Glycerin: The OG Moisturizer That Hydrates Without Causing Breakouts

It’s one of the best humectants in the game, and you need it on your skin.
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It’s one of the best humectants in the game, and you need it on your skin.

Danielle recently wrote about one awesome humectant, hyaluronic acid, but if you’re into hydration, let me remind you to get the OG moisture agent, glycerin, into your rotation right meow. Glycerin (also known as glycerol) is actually a sugar alcohol present in both plant and animal fats. 

Before you start flashing back to Sea Breeze and utter face destruction, know that this stuff is actually way good for your skin. 

Glycerin, like hyaluronic acid, is a humectant, meaning it pulls in water molecules from its surroundings “I drink your milkshake” style and holds them close to your skin. Because glycerin is fairly inexpensive and works so well, DIY glycerin toner recipes abound. But be careful, because if you use too much, it can actually pull that moisture out of your skin. And because many things I try to DIY end in disaster, I stick to the store-bought kind.

Kiehl’s was kind enough to send me one of their newest serums, Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, which is made with 15% glycerin. It comes out of the pump in an extremely thick gel texture that at first reminded me of Vaseline.

kiehl's hydro-plumping re-texturizing serum concentrate swatch

Kiehl's Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate

But instead of the tacky, gooey texture that petroleum jelly leaves, it sinks into skin instantly. The serum feels light and comfortable, and helps heal my dehydrated skin. It’s nice to alternate nights with my prescription Tretinoin to keep peel-y flakes away. I also like to mix in a pump with my facial cleanser if my skin needs a little extra TLC, because it makes my skin feel less dried out afterwards.

Glycerin is an ideal choice for those with oily skin because it helps to hydrate (yeah, your skin needs it, too) without the weight and potential breakouts of extra oil. 

If you have drier skin like me, it’s best layered under an oil or oil-based-moisturizer for a comprehensive skin barrier fix.

If you want to give it a shot, there are tons of ways to work Glycerin into your routine. Besides serums, glycerin is a common ingredient in face mists--my weapon of choice is Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner--or, if you’re brave enough to DIY, check out Danielle’s awesome sheet mask recipe for a quick hydration boost.

  • Are you on the humectant train yet? 
  • What glycerin-containing products do you use?