Glycerin: why is it a common ingredient in your cosmetics?

Posted by Elisa Ansar on

Glycerin: why is it a common ingredient in your cosmetics?

When we read the back of our cosmetics, we look at the ingredients that make it up. For many people, this can be a bit complicated; they might not even understand why they are there. 

Knowing the components of your products is a critical factor when it comes to taking care of you and your family. Not knowing what you're putting in your body can lead to many problems. At the same time, knowing what ingredients to look for helps you with your specific needs.

Therefore, in this section we will help you learn about one of the most common ingredients in cosmetics: glycerin. 


Dropper with gel


What is glycerin?

Glycerin (also called glycerol) is a naturally occurring alcoholic compound found in all animal, plant and human tissues.

Glycerin occurs naturally in fermented foods and beverages. It is also produced commercially from fats and oils or by fermentation of yeast, sugar or starch. 

Glycerol is currently used in a wide variety of self-care products. These include toothpaste, hair conditioners, cosmetics and moisturizers.


Why is it such a common ingredient in cosmetics?

Glycerin is used safely in numerous cosmetics and self-care products. This is because it slows the loss of moisture from products so that they do not dry out as quickly.

Other functions reported for glycerin include:

  •  Denaturant.
  •  Hair conditioning agent.
  •  Oral care agent.
  •  Skin conditioning agent.
  •  Skin protector.
  •  Viscosity reducing agent.

Glycerin is the third most used ingredient in cosmetics after water and fragrance. This is shown by 2019 data compiled by the U.S. FDA's Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP).

It was recorded that it was used in 23,366 products. Among these are: 

  • Products for use near the eyes
  • Lipsticks
  • Hair dyes and colors
  • Bathroom soaps and detergents
  • Skin care products
  • Tanning preparations
  • Baby products.

According to a 2014 survey by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), glycerin was used in concentrations of up to 99.4 % in skin products.


Benefits of glycerol on the skin

The various actions of glycerol on the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, include:

  • It improves the hydration of the stratum corneum, the barrier function of the skin, as well as its mechanical properties.
  • Inhibition of the lipid phase transition of the stratum corneum, thus preventing dryness.
  •  Protection against irritating stimuli.
  •  Improved degradation of desmosomes and accelerated wound healing.
  •  Antimicrobial effect.
  •  Topical application of glycerol products improves skin with xerosis diseases and impaired epidermal barrier function.
  •  The increase of epidermal hydration by glycerol is essential in situations of skin affected by dry and cold environments.

Extra: the moisturizing property of glycerin

The physical basis for the use of glycerol in emollients, essential in the management of dehydration, is its moisturizing property.

Wetting is the tendency of a substance to attract water from the environment by absorption and adsorption under defined conditions (temperature, humidity). Glycerols in particular have excellent water solubility.

But not only this, in addition, glycerin can achieve its moisturizing effect by more complex mechanisms than simple water absorption.


Other functions of glycerin outside of cosmetic products

In addition to being an effective ingredient for self-care products, glycerin has these effects:

  • Glycerol is a precursor for fat synthesis in the liver and fatty tissues. When the body uses stored fat as a source of energy, glycerol and fatty acids are released into the bloodstream.
  •  In food and beverages, glycerin serves as a humectant, solvent and sweetener and can help with preservation.
  • Most dried fruits, for example, have glycerin added during processing to prevent them from cracking over time.
  • It is added to ice cream and used as a toothpaste base for its ability to maintain a smooth texture.
  •  Health care providers sometimes administer glycerol intravenously to reduce pressure inside the brain in various conditions.

Safety of glycerin in cosmetic products

Data collected by experts have not reported allergic skin reactions in human clinical studies. The scientific data available for glycerin demonstrated low oral and dermal (skin) adverse effects after single and repeated doses.

Data supporting the safety of glycerin were reviewed in 2014 by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR).

Based on the literature and data, the expert panel has concluded that glycerin is safe under current practices of use and concentration.


Glycerin is approved by the FDA for use in over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

European Union

Glycerin is included in the EU Cosmetic Ingredient Inventory. It is therefore not restricted, according to the general provisions of the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

Glycerin derived from raw materials of animal origin must comply with European Union animal by-products regulations.


Craft & Care Products

Particularly, at Craft & Care we have products that could be intensely moisturizing for the skin in whose formula one of its various ingredients is glycerin:

  • Moisturizing serum: the glycerin it contains could guarantee intense hydration. After use, the serum leaves the skin feeling remarkably pleasant, fresh and light.
  • Clay cleanser In the cleansing balm, it could moisturize and provide greater protection to the skin against external influences.
  • Balancing toner: The glycerin in our toner acts as a penetration enhancer and therefore helps to transport moisture to the skin without leaving a greasy feeling. It also reduces irritation, strengthens the skin barrier and protects against external environmental influences.
glycerin hydrating serum hydration moisture moisturizer

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