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

Glycerin is one of the ingredients you most often see in cosmetics. You can find it in most personal care products, from soap to moisturizer. But why is glycerin so popular? And what's wrong with the criticism that it dries out the skin?

Myth Glycerin dries out the skin | Five Skincare

Myth “Glycerin dries out the skin” – what’s true?

For years, glycerin has had a reputation for drying out the skin. Is that correct? Yes and no . As with so many ingredients, the right concentration and combination are important.
So that you can understand this, let me briefly explain the function of glycerin to you: Glycerin is hygroscopic and attracts water like a magnet . It is a humectant and is often used in cosmetics (and food).
A special feature of glycerin is its small molecules . This means that glycerin is easily absorbed into 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.
This is how glycerin works on the skin:
  • increases skin moisture
  • reduces water loss from the skin
  • promotes skin elasticity
  • smoothes the skin
  • stabilizes the skin's barrier function
We firmly believe that glycerin is one of the best moisture binders of all and is essential for a good moisturizing skin care product.
Then where does the rumor come from that glycerin is said to have a drying effect? As I said, glycerin loves water. 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

Maybe you already have an idea from which source the glycerin should not be used? Exactly, from source 3: water from your skin! As soon as glycerin does not get enough water from other sources, it pulls water from the deeper layers of the skin up to the surface of the skin. The drying effect occurs. Two factors prevent this from happening: the right formulation and the right concentration.

Glycerin should be accompanied by water-containing ingredients

The glycerin may not care where it gets its water from, but of course your skin doesn't. It is therefore important that glycerin is always accompanied by moisturizing ingredients. Then it doesn't bind water from your skin, but instead 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 glycerin, i.e. vacationing in a warm, humid climate or a good humidifier at home. A good moisturizer can then work even better!
Do you have to worry that your product with glycerin will dry out your skin? No. Today, cosmetic products are formulated with this knowledge. So there's no need to panic , because in high-quality moisturizers and serums, glycerin is dosed and combined in such a way that it shows itself at its best.
☝️ Tip: Recognize water-containing substances on the INCI list: At least one water-containing ingredient should appear before the glycerin. Best in first to second place. For example Aqua , Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice or ...Flower Water.

Our vegan moisturizing serum consists of 4% organic glycerin combined with hyaluronic acid and rose petal hydrosol 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, this can no longer be compensated for in the recipe. That's why 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 done a little research online, you may have noticed that some sources only speak of a drying effect from 30% onwards. Why is that? Well, the effect doesn't suddenly change.
Concentrations of up to 10% are harmless in skin care. Above that, the effect gradually turns into the opposite until it becomes really critical from 30% onwards. In skin care products, the glycerin content is usually 3-5%, 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. If glycerin is in the third position or higher, it is more likely that the concentration used is 10% or lower.

Glycerin for the skin | Five Skincare

Which skin types is glycerin suitable for?

Glycerin is a natural component of the body . During metabolism, fats are constantly processed, with glycerin being produced as a byproduct. 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 stay away from glycerin, in fact it is a plus if your skin care contains glycerin.
Glycerin offers the greatest benefit for dehydrated skin , dry skin and especially mature skin . As we get older, our skin can no longer retain moisture as well. A good moisturizer becomes more and more important over time! Glycerin helps to store water in the deeper layers of the skin and thus creates an additional moisture reserve.
The comparison with hyaluronic acid is particularly interesting here, because like glycerin, it is also a moisture-binding agent, but is much more hyped. Somewhat unfairly, in my opinion, because glycerin has an extremely small molecular mass (92 Daltons) and is so much better able to reach 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 combine hyaluronic acid and glycerin 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 isn't exactly meaningful. Are you perhaps spontaneously thinking 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 created when fats are broken down, both synthetic and natural. And for the latter, in addition to animal sources, there is also extraction from vegetable oils. And this is where the glycerin used in natural cosmetics usually comes from.

Organic glycerin

Ideally, your skin care contains organic glycerin from plants that are grown 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 glycerin also pampers your skin with extra moisture in our FIVE facial serum . It is obtained by saponification from RSPO IP certified palm oil and its kernels and - like all of our products - is 100% vegan. So that you don't unnecessarily burden your skin with pesticide residues, our serum only contains organic glycerin from organically grown plants. The palm oil used is RSPO IP certified and therefore comes from a single, identifiable certified source that is kept separate from regular palm oil throughout the supply chain.

Conclusion: Glycerin provides the skin with moisture

In the right dosage, glycerin, in combination with watery ingredients, provides your skin with plenty of moisture. And it is a must. The skin needs at least 20% water to make you look really fresh and radiant.
And the nice thing about glycerin: It moisturizes the skin down to the deeper layers. This improves elasticity and tightens . In addition, this deeper water deposit cannot be easily washed away when cleaning your 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 glycerin in small amounts.
Product tip: FIVE's moisturizing serum consists of 4% glycerin and provides plenty of moisture thanks to organic rose petal hydrolate.
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