Glycerin, is the unsung hero of the cosmetic industry and every skin product's best friend. How can we say that? It features in almost every other skin and cosmetic product. However, the properties and benefits of glycerin are overlooked, and we do not necessarily understand why it is part of many modern-day and ancient beauty and cosmetic presentations. As per Ayurveda, the Rasayana and Ropan properties of glycerin made it an essential part of many traditional preparations, and it manages to retain its glory in the modern day. So, read ahead and understand the benefits of glycerin, and how it can help maintain healthy and radiant skin.
What exactly is glycerin and how it is produced?
Glycerin is a sweet-tasting, colorless, odorless liquid, and a natural sugar alcohol compound primarily derived from vegetable oils and animal fat. The plant-derived glycerin typically comes from soy, palm, and coconut oils, triglyceride-rich vegetable fat. Glycerin is also naturally produced in the body due to the metabolism of fats and oils into fatty acids and glycerin. Often, glycerin is produced as a by-product of soap and manufacturing processes, where oils are heated under pressure. The process makes glycerin split away from the fatty acids, and we get a syrup-like liquid known as glycerin. Natural glycerin has moisturizing and restorative properties. It can act as an effective humectant that maintains the skin's water balance, replenishes its moisture levels, and nourishes the skin.
What makes it a skin favorite?
For a long time, glycerin has been known to make the skin moist and supple. It is a natural humectant, as it attracts moisture from the air into the layers of the skin1. The natural compound contains moisturizing properties that deeply nourish and hydrates the skin. It improves the skin's texture giving it a smoother appearance. With its ability to offer moisture and nourishment to the skin, glycerin can help reduce the appearance of early signs of aging, like fine lines, wrinkles, etc.
Additionally, glycerin's antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it effective in dealing with wound healing, fungal infections, and skin inflammation and reducing blemishes. Since glycerin works as a natural cleanser, it helps remove accumulated dirt from the skin, and its rejuvenating properties can help restore damaged cells.
Helps get rid of dryness and hydrates the skin: According to a study2, glycerin has shown great potential in acting as an effective humectant and increasing hydration in the top layer of the skin. Being a humectant, the compound traps the moisture from the air and diffuses into the top layer of the skin. This way, it helps relieve and control extreme skin dryness, retain moisture, and keep the skin hydrated3, fresh, and soft to the touch. Glycerin is an excellent moisturizer, and its regular use can help reduce patchy and dry skin. This is also why all leading cosmetic manufacturers add glycerin to their creams and other topical products.
People with aggravated Pitta dosha are prone to dry skin, therefore, they can incorporate glycerin into their skin routine to manage dryness. A homemade glycerin moisturizer can be made by adding two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice to 250 ml of glycerin. One can use it every night before bed and rinse it off with normal water the next morning for dewy fresh skin.
Improve skin barrier function: The stratum corneum acts as a skin barrier and helps regulate and maintain cell lipids as well as hydration levels between our skin cells. It protects the skin from irritants. Another study4 highlighted that glycerin also helps improve the skin's barrier function by increasing the thickness of the epidermal layer of the skin and stimulating barrier recovery. Thus regular use of glycerin can help maintain skin barrier function 5 and sustain skin health.
Ayurveda says people with Vata dosha tend to experience poor skin-barrier function. Hence it is essential for them to keep glycerin handy, especially during seasonal changes.
Protects skin from diseases, infections, etc.: Traditional usage and modern-day research6 highlight that glycerin can help protect the skin against irritants, infections, and microbes and soothe inflamed, burnt, cut, or wounded skin. Cuts, burns, and wounds can be tough to deal with and leave scars if not treated in time. Therefore, glycerin can be used in such circumstances as it can speed up the healing process and soothe burns, itching, and pain-related symptoms.
As suggested by Ayurveda, glycerin can reduce burning and stinging sensations due to its Ropan (healing) and Sita (cold) properties. Similarly, glycerin has been shown to help reduce marks and blemishes. Research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggested that the therapeutic effect of glycerin on the skin can help manage psoriasis. The study found that glycerin helps skin cells to mature fully and stop premature shedding. The antifungal properties of glycerin can help treat skin infections like eczema7 and promote skin repair and regeneration.
