Why You Need to Add Glycerin to Your Winter Skincare Routine, According to Dermatologists

It's even better than hyaluronic acid.

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Take a look at the back of your skincare products and we guarantee glycerin is somewhere on the ingredient list. "Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is nothing new," says Snehal Amin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist of MDCS Dermatology. "It's usually the third most common ingredient in skincare products, so you've already used it."

When it comes to skincare, trending or active ingredients always pique our interest for the promised multiple benefits or ability to reduce existing skincare concerns, like acne or dark spots. And while it may not sound as exciting, glycerin is even more beneficial than other popular hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, explains Azadeh Shirazi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of AziMD Skincare. Learn all about the benefits of glycerin, and how to use it.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is a clear, odorless liquid that has the consistency of syrup, says Dr. Amin. It can come from animal or plant fats, or even petroleum. In skincare, glycerin is a humectant because it works by drawing and retaining moisture to keep the skin hydrated.

"The syrup-like substance mixes easily in water and attracts water from deep in the skin and the air," says Dr. Amin. Humectants are an important part of keeping the skin hydrated, which is why you'll find glycerin in products such as moisturizers, serums, or even mild cleansers that won't strip the skin.

The skincare benefits of glycerin

The biggest benefit of glycerin is that it serves as a humectant. "It's like a skincare water magnet, drawing and holding onto water," says Dr. Shirazi. She explains that glycerin, while "less glamorous" is similar to hyaluronic acid (another humectant) in that it acts as a moisture booster, but it's more effective. "It forms a coating to protect the skin from losing water, and it also fast-tracks soft skin by allowing dead and damaged surface skin cells to shed off the skin faster," she says.

Glycerin is also a gentle ingredient that's suitable for all skin types. "It's a safe, well-tolerated ingredient, even in someone with sensitive skin, so it's wonderful in moisturizers," adds Dr. Shirazi.

How to incorporate glycerin into your skincare routine

Glycerin is in many skincare products. You can incorporate it throughout your routine, from cleansing to moisturizing. Dr. Shirazi explains that typically, glycerin is formulated with other ingredients to form moisturizers that offer maximum hydration and smoother, softer skin — a perfect solution for any winter skincare woes. "Glycerin can also be found in toners, cleansers, and micellar water as it helps gently remove makeup, oil, and debris while maintaining skin hydration," says Dr. Shirazi.

You can find pure glycerin sold over-the-counter, however, Dr. Shirazi and Dr. Amin recommend using products with glycerin already in them. Dr. Amin says using pure glycerin on its own can cause irritations in some if used incorrectly.

Products with glycerin to try

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Elemis Exotic Cream Moisturizing Mask


One of Dr. Shirazi's favorite skincare products with glycerin is this moisturizing mask. You use it twice a week after cleansing for 10 minutes as a treatment for dry skin. It leaves your skin feeling smooth, soft, and extremely moisturized.

02 of 05

Aquaphor Healing Ointment


Most of us are familiar with this time-tested ointment. It's a fan favorite for its multiple uses and benefits, including repairing dry, uncomfortable skin. You can use it as a lip balm, hand cream, foot cream, and even on top of minor cuts to help soothe and heal faster.

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First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream


Another of Dr. Shirazi's favorites is this rich moisturizer that offers instant relief for dry or irritated skin. While it is moisturizing, it isn't heavy or greasy. It quickly absorbs into the skin and feels light, making it suitable for all skin types.

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CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser


This innovative formula starts as a cream that hydrates the skin and then transforms into a gentle foam to offer a deeper clean. It's effective for both dry, combination, and even oily skin types. It also includes ceramides, hyaluronic acid, amino acids, and of course, glycerin in the formula to hydrate the skin and protect the skin barrier while cleansing.

05 of 05

Tatcha Dewy Serum Resurfacing & Plumping Treatment


This serum helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and uneven skin texture while simultaneously boosting hydration and radiance. Your skin will appear more smooth, plump, and dewy with every use.

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