Glycerin and How it is Used in Natural Skincare

Glycerin. You’ve probably heard of it before. Maybe you’ve seen it on a label of a bottle of lotion or seen a bar of soap listed as glycerin soap. But, what exactly is glycerin? 

At Botaneri we are dedicated to finding the best of the best ingredients as close to their most natural form as possible. This is why we love giving you guys recipes for plant-and-food-based DIY beauty treatments made from things you can get at the grocery store.

But sometimes, there’s a teensy bit more you can be doing when it comes to formulating your own skincare products that goes a long, LONG way. Especially when you’re making a batch of serum or lotion that you want to continue to have on hand for more than just a few uses. To keep things a little longer (but still just as effective) you need some extra help. And you KNOW we love to “Level Up”!

Now, we get it. It can sound intimidating and scary when you start introducing sciencey, chemical sounding words into the mix. Your skin is precious and nobody wants to play Mad Scientist when *literally* trying to put their best face forward! That’s why we want to take the mystery out of one ingredient in particular that is actually a total lifesaver when it comes to plant-based beauty: GLYCERIN.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is, essentially, a moisturizing compound naturally found in all fats. It can be made from fermented sugars, from vegetable oil, or *yes* it can be synthetically created in a lab. BUT, just because it’s made in a lab does not mean it’s less effective and/or all that different from its purest, natural form. The thing that makes glycerin such an amazing additive in beauty products is its humectant property. What’s a humectant? Glad you asked! A humectant is a kind of moisturizer that actually attracts MORE moisture to it like a magnet.

You’ve probably seen the ingredient ‘glycerin’ (or a form of it) listed on pretty much every store-bought lotion, foundation, and primer ever. That’s because it’s the ultimate additive in helping aid and smooth skin by locking in moisture to even the flakiest surface. A personal reason I’m an advocate of using glycerin in beauty products is because of my journey dealing with eczema.

Glycerin has been thought by some to actually improve skin health and function for those affected by conditions like eczema and even psoriasis. I’ve used it when formulating my own beauty products and can say I’m a fan.

Why use glycerin?

Besides its fantastic humectant properties, glycerin functions as an effective natural preservative. When used properly, glycerine inhibits the growth of bacteria which is especially helpful when you’re formulating your own beauty and skincare products from all-natural sources like plants and foods. That said, it’s still extremely important to label everything you make with the date it was made, and the ingredients you used (with percentages, if possible!). Side note: we always do this because it allows us not only to stay safe, but also to see what worked and didn’t work in our formulations and adjust the next batch if needed!

What does glycerin do?

You know that kind of ‘plumped’ or ‘lifted’ feeling you get when using some skin serums? That’s the ‘humectant’ moisturizers at work. We have a whole article on this, but to review, there are three basic types of moisturizers:

1. Occlusives

Moisturizers that form a protective barrier over the skin to protect against damage and harmful free radicals

2. Emollients

Additives that smooth any rough cells and improve skin’s feel, but actually repel water and moisture. Oils are an example of this.

3. Humectants

Humectants actually draw more moisture in, attracting water to itself, plumping up skin like a wet sponge. All three of these in balance make for wonderful skin moisturizers as well as aiding in cell repair and regeneration. But as we said above, glycerin is a humectant, AKA a moisturizer that actually ADDS more moisture, and therefore one of the most important ingredients you can add when formulating.

Not only does glycerin attract moisture to itself, but it actually slows the evaporation of water from your skin! This is especially helpful during the cold, dry winter months, or those warm and windy summer days. Glycerin is also an excellent additive to have in a cleanser. This is because cleansers and soaps have the potential to be extremely drying, especially when coupled with too warm water. Adding glycerin helps your skin naturally retain the moisture that’s inside while the cleanser dissolves harmful bacteria, dirt, and excess oil, leaving you with clean but still-moisturized skin!

Leveling up your skincare routine with glycerin

Lots of dermatologists actually recommend using glycerin as an additive to your moisturizing routine.

Getting Started with Glycerin

An easy place to start? Add a few drops of glycerin to a quarter size amount of lotion and use the mixture on the driest patches of skin like hands, knees, elbows, and feet. It’s incredibly effective on stubborn areas like callouses because it draws moisture down to the deepest layers of skin.

Sounds great, but where do I get glycerin?

The easiest option? The internet! If you’re a little more advanced and looking to use glycerin in more complicated formulations, the best advice we can give is to be as precise as possible with measurements- not just the amount you’re adding, but the percentage of glycerine to other additives and ingredients in your mixture.


Just a head’s up, we know we’re a beauty blog, but this is an ingredient spotlight so we’re gonna deviate from beauty just a bit to let you know that you should NOT use glycerin if you’re formulating any kind of personal lubricant. It can lead to a yeast infection and nobody wants that. So, when formulating, keep the glycerin on the skin’s surface and avoid places where the sun don’t shine. 😉

Let us know

Do you use glycerin in your formulations? Share your tips with us in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you!

Glycerin and your skin

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