What Is PEG 100 Stearate?
PEG or polyethylene glycol stearate is an ingredient that is used in skincare and body care products. PEG 100 stearate is a soft waxy substance used in moisturizers, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, and soap-free detergents. The 100 in PEG 100 stearate refers to the number of ethylene oxide monomers present on the molecule. PEG 100 stearate is mainly utilized in your skincare products due to its emulsifying abilities. Emulsifiers help to mix oil and water-based ingredients so that they produce a smooth, stable texture. This emulsifying characteristic of PEG 100 stearate also helps to lift oil and dirt from the skin so that it can be rinsed away, making it a staple addition to cleansers and body washes.
PEG 100 stearate is a PEG; PEGs are a class of ingredients that have been involved in controversy over their use, particularly from the clean or green beauty industry. This controversy is in part due to claims that it is linked to toxicity within the body due to the presence of impurities during the manufacturing process. This toxicity claim has been evaluated by both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, both of these groups are responsible for evaluation and regulation of skincare ingredients in the US. Through their research, they determined PEG compounds safe for their indicated uses in skincare and personal care products. In 2002 the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel reviewed newly available data and reaffirmed the approval. However, if you are concerned, discuss PEG 100 Stearate with a doctor or dermatologist, who can advise you whether your medical history may place you at risk with this ingredient.
PEG 100 Stearate
the good: PEG 100 stearate is used as an emollient and a moisturizer.
the not so good: PEG 100 stearate can cause irritation for some skin types.
Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients.
Keep an eye on: Due to kidney issues associated with the use of PEG 100 stearate products on burn patients, it is recommended to not use PEG 100 stearate containing products on broken skin.
Is PEG 100 Stearate Safe?
The safety of PEG compounds has been called into question in recent years. The questioning of the safety of this ingredient is due to toxicity concerns that result from impurities found in PEG compounds. The impurities of concern are ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, both are by-products of the manufacturing process. Both 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide have been suggested to be linked with breast and uterine cancers. While these impurities may have been a concern previously, ingredient manufacturers and improved processes have eliminated the risk of impurities in the final product. The level of impurities that were found initially in PEG manufacturing was low in comparison to the levels proposed to be linked to cancers. Longitudinal studies or studies over a long period of use of PEG compounds have not found any significant toxicity or any significant impact on reproductive health. When applied topically, PEG 100 Stearate is not believed to pose significant dangers to human health. It doesn’t penetrate deeply into the skin and isn’t thought to have bioaccumulation concerns when used topically.
Through research, PEG compounds have exhibited evidence that they are non-irritating ingredients to the eyes or the skin. This research used highly concentrated forms of the ingredient, concentrations that would not be found in your skincare products. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel found PEG compounds to be non-photosensitizing and non-irritating at concentrations up to 100%.
However, despite the evidence suggesting that PEG compounds are non-irritating, some research has indicated that irritation can occur when the skin is broken or already irritated. In a study that was trialing the use of PEG containing antimicrobial cream on burn patients, some patients experienced kidney toxicity. The concentration of PEG compounds was identified to be the culprit. Given that there was no evidence of toxicity in any study of PEGs and intact skin, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel amended their safety guidelines to exclude the use of PEG containing products on broken or damaged skin.
Is PEG 100 Stearate Vegan?
Depending on the source of the stearic acid used to make PEG 100 stearate, it may be vegan. Most of the time, stearic acid is derived from plants. However, it can also be derived from animal origin. If it is of animal origin, the product has to comply with animal by-product regulation. Check with the brand you are thinking of using to determine whether their PEG 100 stearate is derived from a plant or animal source.
Why Is PEG 100 Stearate Used?
PEG 100 Stearate is included in skincare and beauty products for a variety of reasons, ranging from making the skin softer to helping product formulations better keep their original consistency.
As an emollient, PEG 100 stearate is included within skincare product formulations to give the skin a softer feel. It achieves this through strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier by forming a thin fatty layer on the skin’s surface, which prevents moisture loss and increases overall hydration. This moisturizing effect increases the hydration of skin cells, which in turn makes the skin softer and boosts skin health.
Another use for PEG 100 stearate has to do with its emulsification properties. Emulsifiers are valued in the skincare and personal care industries because of their ability to mix water and oils. Without this ability, the oils in many formulations would begin to separate from the water molecules, thus undermining product texture and consistency. PEG 100 stearate is also used to help to cleanse through mixing oil and dirt so that it can be rinsed away.
Lastly, PEG 100 stearate can also act as a surfactant, when used in body and facial cleansers. Surfactants disrupt surface tension, helping to mix water and oil. This characteristic helps the ingredient cleanse the skin by mixing oil with water, lifting dirt trapped inside the skin’s oils, and rinsing it away from the skin.
What Types of Products Contain PEG 100 Stearate?
There are many products in the skin and personal care industry that are formulated with PEG 100 stearate because of its benefits to formulations and its relative safety. Facial cleansers, shampoos, lotions, and face creams have all been known to contain this ingredient. If you’ve had problems with this ingredient before, or if your doctor has advised you to stay away from PEG 100 stearate, it’s vital to read ingredient labels for any personal care product as it has many applications.
Jang, H, Shin, C & Kim, K, 2015. ‘Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds for Cosmetic Use, Toxicological Research, vol. 31, pp. 105-136.
Cosmetics Ingredient Review, 2014. ‘Safety Assessment of PEG Diesters as Used in Cosmetics, Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel.