The strange but true beginnings of stearates and allantoin

7 years ago

Some mystery ingredients – particularly stearates and allantoin – in personal care products are safe. Even though they’re natural, they do come from some pretty unusual sources:

Stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid, often is found in foods like margarine and shortening. But it’s also part of soaps, hairspray, hair conditioners, deodorants and cosmetics. 

The good news is that it’s a safe ingredient. While it can be found in chocolate, coconut and other vegetable fats, the bad news is that it’s usually taken from animals. Animal advocates should be warned that PETA reports most stearic acid is taken from rendered animal fat – from cows, sheep, pigs, and euthanized dogs and cats.

Similar to stearic acid, stearyl alcohol is a natural and safe ingredient that’s often used in skin moisturizers and cleansers, hair conditioners, lubricants, depilatories, and cosmetics like foundation and eye makeup. This white, waxy solid helps form emulsions (keeping oils and liquids together) and acts as a skin softening lubricant. It also helps prevent products from foaming when shaken.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Stearates – PEG-2 Stearate, PEG-6 Stearate, PEG-8 Stearate, PEG-12 Stearate, PEG-20 Stearate, PEG-32 Stearate, PEG-40 Stearate, PEG-50 Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, PEG-150 Stearate – are organic compounds of polyethylene glycol and stearic acid. (FYI: The numbers indicate the molecular weight of the polyethylene glycol.) They’re often used in personal care products like conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, skin creams and soapless detergents, and they help water rinse away oil and dirt. Because polyethylene glycol often is contaminated by the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane, PEG Stearates are not safe like stearic acid or stearyl alcohol.

Extracted from the leaves and roots of the comfrey plant, allantoin is a natural and safe ingredient that’s used to heal, moisturize, soften and soothe skin. Not only is allantoin non-toxic, but it’s also non-allergenic.

It’s found in lotions, skin creams, cosmetics, oral hygiene products, and medications for acne, eczema, impetigo and psoriasis. It’s helpful when treating burns (including sunburn), chapped lips, cold sores, diaper rash, scars and wounds. Allantoin’s often found in anti-aging products because of its ability to rejuvenate skin.

While it’s taken from comfrey, allantoin also is found in wheat germ, sugar beets, tobacco seeds, chamomile, fetal allantoic fluid, the urine of pregnant women, dog urine, and earthworms. I warned you that some of the sources were pretty unusual!

Stacey Ogden's Homemade giveaway
On Friday, you can read about natural and safe personal care products created and sold at Stacey Ogden's Homemade. Stacey Ogden is generously providing an Accidentally Green giveaway to one entrant: 

  • Face and Body Wash
  • Dry Skin Cream and Lip Balm
  • All-In-One mini spray
  • Vanilla Lavender Body Mist/Air Freshener/Linen Spray

For entry details, visit Accidentally Green.

Find out how to make healthy choices that honor God and happen to help the environment at

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