Conflicts of interest C.S. is associated with Spirig AG, manufacturer of skincare products.
Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions
Article first published online: 27 MAY 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2008 British Association of Dermatologists
British Journal of Dermatology
Volume 159, Issue 1, pages 23–34, July 2008
How to Cite
Fluhr, J.W., Darlenski, R. and Surber, C. (2008), Glycerol and the skin: holistic approach to its origin and functions. British Journal of Dermatology, 159: 23–34. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2008.08643.x
- Issue published online: 27 MAY 2008
- Article first published online: 27 MAY 2008
- Accepted for publication 1 March 2008
- epidermal barrier;
- wound healing
Glycerol is a trihydroxy alcohol that has been included for many years in topical dermatological preparations. In addition, endogenous glycerol plays a role in skin hydration, cutaneous elasticity and epidermal barrier repair. The aquaporin-3 transport channel and lipid metabolism in the pilosebaceous unit have been evidenced as potential pathways for endogenous delivery of glycerol and for its metabolism in the skin. Multiple effects of glycerol on the skin have been reported. The diverse actions of the polyol glycerol on the epidermis include improvement of stratum corneum hydration, skin barrier function and skin mechanical properties, inhibition of the stratum corneum lipid phase transition, protection against irritating stimuli, enhancement of desmosomal degradation, and acceleration of wound-healing processes. Even an antimicrobial effect has been demonstrated. Topical application of glycerol-containing products improves skin properties in diseases characterized by xerosis and impaired epidermal barrier function, such as atopic dermatitis. The increase of epidermal hydration by glycerol is critical in skin conditions aggravated by dry and cold environmental conditions, e.g. winter xerosis. This paper provides a review on effects of glycerol on the skin, the mechanisms of its action, and the potential applications of glycerol in dermatology.