Glycerin at a Glance

  • Is a skin-restoring ingredient, meaning it is found naturally in skin
  • Functions as a humectant, helping skin retain moisture
  • A fundamental cornerstone of most moisturisers
  • Typically used in concentrations of 5% or less
  • Amounts of 10% or greater aid in skin healing

Glycerin Description

Glycerin, also called glycerol or glycerine, is a humectant that’s present in all natural lipids (fats), whether animal or vegetable. It can be derived from natural substances by hydrolysis of fats and by fermentation of sugars; it also can be synthetically manufactured, which is usually the case with modern-day skin care products, as doing so results in highly purified glycerin.

Glycerin is a skin-replenishing and skin-restoring ingredient, meaning it is a substance found naturally in skin, helping to establish normal balance and hydration. It’s one of the many substances in skin that helps maintain a healthy look and feel, defending against dryness and working to maintain skin’s moisture level. Essentially, glycerin is a master at hydration, and works best when combined with other replenishing and emollient ingredients.

Some people wonder whether using products with glycerin takes too much water from skin when there isn’t enough humidity in the air. This can occur with pure glycerin (that is, at a 100% concentration—an amount that’s never used in skin care products). Any humectant (including glycerin) used in pure form can increase water loss by attracting water from the lower layers of skin into the surface layers when the climate is too arid (low humidity). For this reason, glycerin and humectants are typically used in concentrations of 5% or less and always combined with other ingredients to soften skin. In fact, glycerin combined with other emollients and/or oils is a fundamental cornerstone of most moisturisers. However, amounts of 10% or greater can be used in clinical circumstances for skin healing.

Glycerin References

Journal of Pharmaceutical Investigation, March 2021, pages 223-231
International Journal of Toxicology, November/December 2019, Volume 38, Supplement 3, pages 6S-22S
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2016, ePublication
British Journal of Dermatology, July 2008, pages 23-34
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2007, pages 75-82
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2003, pages 7,360-7,365

See glycerine glycerol

Back to Ingredient Dictionary


SKIN PERFECTING 25% AHA + 2% Exfoliant Peel

CLINICAL Niacinamide 20% Treatment

CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment

Omega+ Complex Serum

SKIN PERFECTING 25% AHA + 2% Exfoliant Peel CLINICAL Niacinamide 20% Treatment CLINICAL 1% Retinol Treatment Omega+ Complex Serum

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!