What is it? Glycol distearate is “the diester of ethylene glycol and stearic acid.” It can function as an emulsifier and emulsion stabilizer but tends to be primarily used as an opacifier/pearlizer for surfactant products. Glycol distearate lends a really lovely creamy, pearlescent appearance to surfactant products without thickening them or negatively impacting lather (as added fats do).

Glycol distearate is often sold with some variation on the word “pearl” in the name, so make sure you’re searching by INCI when looking for this ingredient.

INCI Glycol distearate
Appearance Medium-sized flat white flakes
Usage rate 1–4%
Texture Brittle, snappable flakes
Scent Nothing noticeable.
Approximate Melting Point 60–63°C (140–145°F)
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Oil-soluble, self-emulsifies in water
Why do we use it in formulations? Glycol distearate gives opacity and some pearlescence to our surfactant formulations without diminishing lather.
Do you need it? If you want to make an opaque, creamy-looking body wash/face wash/shampoo that still has rich, plentiful lather, you’ll want some glycol distearate.
Refined or unrefined? Glycol distearate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Glycol distearate is a very effective way to opacify surfactant products without negatively impacting lather.
Weaknesses It can be harder to find, depending on where you live.
Alternatives & Substitutions Glycol distearate is unlikely to be a lynchpin ingredient in a surfactant formulation, so you can likely just replace it with more distilled water if you don’t have it. This will mean the end product is not opaque, but the function of the product should not be massively impacted.

I’ve had good results using Glyceryl Stearate SE instead of glycol distearate with two main modifications. The first is that you’ll need to reduce the thickener in the formulation as Glyceryl Stearate SE contributes much more thickening than glycol distearate does—a one-for-one swap without any other adjustments will make for a noticeably more viscous end product. And, for better pearlescent-ness, I’d include a small amount (perhaps 0.25–0.5%) of a shimmery mica of your choice.

If you can find a liquid pearlizing ingredient that contains Glycol distearate you can likely tweak the formulation to work with that instead. Make sure you are reading through the documentation on that ingredient (specifically the recommended usage rate) to see how much you are generally supposed to use and go from there.

How to Work with It Glycol distearate must be melted, so include it in a heated phase. I’ve used it in heated oil and heated water phases; both work, so let your formulation guide you.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Glycol distearate should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks It is also possible to purchase products that contain Glycol distearate blended with other ingredients like Laureth-4, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Cocamide MEA. These are usually sold as pearlizing agents for surfactant products. Make sure you are watching the INCI of what you are purchasing, as these ingredients are not necessarily directly interchangeable.

While many suppliers list glycol distearate as an emulsifier, I have not found it makes a suitable replacement for emulsifying waxes like Polawax, Olivem 1000, Glyceryl Stearate SE, etc.

Recommended starter amount 30g (1.06oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Glycol distearate

Skills

Posted on

November 2, 2020

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