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It seems like every day we’re hearing about a new skin-care ingredient that just has to be added into our routines. From the craze of hyaluronic acid a few years back to classic vitamin C, each active plays its role and purpose in keeping skin healthy. While it certainly isn’t necessary to stack your routine with everything TikTok tells you you need, there’s one buzzy ingredient that really does deserve a spot in your winter skin-care lineup: Stearic acid.

Known for its unparalleled ability to moisturize the skin and even stabilize formulas, there are loads of things to know about this multi-tasking component.

What is stearic acid?

“Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid that is found widely in nature and in many animal and vegetable fats,” Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist and the founder of BeautyStat skin care, tells Well+Good. “It is found in foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy.”

Annie Bruno, a certified esthetician, goes on to add, “Stearic acid is a key component in the formulation of many skin-care products. It is known for its waxy nature and its ability to emulsify and stabilize formulations. In skin care, stearic acid is often used as a thickening agent, contributing to the texture and consistency of creams, lotions, and other topical products.”

In addition to acting as a thickening agent, it’s also an emollient (AKA helps soften skin) and an emulsifier (AKA adds lather). “It is usually added to skin-care products to aid in cleansing and texture of the skin,” shares Dr. Adrienne O’Connell, DO, an aesthetic wellness specialist and the founder of Laguna Beach Aesthetics. “It helps to build up our skin’s protective barrier and lock in moisture.”

The benefits of stearic acid

1. Enhances moisture retention

There’s a good reason why stearic acid has become such a mainstay in moisturizer formulas.

“Stearic acid acts as an emollient, forming a protective barrier on the skin’s surface,” says Bruno. “This barrier reduces water loss, promoting enhanced moisture retention. This benefit is particularly advantageous for individuals with dry or dehydrated skin, as it helps alleviate dryness and flakiness.”

2. Strengthens the skin barrier

In addition to giving the skin some much-needed hydration, stearic acid also acts as a protector. “Stearic acid forms a moisture barrier that prevents loss of moisture or hydration from our skin,” says Dr. O’Connell. “It acts to protect our skin barrier.” Robinson agrees, adding, “Given it’s a fat, it’s great for helping to repair the barrier.”

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