Have you ever put layer upon layer of body oil or rich body butters on your skin only to still have super dry skin?
Over the past year, it was getting bad.
My legs were flaky. My arms were scaly. It wasn’t looking good at all.
I wasn’t sure if it was my postpartum hormones causing such dry skin, the constant daily use of mineral sunscreen, or sleeping with air conditioning that was drying out my skin (or everything combined). Whatever it was that was causing it, nothing seemed to help.
That is until I started experimenting with glycerin.
Glycerin has become a massive game changer for me. Its worked so well, after a few months of treating the dry skin on my body, I no longer needed to moisturize every day. I moisturize when I want, if I want (nowadays, maybe once every week or two). And I no longer have flaky, cracked, crepey, chalky skin.
Not only can glycerin benefit the skin on your body, but using skincare products containing glycerin on your face is beneficial as well.
For more on how I use glycerin for dry skin, and some extra tips to boost its effectiveness; check out today’s video (at the top of the blog post) and keep reading the article.
Benefits of glycerin for dry skin
Glycerin is a humectant. It draws moisture to your skin.
It acts similarly to aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and honey. I’ve always liked these hydrating ingredients because they have a way of balancing dehydrated skin without making it feel oily or greasy.
I also find that using humectants consistently over time not only gets rid of dryness and dehydration, but also plumps the skin, improves skin texture, and overall makes your skin appear healthy, youthful and bright.
According to this study, glycerin benefits the skin by:
- increasing skin hydration
- strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier
- speeds up wound healing
- protects the skin from environmental irritants
Glycerin is non-comedogenic and has antimicrobial properties, making it suitable for all skin types.
How to use glycerin to treat dry skin on your body
Apply glycerin after taking a shower or bath while your skin is still damp.
There are 3 application methods (choose one):
- Apply glycerin straight to your body (without diluting it with an oil or body moisturizer)
- Mix glycerin with a body oil (1:1 or 2:1 ratio) and apply mixture to your body
- Mix glycerin with a body lotion, cream or butter (1:3 ratio) and apply mixture to your body
Allow at least 15-20 minutes for it to dry down and absorb (glycerin draws moisture from the air, so if you live in an environment with high humidity, it might take a little longer for it to absorb).
Tips for using glycerin on your body
- Your skin could feel a little warm when you first apply it. Not to worry, this is normal.
- If your skin gets red, or you develop a rash, itchy, or burning skin; this is a sign of a sensitivity or allergy. Rinse it off immediately with cold water.
- Your skin will feel quite moist after applying it. It can take some time for the glycerin to dry down and absorb. For this reason, you might prefer applying it at night as an overnight moisturizing body treatment (it won’t stain your cloths or linens).
- Experiment with using it on its own or mixed with an oil, lotion, or body butter. Some people’s skin needs more hydration, whereas others need a mixture of extra hydration and lipids coming from an oil or moisturizer.
My experience using glycerin for dry skin on my body
When I first started using glycerin on my body to treat dry skin, I used it straight out of the bottle. I didn’t mix it with anything.
The first time I used it, I was surprised just how easy it was to apply, and how little you need to cover your entire body. You need a lot less than you would an oil.
The consistency is quite unique. It reminds me a little bit of a dry oil, without it making your skin shiny or greasy. Other humectants can sometimes be sticky or tacky, or when they dry down, they can make your skin feel tight. Glycerin doesn’t quite do that. Once it’s absorbed, it makes your skin hydrated and soft.
The first few weeks using glycerin, I was using it once a day. I applied it right after showering on damp skin.
When you apply it to your skin, at first it feels a little warm (not in an irritating way). When you touch your skin after applying it, your skin feels slightly damp, as if there is a film of water coating your skin. Eventually after a good 10-20 minutes it will absorb. I never had a problem with it rubbing off on my cloths or linens, but it did feel different than anything I’ve used before. It’s not greasy or thick, but it makes your skin quite moist and takes a while to absorb, especially if your skin is damp or wet when you apply it.
I noticed when I applied it to dry skin, it absorbs much faster. There’s also a lot less residue on the surface of your skin. But, it was less hydrating than when using it on damp skin.
After using it daily for 2 weeks, my skin was looking and feeling better, much better than using an oil or cream.
After the second week, a crazy thing started to happen. All the dry skin on my arms began to peel! The peeling wasn’t like sun burn surface peeling, but rather, a thicker shedding of layers of dry skin and build up. If I rubbed my skin, all this dead skin would start coming off, revealing softer and healthier skin underneath.
I believe this happened because the glycerin was attracting a lot of moisture to my skin, which loosened up all the build up on the surface of my skin. All that build up could be what was keeping my skin so dry, not allowing anything to penetrate through it.
It was interesting to me because I regularly use a dry skin brush and body scrubs to exfoliate my skin. But evidently there was still a heavy layer that needed to come off. The glycerin was the only thing that could get through it.
