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Stearic acid (SA) is a saturated 18-carbon length fatty acid derived from animal fats, vegetable oils, or other feedstocks. It is commonly used in over 3,200 skin, hair, and cosmetics products as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier. It can also be used in soaps, detergents, greases, and house cleaners, as well as plastics and metals such as copper and steel.
In skin care, SA is a mild emollient that softens and smooths the surface of the skin. It is a great moisturizer and helps prevent dryness and flakiness, especially in people with psoriasis. In addition to this, it has occlusive properties that help keep the skin hydrated and reduce water loss from the surface of the skin. It is also an effective lubricant and can be used in combination with other ingredients to create a pearly finish in lubricants.
It is a natural ingredient and considered safe for most people. It is easy to tolerate and works well in conjunction with almost any ingredient, so it can be added to a product at nearly any point in the formulation process. It is also often paired with more irritating actives, because it can lessen the drying effects of these ingredients.
In soaps, it can be used in large amounts to stiffen and harden soap bars. It can also be used to make anhydrous products like scrubs and salves feel buttery, without the need for waxes. It also raises the melting point of anhydrous products, making them easier to work with in hot weather.