Since its discovery in 1779, glycerine, also known as glycerin or glycerol, has been used extensively in
pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It has a wide variety of uses, including being an antimicrobial preservative, solvent, emollient, humectant and sweetener.
It is environmentally safe and occurs naturally in animal and vegetable fats and oils, many of which are consumed as part of a normal diet. The glycerine that is used in topical products can be produced synthetically or from vegetable sources, but is most commonly produced as a by-product of the meat industry.
Prior to use in topical products, glycerin is purified, with most manufacturers of topical medicines using pharmacopeia grade glycerine.
Glycerin occurs naturally in the skin and comes from the circulation, the breakdown of sebum triglycerides and topical application. Changes in skin hydration have been shown to correlate with glycerine content.
Glycerin has a significant role in cell proliferation, skin hydration, skin elasticity, barrier recovery and lipid synthesis, while also playing a role in wound healing.
Extracted from Science in Practice