It was only my arms that peeled. My legs and the rest of my body never peeled. But once the peeling passed (after a few days), my skin on my entire body was no longer dry, scaly, chalky or flaky.
After about a month, I started decreasing the frequency of use to every other day, and mixed in a few drops of body oil with the glycerin. I wanted to see if adding oil would boost the moisturization, which it did. I also didn’t need to moisturize with anything on the days that I didn’t use the glycerin. My skin was perfectly hydrated and soft on its own. As time went by, I continued to lower the frequency of use.
It’s now been about 5-6 months since I started using glycerin to treat my dry skin. I’m now only using it once a week, or once every two weeks, with a few drops of oil mixed in. That’s all I need, and my skin is perfectly balanced and hydrated on its own.
I love how soft it’s made my skin. I especially love how little product I need to use. Before, I always felt like I was going through body oils and body butters so quickly, nothing seemed to last beyond a few weeks. Now that I’m using the glycerin combined with a few drops of my favourite body oil, my beloved products last much longer.
I’m so happy I no longer have dry skin. When I do use the glycerin, it’s more for maintenance and not because my skin is flaking or showing signs of getting dry or scaly.
More tips for dry skin
In addition to using glycerin for dry skin, here’s a few more things you can add to your daily routine to boost your results:
- Try bathing with cold or lukewarm water. Hot water seriously dehydrates your skin. If you don’t like cold showers, just lowering the temperature slightly can still make a difference.
- Using an oil or moisturizer in conjunction with a humectant (like glycerine) can help seal in moisture. If you have super dry skin, you can first try glycerin on its own. If you need more moisturizing, add a few drops of a body oil (you don’t need a lot), or apply a moisturizer or body lotion on top of the glycerin. Recently I’ve been applying a thin layer of a balm or on top of the glycerin and getting even better results (it really seals in the moisture). This is good if your skin is really dry and flaky.
- Using a dry skin brush or a body scrub a few times a week will help to remove build up off the surface of your skin to allow the glycerin and other moisturizing products to penetrate skin better.
- Humectants like glycerin are known to draw moisture from the air to your skin. If you live in a dry climate or use indoor heating or air conditioning, you might want to get a cold water air humidifier. This will release water and moisture into the air, which can help hydrate your skin better.
Can you use glycerin on your face?
Glycerin is also a great hydrating ingredient for the face.
But, the skin on your face is much more fragile and sensitive than the skin on your body. You need to be careful using glycerin on your face.
You want to be using enough that your skin gets extra hydration from the glycerin, but not too much that it irritates your skin.
There’s two ways of adding glycerin to your skincare routine (choose one):
- Add a hydrating facial mist or serum to your skincare routine that contains a therapeutic amount of glycerin (shop for a product that has glycerin listed in the first 3-5 ingredients). For best results, apply a moisturizer or facial oil on top of the hydrating product to seal in moisture.
- Add 1 tiny drop of glycerin to your serum or moisturizer (starting with once a day for 2 weeks. If your skin responds well and you still need more hydration, you can increase the frequency to twice a day). If you add the glycerin to a water-based serum, you’ll need to apply a moisturizer or facial on top to seal in moisture.
I don’t recommend applying undiluted glycerin to your face. It can be too strong and irritating.
For the face, always use a very small amount (like a tiny drop). Always dilute it with a serum, rose water, facial oil, or moisturizer.
If you dilute it with a water-based product like a serum or rosewater, best to apply a moisturizer, facial oil or balm on top to seal in moisture.
Buying glycerin, what you need to know
Glycerin comes from many sources (including animal, vegetable, and synthetic sources).
I recommend getting a 100% vegetable glycerin, preferably food grade.
It can be called glycerin, glycerine, or glycerol – don’t worry, it’s all the same!
It’s very inexpensive, and a little goes a long way.
References for this article
Fluhr JW, Darlenski R, Surber C. Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. Br J Dermatol. 2008;159(1):23–34. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2008.08643.x
Milani, M., & Sparavigna, A. (2017). The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 311–315. doi:10.2147/CCID.S144180
Lodén, Marie & Andersson, Anna-Carin & Anderson, Chris & Bergbrant, Ing-Marie & Frödin, Thomas & Ohman, Hans & Sandström, Mari-Helen & Särnhult, Tore & Voog, Ewa & Stenberg, Berndt & Pawlik, Eva & Preisler-Häggqvist, Anna & Svensson, Ake & Lindberg, Mervi. (2002). A Double-Blind Study Comparing the Effect of Glycerin and Urea on Dry, Eczematous Skin in Atopic Patients. Acta dermato-venereologica. 82. 45-7. doi:10.1080/000155502753600885
Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, S. K., & Gambhir, M. L. (2016). Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian journal of dermatology, 61(3), 279–287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427