Unique Ingredients Stearic Acid


Unique Ingredients: Stearic Acid

Find out what this multi-tasking ingredient is doing in all your products.



3 MIN READ | JUNE 11, 2021


Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.

Stearic Acid is a true jack of all trades ingredient. Often overlooked as just something used to stabilize skincare products, this fatty acid actually offers a multitude of benefits to our skin. A moisturizing, barrier boosting, and gently cleansing ingredient, Stearic Acid can be found in everything ranging from Retinol serums to cleansers.

What is Stearic Acid?

Also known as Octadecanoic Acid, Stearic Acid can be derived from both animals and vegetables, with Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter having particularly high concentrations. Atolla formulas are vegan and use a plant-derived source.

Unlike exfoliating acids such as Glycolic, Lactic, and Lactobionic Acid, Stearic Acid is a fatty acid. While AHAs (Glycolic, Lactic), BHAs (Salicylic Acid), and PHAs (Lactobionic Acid) work to remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, fatty acids are the building blocks of the fats and oils that keep our skin supple and lubricated. 

What are the benefits of Stearic Acid?

What makes Stearic Acid particularly unique is the many roles it can play in our skincare products, including:

Emollient – A class of ingredients that soften and moisturize the skin. Examples include fatty acids (like Stearic Acid), Shea Butter, Petrolatum (Vaseline), and Plant Oils (Marula, Argan). Emollients are also used to thicken skincare products and create a more pleasing feel and texture.

Emulsifier – Emulsifiers are used to mix water and oil-based ingredients in skincare products. With hydrophilic (water attracting) and hydrophobic (oil attracting) properties Stearic Acid is able to pull these ingredients together and prevent them from separating.

Barrier Support – Our skin barrier is composed of cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides. These essential components help protect our skin from environmental irritants and hydrate to prevent dryness. A compromised skin barrier can result in irritation, dry skin, overactive oil production, and breakouts. Barrier fortifying ingredients include fatty acids, Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, and Colloidal Oatmeal.

Cleansing (surfactants) – Short for surface active agent, surfactants help wash away dirt and oils from the skin. These ingredients have been given a bad rap due to drying and sensitizing surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, however the vast majority are gentle and well tolerated by most.

So why has Stearic Acid been overlooked for so long? 

We’re not sure! It’s barrier fortifying just like more popular ingredients such as Ceramides and Niacinamide. It has emollient/moisturizing properties just like plant-based oils. To top it all off, it’s also a gently cleansing ingredient that doesn’t over-strip your skin of its natural oils.

As an esthetician, I personally believe that Stearic Acid’s popularity has been hindered by the very fact it is so multi-functional and in many different types of skincare products. With traditional skincare marketing, we are always sold the next “hero” ingredient. Because of this, we sometimes forget about the workhorse ingredients that allow all the more known “active” ingredients to function at their best.

What does Stearic Acid pair well with?

Stearic Acid pairs well with nearly all skincare ingredients and is sometimes included in products with actives like Retinol to mitigate potential dryness and irritation. It’s also known to be well tolerated by most, with reactions and side effects being rare. 

See if Stearic Acid is in any of your Atolla formulas by taking our skin assessment!

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