Why Glycerin Is the Ultimate Moisturizing Ingredient in Skin-Care Products

It's like each skin cell has it's own swimming pool.

When you're fighting dry, winter skin, you want the best moisturizers around — we're talking the juiciest ingredients you can get your parched, cracked hands on. That's why you'll want to look for glycerin in all your skin-care products.

"Moisturizers typically contain three types of ingredients," Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells Allure. There's occlusive moisturizers, which help to form a protective barrier over the skin to lock in moisture. Then there's the emollients, which smooth any rough edges on the cellular level. "Most emollient materials are oils that repel water," Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist, tells Allure. "They can improve the way skin feels but don't actually moisturize."

And you can't forget about humectants, like glycerin. "Glycerin is a colorless and odorless liquid that comes from plant sources," explains Romanowski. "It is a humectant, which means it has the property of attracting water to itself."

Yeah, that's right. It's a moisturizer that actually attracts more moisture. "Glycerin is essentially like a sponge that pulls in water to the outer skin layer," Zeichner explains. "It can attract water from the deeper skin layers or even the air in humid environments." It also helps slow the evaporation of water from your skin to help foil that chronic winter dryness, adds Erin Gilbert, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. In short, it's a skin secret weapon.

What glycerin means for your skin-care products

Because glycerin attracts water to itself, using products with the superhydrator leave your skin with an "overall moisturizing and smoothing effect," says Gilbert. It can be a powerhouse moisturizer mixed with other emollients, or even on its own. "One of the tricks I do is mix Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream and add some extra vegetable glycerin" — which you can find online — "to it and put it on my hands and feet before I go to bed," Gilbert says. It's especially effective on your most stubborn rough spots, like callouses, Gilbert says. "The glycerin can actually signal your superficial skin cells to mature more rapidly," she says. Translation: a speedier route to soft skin.

Glycerin is also a powerhouse moisturizer when used in a cleanser. "When cleansing the skin, it is important to remove dirt and oil, but maintain the health of the outer skin layer," explains Zeichner. "Ingredients like glycerin can help maintain hydration and prevent skin irritation during the cleansing process."

What to add to your skin-care routine

Chances are, glycerin has already made its way into your skin-care routine — it's everywhere. For simple products that pack a major moisture punch, Zeichner recommends Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion and the Neutrogena Fragrance-Free The Transparent Facial Bar.

You can look for products containing glycerin in every step of your skin-care routine, adds Gilbert. She recommends the Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum packed with skin-brightening vitamin C, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and a whole lot of glycerin-fueled hydration.

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