What Is Glyceryl Stearate and Is It Safe?
CAS No: 123-94-4
Appearance: White Flakes
Glyceryl Stearate (also less often called Glyceryl Monostearate, Monostearin, 1-Glyceryl Stearate or Glycerol 1-Monostearate) is a glyceryl ester of stearic acid. It offers many great benefits to the manufacturers of food, cosmetics, persona care, and pharmaceutical items. It is relatively low cost and gives much needed body and smoothness to edible and non-edible emulsions.
Yet, as naturally inquisitive consumers we also want to know if glyceryl stearate (that we more or less consume or interact with daily) is safe? The rest of this article will explore that very question in depth.
What is it made of ? / Is It Natural?
As hinted at before glyceryl stearate is derived from stearic acid. But to really get down to the heart of the quesiton "what is glyceryl monostearate made of"; let's look at the chemical processes that manufacturers use.
Figure. 1 above shows a simplified version of a typical reaction that creates glyceryl stearate. Here, glycerin is reacted with stearic acid (a fatty acid found in animals and plants). The glyceryl stearate comes out as a solid white substance that is often ground down into flakes or a powder, depending on industry need.
Is It Natural?
That's a very good question. Honestly, the definition of natural is still up in the air....legally. Despite the pleas and cries of food and cosmetic brands all across the U.S., to date, the FDA has not given a firm standard of the word "natural" or the phrase "100% natural." So for now, let's assume that a natural substance is one that occurs in nature or is the result of combining compounds already found in nature (i.e. nothing synthetic).
Given this, we know that Glycerin is a byproduct of many natural chemical reactions. For example, in many soap reactions the act of combining lye (strong base) with tallow (a fatty acid) with result in soap (salt) and some glycerin byproduct. Many manufacturers of glycerin will use animal and/or plant oils (fatty acids) to create this glycerin byproduct. However, it should be noted that glycerin made from animal fat is rapidly falling our of favor. Glycerin can also be produced as a byproduct of certain reactions with petroleum. (This too is also falling out of favor).
Meanwhile, Stearic Acid is a very basic fatty acid that is manufactured and consumed in both plants and animals. In truth, glyceryl stearate itself is made by the human body (though is relatively small quantities). It is created through a process called pancreatic-lipase. [Please note: Some manufacturers of glyceryl stearate specialize in creating only vegan or "plant-based" source of glyceryl stearate. Ask for doucmentation in case you are ever not sure.]
Is It Processed?
Most definitely. In order to make the vast and cheap quantities that are necessary for industry, it requires an industrial process.
Is It Organic?
For Glyceryl Stearate to be organic, the components used to create the Glyceryl Stearate have to be from organic sources. Also, the process used to create it has to be solely for organic production. Fortunately, you can get organic glyceryl stearate from a select few manufacturers.
What Are It's Uses?
Glyceryl Stearate is chiefly used in cosmetics / personal care items, certain types of foods, and pharmaceuticals.
Use In Cosmetics:
Glyceryl Monostearate's use in cosmetics is extensive. Just look on the back of any lotion or cream in the store isle. The reason for this is due to what glyceryl stearate is made of and the structure of its chemical bonds. The glyceryl stearate molecule has a hydorphilic (water-loving) and a lipophilic (oil-loving) side. This allows it to combine water and oils (which normally do not combine) and keep them for separating. Different grades of Glyceryl Stearate combine different oils and water with varying levels of effectiveness. For example, Glyceryl Stearate SE is a form of glyceryl stearate with an added surfactant that can make the combination process very efficient.
Glyceryl Stearate also acts as a moisturizer on the skin's surface. It also slows down the loss of water from the skin's surface by creating a barrier on top of it. For this reason, some critics have accused manufacturers of using "cheap" Glyceryl Stearate in place of more expensive but richer ingredients (butters and waxes) to enhance skin moisture and quality.
Use In Food & Pharmaceuticals:
Glyceryl Stearate's use in ingestible foods and drugs is less common but still noteworthy. Anytime food scientists want to add "body" or a smooth texture to foods or medicines; they can choose glyceryl stearate among a long list of other ingredients. For instance, glyceryl stearate has been used by certain ice cream brands to impart a smooth texture to their product.
The Best, Most Detailed, And By Far Most Entertaining Explanation of What Glyceryl Stearate Is On Youtube.
Is it Safe?
Overall, glyceryl monostearate is a safe and stable substance. There has been a recent uproar about the use of glyceryl monostearate in cosmetics. However, the chance of glyceryl stearate affecting actually penetrating the skin is very small given how large the molecule is. Moreover, if it does penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream; you body will instantly know what to do with it as your body produces it in limited quantities.
There is an argument that unnaturally high levels of Glyceryl Monostearate in the body can lead to toxicity. However, the risk of toxicity is very low. Keep in mind that during the 90's it was somewhat popular for some bodybuilders to consume glyceryl monostearate to retain water and improve the workout performance. The consequences of way too much glyceryl stearate in the bloodstream seem to be nausea, diarrhea, and it could be a problem for those with cholesterol issues.
Keep This In Mind When Purchasing:
When purchasing Glyceryl Stearate keep in mind that it comes in many variations. Consult a chemist or the manufacturer/distributor that you got the material from if you have any questions about the chemicals uses. Also for those in the U.S. seeking to sell in the strictest regulatory state of all....California. Glyceryl Stearate generally passes California's Prop 65 by being a product that "does not cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm." [see ref 1.]
Sample Formula: Sprayable Lotion
- Water 84.7%
- Glycerin 2.0%
- Hydrolyzed Oats 2.0%
- Squalane 5.0%
- Isopropyl Myristate 2.0%
- Cetearyl Alcohol 1.5%
- Glyceryl Stearate 0.6%
- Ceteareth 20 1.2%
- Phenonip 0.5%
- Fragrance 0.5%
- California's Prop 65 Wording: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_65_(1986)