecting against pollution, or sunscreen for shielding skin from UV rays (and sometimes even all three).
But there's one skin-care ingredient that simply doesn't get enough credit, and it's a little more under-the-radar than the usual beauty buzzwords. Glycerin doesn't sound sexy, especially if you know it as an old remedy for cooking burns and sore throats — but in skin care, it has the ability to make skin gleam, and solve a handful of other issues in the process.

What are the skin-care benefits of glycerin?

"Glycerin is a colorless and odorless liquid that comes from plant sources," explains Dr. Jaskaren Midha, skin specialist and founder of Dr. Jaskaren Facial Aesthetics. "It's a humectant, which means it has the property of attracting water to itself." In other words, it's incredibly hydrating and moisturizing, and can give skin that coveted supple, 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 properties will benefit all skin types, but dry, sensitive skin will benefit the most," says Dr. Midha. "Regularly using a moisturizer containing the ingredient will make skin feel moisturized and smooth."
Dr. Saleki also notes that glycerin is especially good for oily skin. "Glycerin draws water from the air into your skin to moisturize it without making it greasy," she says. "This is actually why glycerin is present in a lot of oil-free moisturizers." You might also spot glycerin on the ingredients list in non-comedogenic skin-care products, which claim to be less likely to clog pores and lead to breakouts.

What are the best skin-care products with glycerin?

Unlike acids, which are best used at night, or vitamin C, which is recommended for morning application, glycerin can be used at any point in your skin-care routine. Dr. Saleki recommends Cetaphil Facial Moisturizer SPF 50+ for daily use: 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), and is also fragrance-free, which makes it less likely to irritate sensitive or reactive skin.
Dr. Saleki also likes The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter for cleansing skin without stripping it of moisture, and Perricone MD Hypoallergenic Nourishing Moisturizer, which quenches dry, tight skin and gives a glow boost for all skin types.
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