Glycerine at a glance

  • Is a skin-restoring ingredient, meaning it is found naturally in skin
  • Functions as a humectant, helping skin retain moisture
  • A fundamental cornerstone of most moisturisers
  • Typically used in concentrations of 5% or less
  • Amounts of 10% or greater aid in skin healing

Glycerine description

Glycerine, also called glycerol or glycerine, is a humectant that’s present in all natural lipids (fats), whether animal or vegetable. It can be derived from natural substances by hydrolysis of fats and by fermentation of sugars; it also can be synthetically manufactured, which is usually the case with modern-day skin care products, as doing so results in highly purified glycerine.Glycerine is a skin-replenishing and skin-restoring ingredient, meaning it is a substance found naturally in skin, helping to establish normal balance and hydration. It’s one of the many substances in skin that helps maintain a healthy look and feel, defending against dryness and working to maintain skin’s moisture level. Essentially, glycerine is a master at hydration, and works best when combined with other replenishing and emollient ingredients.Some people wonder whether using products with glycerine takes too much water from skin when there isn’t enough humidity in the air. This can occur with pure glycerine (that is, at a 100% concentration - an amount that’s never used in skin care products). Any humectant (including glycerine) used in pure form can increase water loss by attracting water from the lower layers of skin into the surface layers when the climate is too arid (low humidity). For this reason, glycerine and humectants are typically used in concentrations of 5% or less and always combined with other ingredients to soften skin. In fact, glycerine combined with other emollients and/or oils is a fundamental cornerstone of most moisturisers. However, amounts of 10% or greater can be used in clinical circumstances for skin healing.

Glycerine references

  • Journal of Pharmaceutical Investigation, March 2021, pages 223-231
  • International Journal of Toxicology, November/December 2019, Volume 38, Supplement 3, pages 6S-22S
  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2016, ePublication
  • British Journal of Dermatology, July 2008, pages 23-34
  • Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, June 2007, pages 75-82
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2003, pages 7,360-7,365

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated