Glycerin’s in a lot of skincare products because it’s an awesome humectant moisturiser that can grab onto water and hold it to the skin. It’s also very cheap to buy at the supermarket ($9.35 for 200 mL at Coles in Australia, $6-7 for 473 mL/16 fl. oz on iHerb or Amazon).
What can you do with it? Here are some (low-effort) suggestions:
Make a moisturising nail polish remover
Most nail polish removers have this issue where they either work very well but dessicate your cuticles, or they’re kind to your skin but take forever to dissolve nail polish. This acetone-glycerin mix blends the best of both worlds: acetone will dissolve your nail polish like no one’s business, and glycerin will stop it from stripping away moisture. Here’s my recipe for a gentle but effective DIY glycerin/acetone remover.
Make a hydrating toner
Glycerin is found in tons of toners thanks to its ability to hold onto water, which can revive dehydrated skin. Plain water will normally dehydrate your skin because it makes your skin more permeable, then when it evaporates it makes your skin drier than before. Adding glycerin stops this from happening. The only problem with this is that glycerin/water combos need preservatives if you leave them for more than a few days, because glycerin is very good food for bacteria (if it’s above ~50% glycerin content it’s a bit like honey so bacteria can’t survive…but it’s also sticky and thick like honey so it isn’t pleasant to have on your skin all day).
For a simple water/glycerin spray you can mix distilled water with glycerin in a 10:1 ratio (use less glycerin if this is too sticky). If you don’t want to remake your toner every few days, you’ll have to add a tiny amount of a preservative such as Germaben II.
A way of getting around using a preservative is to mix water and glycerin in your hand every day right when you’re about to use it. After cleansing your face, pat it dry with a towel. Then put one drop on your hand and add a splash of water. Pat it all over your face for immediate hydration. If you live in a dry climate, seal it in with a moisturiser containing occlusive ingredients.
Put glycerin in DIY serums
You can also add a drop or two of glycerin to your DIY vitamin C serum to add a hydrating boost. The low pH will help control bacteria so it’ll last a little longer, and you have to remake the serum at least once a week anyway due to vitamin C degradation.
Use glycerin to boost your moisturisers
If you have a cream that isn’t quite as hydrating as you’d like, you can mix a drop of glycerin into it in your hand right before you apply it. This way you don’t have to worry about whether or not the glycerin is messing up the preservative system of the rest of your product. Be warned though: a small amount of glycerin goes a long way, so there’ll be a bit of trial and error before you’ll get the right balance between sticky and hydrating.
Add glycerin to clay masks to stop dehydration
Clay masks are great for sucking out oil, but they can also be dehydrating. Glycerin helps your skin hold onto water while letting the oil leave. I find it especially good for mixing into an Aztec Clay Mask. A few drops along with vinegar or citric acid/water makes a big difference!
I haven’t tried this myself, but you can add a teaspoon of glycerin to your shampoo to keep your scalp hydrated while washing, and you can spray a mixture (1:4 glycerin/water) into your hair to make it softer and to define curls. Be warned though – it can cause frizziness!
DIY eyeshadow foiling medium
If you want to make your eyeshadows really pop, or if you have a loose eyeshadow powder that you’re not coordinated enough to use normally, mixing it with water and glycerin as a foiling medium might be your answer. The swatches below are of a loose eyeshadow, from left to right on bare skin, over a primer and with DIY foiling medium (1:3 glycerin/water).
What are your favourite uses for glycerin? Let me know in the comments!
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