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Emulsifier – glyceryl stearate SE

Feb 9, 2023 | Ingredients

Glyceryl stearate SE

1. WHAT IS Glyceryl stearate SE?

Glyceryl stearate SE (or GSSC) is an anionic oil-in-water emulsifier derived from glycerin and stearic acid.

It is also known as glyceryl monostearate, but the letters SE means that it is ‚self emulsifying‘ and can be used as a stand alone emulsifier without any co-emulsifiers. It is possible to buy only glyceryl stearate (without letters SE) and it would not be the same thing as glyceryl stearate SE.

The self emulsifying version of glyceryl stearate has a bit of potassium and/or sodium stearate (3-6%) which helps with emulsification.

Glyceryl-stearate-se-in-a-packaging

The primary source of this emulsifier can be vegetable oils such as olive or coconut, but it can also come from palm kernels as well. 

For example you can get a version of this emulsifier that does not come from palm source from Aroma-zone, while a bit different version can be bought from Alexmo-cosmetics, where it comes from raw palm sources. However, it is worth to say that the latter version is from sustainable palm source (RSPO mass balance).

As GSSC is a blend of several molecules the chemical formula does not exist in just one compound. So, the blend will consist of glyceryl stearate and sodium (Na) or potassium (K) stearate. 

All of the molecules are very similar in their structure as they all have the same stearate tail. It can be seen in a formula as a very long tail. The main differences are seen on the other side of the molecule. The first has a glyceryl group that has two -OH groups. The second and third molecules do not have glyceryl group. Instead of that they have a sodium or patassium ions attached to the stearate tail. 

glyceryl-stearate-se-chemical-formula
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Glyceryl stearate SE

INCI Glyceryl stearate SE
Function Emulsifier
Type Anionic, O/W emulsifier, non-ethoxylated, can help develop liquid crystals phases or crystalline gel phases
Origin Derived from vegetable sources (coconut, olive oil, palm oil)
Appearance Beige pellets or off white fine powder/granules
Scent Has a faint vegetable scent
HLB Depends on the supplier. Can be either 6 or 12. Check your supplier.
Usage rate Depends on the supplier information. But mainly used in 4-8%. Can hold up to 20-40% oil phase. For lotions use 3-4%, for creams 4-8%.
Saponification value 155-180
Solubility Oil
Other Criteria Vegan, can be palm oil free
Method Could only be used in hot process
Thickening Co-emulsifiers - cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, stearic acid, waxes, gums

3. APPEARANCE AND SKIN FEEL IN LOTIONS

The emulsifier can come in several different shapes – as pellets or a fine powder. I would say that the powder form works better. The Aroma-zone had a powder form some time ago, but it changed to a pellet form. And it just works not the same way as it used to.

The emulsifier helps to create a protective barrier on the surface of the skin which in turn reduces water loss. It also helps to lubricate, condition and soften the skin and helps the other ingredients  in the formulation to continue functioning effectively.

Lotions made with this emulsifier feels rich, a bit oily and not dry. I cannot describe it better, but it does feel very smooth and moisturizing (for me lotions made with Emulsifying wax NF feel dry even I use a lot of butters or heavy oils). After using lotions with glyceryl stearate SE I can feel my skin more plumped and hydrated and I don‘t need to use lotion several times a day, more like every other day.

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4. HOW TO WORK WITH GLYCERYL STEARATE SE?

Glyceryl stearate SE is and oil soluble emulsifier and should be included in your oil phase. It can be used in a range of 3-8% and can hold up to 20-40%, though different suppliers show different specifications of this emulsifier, so please check yours.

With it you can create a range of emulsions – from milks to rich thick creams by changing the amount of used oils and thickeners. As general guideline:

  • for milks and lotions use 3-4% of emulsifier for 10-20% of oils
  • for creams use 4-8% emulsifier and 20-40% oils.

But please look at your suppliers data sheet to known better how to use this ingredient.

When making a lotion a standard thickening options work well. You can use co-emulsifiers such as cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, stearic acid or other modifiers. For a better skin feel and lotion stability xanthan gum can be used at 0.2-0.4%. 

Emulsifiers

5. Incompatibilities

Glyceryl stearate SE is a pH dependent emulsifier and works best in a 6.0-8.2 pH range. This range can vary and depends on the version you got as it may differ from supplier to supplier. For example Aroma-zone states the 6.0-7.5 pH range, while Alexmo-cosmetics write 6.8-8.2 pH range.

If you wonder what happens if the pH is below the recommended – I have learned this in a hard way. When the pH is lower, then the oil phase starts to separate from the lotion and it is not stable anymore. To fix this, you can bring the pH up and it should be fine.

This is the reason why this emulsifier is not recommended to use with acidic materials such as AHA‘s and BHA‘s (and others). Also, you cannot use a preservative that can only work in lower pH range as well. For example sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate complex. You have to use a preservative that is compatible and works in this pH range.

I have not found any information about using this emulsifier with cationic ingredients. Usually anionic ingredients should not be used with an opposite charge having ingredients such as BTMS-50, BTMS-25, cetrimonium chloride and others. But I have seen some conditioners that had both glyceryl stearate SE and BTMS-50.

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6. What can be made with glyceryl stearate SE?

Glyceryl stearate can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Shampoo
  • Lotions/creams
  • Make-up (foundation, mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner)
  • Face washes
  • Face masks/peels
  • Body washes/gels
  • Balms/salves
  • Hair masks
  • Conditioners

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