What is glycerin?

Almost all beauty products have glycerin as a common ingredient, due to its moisturizing and skin-protecting properties.

According to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), it is the most widely used ingredient in cosmetics after water.

Glycerin is an almost transparent, odorless, sweet-tasting, viscous liquid obtained by hydrolysis, separating the sugar alcohol from the fat and distilling it.

It is found in both animal and vegetable fats (in plants such as soybean, coconut, flaxseed, palm and rapeseed) and also in all types of natural oils. Even our own skin contains glycerin. Therefore, it is a product easily assimilated by the body.

It can also be found under the name glycerol or labeled as E-422. There is also synthetic glycerin, which is derived from petroleum.

Discovery of glycerin

This ingredient was discovered in 1741 by the French chemist Claude Joseph Geoffroy.

Almost 40 years later, in 1779, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, also a chemist, isolated the compound for the first time and established that natural oils and fats contain glycerin.

Properties of glycerin

In esthetics, glycerin is used daily thanks to its nourishing, revitalizing, moisturizing and exfoliating properties.

Glycerin has the following properties:

  • It is moisturizing: glycerin absorbs and retains moisture. This helps to moisturize the skin and facilitates the penetration of the cream into the skin. It is a great solution for people with dry or sensitive skin.
  • It is water-soluble: this means that it can be dissolved in water without losing purity. It also works to absorb water in the form of steam, making it suitable for combating hair humidity.
  • It is tasteless: this property makes it suitable for use in the food industry.
  • It is emollient: glycerin also has the ability to soften. This is why it is so commonly used in dermatology to provide softness.
  • Anti-aging: it is especially effective in combating expression wrinkles, sagging skin and dark circles under the eyes because it improves elasticity.
  • Healing: accelerates wound healing and soothes sunburn.

What is glycerin used for?

Glycerin is mainly known for its use in soap making, which provides softness to the skin. However, it is also present in cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food products.

Glycerin should not be used purely on the skin, as it generates dryness. Before using it on the skin, it should be mixed with water or other ingredients.

It provides multiple benefits for the skin. It maintains moisture balance, increases elasticity, makes it look younger by retaining water and has a soothing effect.

In addition, it is sometimes used to accelerate wound healing and to treat skin pathologies such as dermatitis.

At Sisneo we recommend its use in the application of radiofrequency treatments such as Revicell Pro, to facilitate the sliding of the handpiece.

Products with glycerin

There are many products with glycerin, as it is present as an ingredient in 52% of the cosmetics on the market.

  • In 95% of all shower moisturizers
  • In 94% of anti-aging creams for the eyes and eye area
  • In 94% of anti-aging night creams
  • In 93% of shaving creams
  • And in 93% of moisturizing creams

Glycerin can also be used to prevent hair dryness and humidity. Stimulates hair growth, strengthens roots and prevents dandruff.

Food with glycerin

Glycerin is found in very small doses in meat and fish due to its lipid and fat content, in milk and dairy products, and in vegetable fats and oils.

In addition to the cosmetics industry, glycerin is also used in the food industry, as glycerol, due to its sweetness. It is colorless and odorless, so it is often used as a sweetener in beverages and confectionery, bakery, candies and colorants.

For baked goods and foods, glycerin can act by retaining moisture, so that foods remain fresh. With sweets, it acts as a thickener, preventing the sugar from crystallizing. And in dyes it acts as a solvent. We can identify it as E422.

Commitment to quality

This text on glycerin has been written by professional editors and reviewed by Sisneo’s medical-aesthetic team. In addition, we have relied on experts in medicine, engineering and aesthetics as a source of information, as well as specific studies to maintain the quality of what we publish.

At Sisneo Bioscience we are committed to publish truthful and contrasted information. And to update or correct it as soon as new knowledge becomes available.

Among others, we have used the following references:

  • Berson DS, Perez OA, Cohen JL, et al. «Clinical role and application of superficial chemical peels in today’s practice» en Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2018;17(2):s45-s51.