What On Earth Is… Glyceryl Stearate

Glyceryl Stearate is the main ingredient in Shaklee’s Prosante Lightweight Conditioner, and as such, wins the honor of being first to go under the microscope in our “What on Earth is…” series. As promised, let us start with the Shaklee definition. The bottle reads ‘glyceryl stearate’, but on the Shaklee ingredients list there is no glyceryl stearate. There is glyceryl palmitostearate, however the addition of ‘palmito’ adds palmitic acid to the mix. Furthermore, Shaklee seems to be specifically listing a component of their CoQHeart supplement, not the main ingredient in their conditioner. So, with moderate disappointment for a first-in-series post, I have decided to leave out the Shaklee definition.

General definition: Glyceryl Stearate is made from glycerin and stearic acid (a fatty acid derived from animal and vegetable oils and fats). It is primarily used as an emulsifier – it keeps the various ingredients from separating. Fun fact: glyceryl stearate also prevents surface crust! In products like conditioners and lotions, it is also used to create a moisture barrier between the skin or hair, and the external environment. So you moisturize your hair with other compounds in the conditioner, and the glyceryl stearate holds in that moisture.

Is it safe to use? Probably. Very few sources list it as a mild irritant that could cause allergic reactions. Dig deeper and you find it on the Domestic Substance List of Canada listed as “Inherently Toxic to Aquatic Organisms”, but that seems to be as bad as it gets. I am in no way saying that aquatic organisms deserve to be exposed to toxic substances, but I also know I should choose my battles and I am fairly confident that there are larger threats to aquatic organisms. Like, oh, say, oil rigs? (No. I just can not help myself)

Now the scariest question that I dare to ask… is it sustainable? Can I sleep at night knowing that I am using products with glyceryl stearate? Ah, this is the trickiest question of all and the one that I may not be able to completely answer. Do I ask it every single time I pick any item up at a local store? I do. I have become that person. A worrier. I worry that someone in Papua New Guinea suffered so that I could have a banana, but I also need that quick, easily metabolized, high dose of potassium to keep my muscles from panicking after I exhaust them playing extreme sports like roller derby. So I eat the banana and swallow the guilt right along with the potassium. I worry about the modification of the wheat plant, the corn plant, and the hydrogenation of oils. I worry about the overuse of paper towels. So yes, I want to know if the glyceryl stearate that I use comes from a sustainable source. Unfortunately, that is not something I can easily know. From time to time, I find a product marked “from sustainable sources”, but it is rare and usually comes at a high price from a local health food store. Worst case scenario? The stearate portion of the glyceryl stearate could be derived from palm oil… it often is. If you do not keep up-to-date on your palm oil drama, virgin rain forest is clear cut to plant the palm trees that are used to produce palm oil. Many animals (like the orangutan), and habitats, are destroyed in this process. It also takes every part of will power that I have not to let the climate protective guard dog inside me out when clear cutting rain forest comes up, but that is an argument for another day and another post. Is every drop of palm oil this evil? No. Is there a sustainable way to produce it? Most likely. I do not know enough about palm oil to offer up ideas at this point, but I promise to think about it. There is a part of me that wants to trust Shaklee. They claim to source from sustainable sources, and I want to believe them. So yes, there is hope for the main ingredient in my Prosante Conditioner. My question to Shaklee is, do you know where the stearate in your glyceryl stearate comes from?

Link Time!!

Article from Care2 about the palm oil drama and orangutans: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-to-stop-buying-palm-oil-and-help-save-the-orangutans.html

Domestic Sub. List of Canada: http://www.ec.gc.ca/lcpe-cepa/eng/subs_list/DSL/DSLsearch.cfm?critSearch=CAS&critCAS=123-94-4

I took the picture from here because I thought it was pretty: http://bioselect-us.com/Ingredients.aspx?IngrID=240

I almost always check cosmeticsinfo.org to see what they have to say in these situations. Here is their glyceryl stearate page: http://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient_details.php?ingredient_id=498.

**This post was re-blogged from my original, free Wild Rose NHC blog. The original post was dated January 6, 2013