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The Benefits of Glycerin for Your Skin

By Kiehl’s Education Team

What Is Glycerin?

Glycerin, also known as Glycerol, is a colorless, odorless sugar alcohol. It is a primary component of triglycerides, naturally occurring fats present in most lipid-rich substances. Glycerin was first identified in 1779 by a Swedish scientist who inadvertently isolated the compound while making soap from Olive Oil. Though Glycerin was historically derived from plant and animal fats, it can also be chemically synthesized. It is non-toxic and has a thick, viscous texture, making it a popular ingredient in a wide range of products, including food, medications, and skincare. At Kiehl’s, we use non-animal sources of Glycerin in our formulations.

What Is Glycerin Used For?

In skincare, Glycerin's most popular use is as a humectant. Humectants are moisturizing ingredients that draw water from the atmosphere to hydrate and soften the skin (other well-known humectants include Hyaluronic Acid and D-Panthenol). Studies show that certain levels of Glycerin can penetrate the skin barrier and remain within the skin for continuous hydration for several days. It has also been shown to be the most effective humectant and well-tolerated ingredient, commonly used in skincare formulations.

However, because of its thick texture, Glycerin can leave a sticky or tacky residue on the skin if used excessively. Thus, it’s important to choose a formulation that suits your skincare needs. We recommend Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Serum Concentrate, which contains 15% Glycerin in a lightweight, rapidly absorbed texture. This lightweight formula contains an epidermal hydration filler to plump the look of dull skin and minimize the appearance of fine lines. The intensely hydrating formula is suitable for all skin types and can be used morning and night to promote a smoother, healthier-looking appearance.

Found together in our Ultra Pure High-Potency 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid Serum, Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid can also both be hydrating and help moisturize the skin.


Glycerin Benefit #1

Products Formulated with Glycerin Help to Support the Skin Barrier

Water is an essential component of the skin. Without enough water, the skin barrier becomes dehydrated, leaving it unable to effectively perform all of its duties (like defending your body against external aggressors). Glycerin benefits the skin barrier by pulling water from the air to keep the skin hydrated and minimize water loss. It also helps, in cleansing formulas, to reduce dryness post-cleansing. Because cleansing is important for a successful skincare routine, it’s important to find a cleanser with Glycerin to help reduce dryness.

Find Glycerin in Ultra Facial Cleanser, our cult-classic formula with Squalane and Avocado Oil that helps to remove dirt and oil without stripping the skin. It is pH-balanced and gentle enough for daily use.

For the best results, apply a hydrating toner after cleansing to balance the skin. We recommend our Ultra Facial Toner, which is formulated with Glycerin, Squalane, and Antioxidant Vitamin E. The soothing, alcohol-free toner removes any dirt or residue left on the skin after cleansing for a refined appearance. Like Ultra Facial Cleanser, it is pH-balanced and suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

Glycerin Benefit #2

It Helps Soften and Smooth Skin

Glycerin has emollient properties, which help to soften and condition skin. Studies show that skincare products containing Glycerin can significantly soften and improve the appearance of rough, dry skin. Products that contain Glycerin, in addition to lipids and other humectants, help to moisturize and hydrate the skin, which is why we recommend reaching for a lightweight moisturizer, like our Ultra Facial Cream.

In addition to Glycerin, this top-rated formula (our #1 face cream) contains Glacial Glycoprotein and Squalane to nourish the skin with non-greasy 24-hour hydration. The unique formula absorbs into the skin quickly and is clinically demonstrated to soften and smooth skin after just one week of continuous use.*

Though Ultra Facial Cream is suitable for all skin types, those with oily or acne-prone skin may prefer Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream. This unique gel moisturizer contains Glycerin and micronized Amino Acid to condition skin with lightweight yet long-lasting hydration and oil control. It absorbs quickly and has a cooling effect on the skin for a refreshing feel. We recommend using it morning and night for hydrated shine-free skin.

*Results based on a four-week clinical test.

Glycerin Benefit #3

Glycerin Visibly Plumps Skin for a Youthful Appearance

One of the most unique characteristics of Glycerin is its ability to temporarily plump the look of skin and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Studies show that Glycerin penetrates the skin and increases the water volume between cells to give skin a fuller, firmer appearance.

If you are seeking to plump and smooth the appearance of your skin, we recommend incorporating an anti-wrinkle cream, like our Super Multi-Corrective Soft Cream, into your daily skincare routine. This lightweight, youth-renewing moisturizer features Proxylane, Adenosine, and Capryloyl Glycine to visibly firm, lift, smooth, and boost skin’s radiance for a more youthful appearance.


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