Glycerin and Glycolic acid: What are the differences and their functions to the skin?

Hydroxyacetic acid or glycolic acid is a kind of AHA used in skincare and beauty products. It is also the simplest and smallest of AHAs. The little glycolic acid molecules have other alcoholic and acidic elements. While glycerin in its pure form is glycerol, alcohol, and it is also the adulterated and saleable form of glycerol. It performs like humectants, which permit the skin to hold moisture; this function makes it an excellent skincare ingredient. So, both glycolic acid and glycerin provide humectants functions in skincare. But the comparison does not stop there, you will discover if they share other similarities or dissimilarities in this article.


As already mentioned, it is a humectant, hence can help your skin hold water. Also, glycerin is an emollient that helps to soften rough skin caused by skin issues like rosacea, eczema, and acne, etc. Fight skin bacteria with glycerin. The microbial actives in the skin ingredient help to avert dangerous microorganisms from your skin.

Glycerin and whitening

Some people claim that it helps to lighten the skin, but there is no research to support it. However, it does facilitate skin exfoliation – perhaps this is the reason people think it lightens the skin. When used n the skin, the humectants agent can boost hydration on the epidermis level, which aids exfoliation.

Glycolic acid

It belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid family that is popularly used to tackle hyperpigmentation problems, anti-aging, acne, and dryness. Taken as AHAs golden standard, glycolic acid has a keratolytic agent that exfoliates dead skin from the outer skin hence reducing wrinkles and fine lines, lightening dark spots, and removing acne. Like glycerin, it is a humectant with the chemical capacity to attract moisture to exfoliated skin. If used properly, it will not only hydrate your skin but averts aging marks like wrinkles and fine lines. Also, it promotes easy absorption of other skincare ingredients into the body.

Similarities between glycerin and glycolic acid 

They both have a hand in hydrating and exfoliating the body at different levels. Glycolic provides this function on a deeper level, while glycerin carries out hydration and exfoliation at a cursory level. But the fact is each of the ingredients provides immense benefits to the skin in different capacities.


Now to what makes these two ingredients different from each other? 


You can find glycolic acid in fruits like beets, grapes, and sugarcane. This non-inflammable acid is an excellent skincare ingredient that plays a significant role in maintaining excellent skin health. Glycerin on the other hand is sourced from plant and animal fat, and it can also be produced synthetically.

Toxicity and odor

Glycerin is non-poisonous and odorless, with a sugary taste, but raw glycerin which is the end-product of biodiesel is neither non-poisonous nor odorless. Glycolic acid possesses reduced toxicity and smell.

What is their mixable solvent?

Glycerin easily dissolves in alcohol and water but does not mix in oils. It is solvent because you can mix some elements faster in glycerin than you can in water or alcohol. Glycolic acid is soluble in water and leaves little or no remains to wash off. The ingredients combine effortlessly, and as a flexible fluid, it is used in production because its salt content is low.

Usage in the industry

Industry-standard Glycolic acid is utilized for the cleaning of metals, concrete, dairy, hardtops, and equipment. Additionally, industries use it in producing industrial chemicals, dying textile, printed circuit panels, and refining petroleum.

 Because glycolic acid can enter the skin, it is used in the skincare industry as a treatment against skin problems.

Some years back, glycerin was used in producing dynamite. Today, it can be utilized for agent anti-freezing on hydraulic jacks, old lubrication ad science specimen preservation.

So far this is an abridged difference and similarities between two great and popular skincare ingredients, hope you learned one or two things.

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