A person can simply apply a light layer of glycerin to the affected area, keep it for a while and wash it. The process can be repeated till the area is healed. For skin and fungal diseases, a person can apply a mix of about four teaspoons of Multani mitti/fuller's earth, a teaspoon of glycerin, and some water to make a smooth paste. This paste should be applied using fingers in circular motions while avoiding the mouth and eye areas. After it is dried, it can be washed with plain water.
Acts as a natural exfoliator and cleanser: Ayurveda attributes multiple benefits to scrubbing/exfoliating. Exfoliation is a critical process as it helps the skin get rid of dead skin, dirt, sebum/oil, and pollutants. Since using chemical-based products can harm the skin and strip the skin of natural moisture, a natural exfoliator like glycerin can help exfoliate and potentially retain moisture. Natural glycerin can help disintegrate proteins in dead skin into smaller particles making it easy to remove them from our skin. This natural removal of dead skin helps produce new cells, giving skin a healthy, clear, and glowing appearance. Glycerin is also an effective natural facial cleanser and can help eliminate accumulated sebum and dirt and reduce the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads. People with Kapha dosha who experience excessive sebum build-up can use glycine to balance sebum accumulation and deeply cleans their skin.
For exfoliation, you can make a paste using four tablespoons of coarsely ground almond, a tablespoon of Multani mitti or Fuller's earth powder, and two teaspoons of glycerin. For a glycerin cleanser, make a solution using one teaspoon of glycerin and three teaspoons of milk. Apply the solution to the face and neck for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
An essential part of many anti-aging creams and treatments: The first appearance of fine lines and signs of aging can be overwhelming. While aging is a natural process, premature signs of aging can be a matter of concern that needs to be addressed to maintain healthy and youthful skin. Some common signs of aging/premature aging include dull skin, wrinkles, fine lines, pigmentation, and loss of elasticity. So, rather than panicking, grab some glycerin. Glycerin holds Rasayana (anti-aging, immune system-building, healing)properties that can help fight signs of aging. By restoring moisture levels of the skin and keeping it hydrated, glycerin can help reduce fine lines and improve skin elasticity by filling in the tiny cracks in the skin. Over the years, glycerin has been used in multiple anti-aging treatments8. Thus, regular use of glycerin can help maintain the hydration level of the skin and reduce the appearance of signs of aging. People with Vata dosha are more likely to experience early signs of aging on their skin, therefore, they must include glycerin in their skin routine to manage premature signs of aging.
For anti-aging effects, beat an egg white till it is frothy and mix in a teaspoon of glycerin and honey. Massage it on the face using upward and circular strokes. Let it stay for 15-20 minutes before washing it with water.
An integral part of lip care: Lips are one of the most overlooked parts of our face, and lip care often does not feature in our regular skincare routine. When lips don't get proper care and attention, they can become cracked and chapped. They can lose moisture and become tanned due to a lack of protective care or barrier. This can become worse during winter9. While many lip balms are available on the market, the humble glycerin, free from toxins and chemicals can help moisturize the skin, hold moisture and form a barrier protecting lips from tanning. Since the skin on our lips is sensitive, it can benefit from using natural glycerin, which is gentler. It is recommended that people with Vata dosha use glycerin to create a protective barrier on their lips to reduce damage caused by changing weather.
Reduces Sun damage and tanning: Glycerin can be used as a mild sunscreen as it acts as a natural barrier against the sun's harmful UV rays while sealing in moisture. It can help create a layer of moisture and protect it from harmful UV rays while keeping the skin healthy, hydrated, and glowing. In case a person is experiencing sun tan, glycerin can help restore the skin's original complexion by removing the dirt, unclogging the pores, and bringing back your original complexion.
To reduce sun damage, a person can apply a mixture of one overripe banana and a tablespoon of glycerin. Applying a liberal amount of paste on the skin and leaving it for 10-15 minutes can reduce tanning and make the skin glowing and bright. Glycerin can help people with Pitta dosha, as their skin is prone to tanning and getting sun damage.
The OG of skin care formulations, glycerin, is one of the most important and widely used ingredients in skin care products and treatments. Glycerin is sure to bring multiple skin benefits if used regularly.