Glycerin is one of the most used ingredients in skincare products. Just have a look at those in your stash and you’ll find that almost all of them contain high concentrations of Glycerin. And lately, this ingredient is slowly finding its way into haircare products too. But why is Glycerin used so much? What does it do?
What is Glycerin?
Glycerin, also called Glycerine and Glycerol, is a substance present in all human and animal fats. It can be derived naturally by the fermentation of sugars or hydrolysis (decomposition of a chemical compound by reaction with water) of fats, but it can be also synthetically made in a lab.
What does Glycerin do?
Glycerin is a humectant: it has the ability to draw water from the environment and the dermis (the lower layers of skin) into the outer (surface) layers of the skin. It also helps keep the skin’s natural barrier intact. Because of this, Glycerin helps keep skin moisturized and soft, preventing dryness. And it doesn’t just work on skin, it has the same benefits on hair too.
In addition, Glycerin helps protect hair when exposed to the heat of styling tools and, according to the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists (pg 39-52 1985), Glycerin, by increasing moisture content in hair, helps prevent premature breakage. This is especially true for people with natural African hair as the kinky structure of this type of hair makes it harder to comb and style it, thus leading to more damage and breakage. However, it only works if your hair is relaxed. Otherwise, the same benefits don’t apply.
The problem with Glycerin and how to avoid it
As I mentioned above, Glycerin has the ability to draw moisture from the dermis into the surface of the skin. And once there, this moisture could potentially evaporate into the environment, causing skin to become dry. Pure and undiluted Glycerin left on the skin for too long can actually cause blisters! Not too mention that high concentrations of Glycerin can feel sticky on the skin and who likes to use sticky products, especially when they could dry skin? For these reasons, Glycerin is usually used in skincare products in concentrations up to 10% mixed with other ingredients such as emollients and oils that too soften and moisturize skin. This way, you can enjoy its benefits without problems!
What do you think of Glycerin? Do you like using products with it?