This Underrated Skincare Ingredient Is the Key to Preventing Dry Winter Skin

Dry skin is nobody’s idea of a good time. Without enough moisture, skin can feel uncomfortably tight, rough to the touch, and look flaky, getting in the way of smooth makeup application.

Whether you only deal with winter dryness or if you experience year-round dehydration, products with heavy-hitting moisturizing ingredients are the only thing that will relieve dry, cracked skin.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, then you’ve probably already heard of hyaluronic acid, squalane, and ceramides because they tend to get all of the praise and marquee placement on product labels. But there’s another extremely hydrating ingredient that’s underrated and doesn’t always get the credit it deserves, and that’s glycerin.

Glycerin may not be top of mind when it comes to all-star moisturizing ingredients, but if you look at the labels on the products in your medicine cabinet, you’ll find that it’s in almost everything.

So what makes glycerin so great that brands put it in so many products? We turned Dr. Melanie Palm, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Art of Skin MD, as well as Ginger King, cosmetic chemist and founder of Grace Kingdom Beauty for a complete breakdown on this ridiculously hydrating ingredient.

What Is Glycerin?

Glycerin is a colorless, thick, viscous liquid found in both plants and animals. In topical skincare, it’s derived from plants or synthetic.

It’s a humectant, meaning that it helps keep moisture in the skin and pulls water from deeper layers of the skin to the outer layer. It also draws in moisture from the air to provide further hydration.

“It’s a poor man’s hyaluronic acid when it comes to moisturization for the consumers,” says King.

The Benefits of Glycerin for Your Skin

In case it’s not clear yet, glycerin is extremely hydrating. But, what also makes it great for dry skin is that its effects last long after you’ve applied your moisturizer.

“Glycerin is one of a precious few moisturizing ingredients that has a lasting effect, well beyond its time of application and absorption,” Dr. Palm explains. “It is now known that glycerin may help enhance aquaporin function in the skin, increasing hydration to the tissue.”

Aquaporins are proteins that help maintain the flow of essential hydrating substances (such as water) to the skin’s outer layers. A regular flow is vital for skin to maintain its hydration — especially in the winter or drier climates.

Why Glycerin Is in So Many Skincare Products?

“For formulation, the benefits [of glycerin] are that it keeps products from drying out over time and also helps with preservation,” says King. “If a product is formulated without water and just glycerin, glycerin also gives a warming sensation.”

The cosmetic chemist says that glycerin can also help with preservation to keep products from contamination and makes a great solvent in lieu of “less desirable propylene glycols.”

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