‘I’ve Been a Dermatologist for 20 Years—Here’s Why Glycerin Is the Unsung Hero of Winter Skin Hydration’

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Time and time again, we hear that hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalane are the MVPs of winter skin care. And, yes, these ingredients are fabulous, but there's another hydrating active that may not be on your radar, but absolutely should be. Enter: glycerin. According to Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Miami, it's the unsung hero of winter skin care.

"When I put a product on, I can tell instantly when glycerin is high up on the ingredient list," says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. "It just feels like butter."

Glycerin is a humectant, which is a class of ingredients that act like sponges to attract moisture into the skin. "Hyaluronic acid is also a humectant but hyaluronic acid doesn't give products that same slick feel that glycerin does," says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. You'll typically find glycerin in moisturizers paired with occlusive ingredients, like petrolatum and lanolin, which help seal the moisture that glycerin attracts. "In general, humectants work best when teamed with an occlusive or a slight occlusive to prevent the moisture from evaporating away," says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd.

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Glycerin moisturizers feel uniquely rich and creamy because the ingredient goes on so smoothly that it can make even a $6 formula feel luxe. To ensure you'll get that nice, buttery feeling, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says to make sure glycerin is within the first five ingredients listed on the label, as ingredients are listed from the highest concentration to the least. Below, shop four derm-approved formulas that fit the bill.

4 Glycerin moisturizers Dr. Woolery-Lloyd loves

A white jar with a blue lid of Pond's moisturizer.
Pond's Dry Skin Cream — $10.00

“This is an old-school product, and it’s been around for so long for a reason,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “It’s never gonna go away.” Glycerin is the fifth ingredient in this rich cream, which feels buttery smooth and makes your skin so soft. Note that it does include fragrance, so if you’re prone to sensitivities, grab this fragrance-free version instead.


A white tube of hand cream.
Eucerin Advanced Repair Hand Cream — $5.00

Dr. Woolery-Looyd is constantly washing her hands between patients, so having a good hand cream is key—and this one from Eucerin is her favorite. “My hands get really dry that I wash my hands multiple times a day so it is very important for me to have a great hand moisturizer,” she says. It pairs glycerin (which is ingredient #3) with urea, a skin-softening chemical exfoliant, to help hydration penetrate into the deepest layers of your complexion.

A white jar of Atopaml moisturizer with a red lid.
Atopalm MLE Cream — $20.00

Dr. Woolery-Lloyd is also a huge fan of this face and body cream from Atopalm, which lists glycerin as the second ingredient after water. It’s also packed with ceramides, which strengthen the skin barrier to prevent transepidermal water loss and lock in moisture.

A white tube of skin balm.
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Soothing Therapeutic Multi Purpose — $16.00

Glycerin and shea butter make this balm supremely moisturizing while dimethicone acts as an occlusive to hold in all that moisture. Use it on your face, lips, body, and hands to soothe dry, irritated skin.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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