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What is glycerol or glycerin?

Glycerol, or glycerin or glycerine, is a colourless, odourless, viscous liquid widely used in various industries, including skincare. Chemically, it is a trihydric alcohol, meaning it has three hydroxyl (OH) groups attached to each carbon atom. This molecular configuration is what gives glycerin its unique properties. Glycerol is derived primarily from natural sources such as vegetable oils or animal fats through processes like hydrolysis or transesterification.


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In skincare, glycerol is valued for its moisturizing properties. It acts as a humectant, attracting moisture from the environment into the skin and helping to maintain hydration levels. Glycerol also functions as an emollient, softening and smoothing the skin's surface by filling in gaps between skin cells. Additionally, it can help strengthen the skin's natural barrier function, protecting it from external aggressors and reducing the risk of dryness and irritation.


Here is why it is popular in skincare formulations:


  1. Humectant: Glycerol attracts moisture from the air into the skin, helping to keep it hydrated. It forms a protective layer on the skin, preventing moisture loss.

  2. Emollient: Glycerol softens and smoothens the skin by filling in the gaps between skin cells, making it feel softer and supple.

  3. Barrier repair: It can help strengthen the skin's natural barrier function, protecting it from environmental stressors and reducing the risk of irritation and dryness.

  4. Compatibility: Glycerol is well-tolerated by most skin types, including sensitive skin, making it a versatile ingredient in skincare formulations.

  5. Non-comedogenic: Glycerol is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores, making it suitable for acne-prone skin.

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