Vegetable Glycerin: How to Use This Magical Skincare Ingredient

Check the back of your favorite lotion and you’ll likely find glycerin hiding on the ingredient label. That’s often a good thing. When naturally derived from vegetables, glycerin is a hero skincare ingredient that will seriously hydrate your skin. Studies show that glycerin effectively treats chronic dry skin, and it’s good for anyone hoping to add suppleness. 

Where Does Glycerin Come From?

Glycerin is a colorless and odorless liquid that can be used on its own or as an added ingredient. Not all glycerin is the same. It can be derived naturally from animal or plant lipids, or synthetically from petroleum. The non-vegetable varieties of glycerin (animal or petroleum derived) can have significant amounts of residual methanol, which is potentially toxic. So it’s best to go for vegetable glycerin, which can also replace other potentially-dangerous ingredients like dimethicone, cyclomethicone, or mineral oil.

What Makes Glycerin Good For Your Skin

Different moisturizers work differently. Occlusive moisturizers create a barrier to keep moisture in, while emollients smooth your skin by filling the dry and cracked areas. Glycerin is in yet another category: it’s a humectant, meaning it actually attracts water. (Honey and hyaluronic acid are other examples of humectants.) “Glycerin is a highly effective skincare ingredient,” Karen Behnke, founder and CEO of Juice Beauty, told me. With glycerin, you’re not just preserving the moisture that exists on your skin, but getting more. “In conjugation with other oils and emollients on the skin, it can provide long lasting hydration,” Behnke said.  In their line, Juice Beauty only uses plant lipid glycerin sustainably sourced generally from coconuts.

The Best Ways to Use Glycerin

Because of its powerful properties, many cosmetics contain glycerin. You also can buy pure vegetable glycerin on Amazon and incorporate it into your existing routine. Apply it on its own directly after a shower while your skin is still wet, or to your wet hair as a leave-in conditioner. You can also add the raw stuff to your shampoo, bath products, or moisturizers to get extra hydration, since glycerin naturally draws in moisture. I like to add it to my sweet almond oil and apply it all over before bed. 

Safe Skincare Products With Glycerin

Behnke told me that Juice Beauty uses glycerin in their serums and moisturizers. Below are some high-performing skin care products from them and others that contain glycerin and also get a safe rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Moisturizer: this moisturizer provides a silky texture and helps address fine lines and wrinkles. It is light enough to wear under makeup. (2 on EWG)

Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer: in addition to vegetable glycerin, this everyday moisturizer has nourishing vitamins C and B5. (1 on EWG)

Juice Beauty Signal Peptides Firming Serum: this lightweight serum will moisturize, while giving your face an added lift. It’s great for mature or sensitive skin. (1 on EWG)

Kari Gran Hydrating Tonic Rose: unlike a toner, this tonic will leave your skin feeling soothed and not stripped. You can apply it before your makeup or after, to help set it. Reach for it throughout the day when you need to feel refreshed. (1 on EWG)

Graydon Super Sensitive Skin Stuff: if you’re looking for a moisturizer you truly can’t feel, or have oily skin, this lightweight choice is for you. (EWG Verified)

Marie Veronique Everyday Coverage Tinted Sunscreen, SPF 30: this product has the power of vegetable glycerin for moisture and non-nano zinc oxide for sun protection. It also provides some coverage to even out your skin on days you want to go foundation free. (1 on EWG)

Josh Rosebrook Complete Moisture Cleanse: this gentle cleanser will calm your skin. Its moisturizing qualities are great for sensitive or dry skin. (2 on EWG)

Violets are Blue Face & Body Lotion: This everywhere lotion derives crucial vitamins for the skin from coconut, argan, avocado, sesame, and castor. It’s also packed with vegetable glycerin to help suck moisture in. It has a thicker consistency and light lavender scent, perfect for bedtime. (2 one EWG)

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