Glycerin - does it nourish the skin or does it dry it out?

Glycerin is one of the ingredients that you encounter most often in cosmetics. You can find it in most personal care products, from soap to moisturizer. But why is glycerin so popular? And what about the criticism that it would dry out the skin?
Myth Glycerin dries out the skin | Five Skincare

Myth "Glycerin dries out the skin" - what's the truth?

For years, glycerin has had a reputation for drying out skin. Is that correct? yes and no . As with so many ingredients, the right concentration and combination is also important here.
So that you can understand this, let me briefly explain the function of glycerin: Glycerin is hygroscopic and attracts water like a magnet . It is a humectant and is often and willingly used in cosmetics (and food).
A special feature of glycerin is its small molecules . As a result, glycerin easily penetrates the epidermis and works deeper in the skin than hyaluronic acid (also a humectant), which has larger molecules and is less able to penetrate the skin.
How glycerin affects the skin:
  • increases skin moisture
  • reduces water loss from the skin
  • promotes the elasticity of the skin
  • smoothes the skin
  • stabilizes the skin's barrier function
We firmly believe that glycerine is one of the best moisture binders of all and is essential for a good moisturizing skincare product.
So where did the rumor come from that glycerin is said to have a drying effect? As I said, glycerin loves water. However, the glycerin doesn't really care where the water comes from, as long as it is easily available. It can come from three sources:
  1. Water from the ambient air (at high humidity)
  2. Water from other ingredients in the product
  3. Water stored in the skin

Perhaps you already know which source shouldn't be used for glycerine? Exactly, from source 3: water from your skin! As soon as glycerin does not get enough water from other sources, it draws water from the deeper layers of the skin up to the skin's surface. The drying effect is created. Two factors prevent this from happening: the right formulation and the right concentration.

Glycerin should be accompanied by water-based ingredients

Glycerin may not care where it gets its water from, but your skin certainly doesn't. It is therefore important that glycerin is always accompanied by moisturizing ingredients. Then it does not bind water from your skin, but uses the water from the product. In this combination, glycerin moisturizes your skin deeply and for a long time.
By the way, high humidity is great in connection with glycerine, i.e. vacation in a warm, humid climate or a good humidifier at home. A good moisturizer can then work even better!
Do you have to be afraid that your product with glycerin will dry out your skin? No. Today, cosmetic products are formulated with this knowledge. No reason to panic , because in high-quality moisturizing creams and serums, glycerin is dosed and combined in such a way that it shows its best side.
☝️ Tip: Recognize water-based substances on the INCI list: At least one water-based ingredient should be present before glycerin. Best in first or second place. For example Aqua , Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice or …Flower Water.
FIVE Facial Oil – Dry and Sensitive Skin | Five Skincare

Our vegan moisturizing serum consists of 4% organic glycerin combined with hyaluronic acid and rose petal hydrolate for maximum moisture.

How do I know if there is too much glycerin in my cream?

The more glycerin the product contains, the higher the water requirement. If the concentration is too high, at some point it can no longer be compensated for in the recipe. Therefore, the dosage of glycerin also plays an important role.
The drying effect occurs when a product consists of more than 10% glycerin . If you have already researched a bit online, you may have noticed that some sources only speak of a drying effect from 30%. Why is that? Well, the effect doesn't suddenly change.
Concentrations up to 10% are harmless in skin care. Above that, the effect gradually turns into the opposite until it becomes really critical from 30%. In skin care products, the glycerin content is usually 3-5%, which is well within the “safe” range.

☝️ Tip: Glycerin should not be in first or second position on the INCI list, because the ingredients are listed in descending order according to the amount used. When glycerin is third, it is more likely that the concentration used is 10% or lower.

Glycerin for the Skin | Five Skincare

What skin types is glycerin suitable for?

Glycerin is a natural part of the body . Fats are constantly being processed during metabolism, with glycerol being produced as a by-product. This is then transported into the skin, where it supports the barrier function . Because it is natural and already present, glycerin is very well tolerated. It is allergen-free and is also suitable for sensitive skin .
😊 So there are no skin types that should rather keep their distance when it comes to glycerin, it's actually a plus if your skin care contains glycerin.
Glycerine offers the greatest benefits for dehydrated skin , dry skin and especially mature skin . Because as we get older, our skin can no longer store moisture as well. A good moisturizer becomes more and more important over time! Glycerine helps to store water in the deeper layers of the skin and thus creates an additional moisture depot.
The comparison with hyaluronic acid is particularly interesting because, like glycerine, it also belongs to the moisture binders, but is much more hyped. A bit wrong, in my opinion, because glycerin has an extremely small molecular mass (92 daltons) and is so much better able to reach the deeper layers of the skin than the smallest hyaluronic acid, the so-called oligo hyaluronic acid (10,000 daltons). In our FIVE facial serum we therefore combine hyaluronic acid and glycerine so that the skin is well supplied with moisture-binding substances from the surface to the deeper layers of the skin.

What is glycerin made from?

In contrast to coconut oil or shea butter , the name is not exactly meaningful. Do you perhaps spontaneously think of “nitroglycerin”? Sounds explosive, but not necessarily natural... And for conventional cosmetics, glycerin is actually often synthesized from petroleum .
But glycerin can also be obtained from natural sources . It is formed when fats, both synthetic and natural, are broken down. And with the latter, in addition to animal sources, there is also extraction from vegetable oils. And that's usually where the glycerin used in natural cosmetics comes from.

Organic glycerin from coconut oil

Ideally, your skin care here contains organic quality glycerine from plants that are cultivated in an environmentally friendly manner, without pesticides. The most popular source of vegetable glycerin is palm oil. However, the list of ingredients (INCI) does not give you any information about this.
Natural glycerine in our FIVE facial serum also pampers your skin with extra moisture. It is obtained from coconut oil by saponification and, like all our products, is 100% vegan. So that you don't unnecessarily burden your skin with pesticide residues, our serum only contains organic glycerin from coconut plants from ecological cultivation.

Conclusion: Glycerin provides the skin with moisture

In the right dosage, glycerine, in combination with watery ingredients, provides your skin with plenty of moisture. And that's a must. The skin needs at least 20% water to make you look really fresh and radiant.
And the beauty of glycerine: It moisturizes the skin down to the deeper layers. This improves elasticity and tightens . In addition, this deeper water deposit cannot be washed away so easily when cleaning the face.
Since glycerin binds water from the environment, two factors are crucial when formulating cosmetic products:

  1. The product must be rich in moisture.
  2. It may only contain small amounts of glycerin.
Product tip: The moisturizing serum from FIVE consists of 4% glycerine and, thanks to organic rose petal hydrolate, provides plenty of moisture.

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"No cream should have more ingredients than you can count on one hand."

Anna Pfeiffer