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Stearic Acid

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Latest revision as of 14:38, 8 January 2012

Stearic Acid


Stearic acid is an odorless, colorless, wax-like fatty acid that is commonly found in natural vegetable and animal fats. It is also found in cocoa butter fat. Stearic acid can either be in flakes or in powder form. It is a saturated fat, but research shows that it has a neutral effect on cholesterol unlike other saturated fatty acids. Oleic acid is observed to be the cause of high blood pressure on some people and not stearic acid.

Stearic has a molecular weight of 284.48 amu and a freezing point of 157F. It can be considered as part of a vegan diet.

History and Origin

Stearic Acid is the most common saturated fatty acid that is present in most animal and vegetable fats and oils. The name of this waxy solid comes from the Greek word ‘steatos’ that means tallow. Stearates are the name given to its salts and esters.

Stearic acid is produced from carbohydrates through the fatty acid synthesis process. Commercial stearic acid is usually a mixture of palmitic and stearic acids. Purified stearic acid is also available.

Ancient Uses

Before the modern world popularized the use of stearic acid, it was already in use in ancient Egypt. Stearic acid, together with palmitic acid, was used by the ancient Egyptian civilization as a gel to hold the hair of the Egyptians in elaborate styles. Proof to this fact are the studies made on mummies found by archaeologists. Some findings have revealed that soap was also accidentally discovered during the ancient world when people attempted to extract oil form animal fat.

Most plants and seeds that are rich in stearic acid were used for medicine during ancient Egypt and Rome.

Modern Uses

Stearic acid is used as a releasing agent in the production of automobile tires, softeners for textile sizing, and in grease and other lubricants.

In cosmetics, stearic acid is used as a stabilizer for lotions, deodorants, and creams. It provides binding and thickening properties on the products that makes the products stick smoothly to the skin and have extended shelf life.

Stearic acid is used in numerous food products. It is used in the production of shortenings, margarines, spreads, and butters. It is also used in the production of chewing gums.

One of the most commonly known uses of stearic acid is in the manufacture of candles. It is used as a hardener and strengthener for candles.

Other uses of stearic acid include candy hardening, manufacture of fireworks and metal polishers, injection molding, and in ceramic making.

Side Effects

Generally, stearic acid is considered safe for human consumption and use. The FDA includes stearic acid on its list of to be Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) as a direct food additive. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel also considers stearic acid as safe for us in cosmetic products.

No adverse effects are observed at high doses on the topical application of stearic acid. Results of studies proved that stearic acid is non-toxic, nonirritating, and noncarcinogenic. 100% pure form of stearic acid is safe for pregnant women, but consultation with a doctor is recommended before actual use.

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