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* An emulsifier and thickening agent
* Please read TIA’s article on What Is It: PEGs
PEG 150 Distearate is used in beauty products and cosmetics as an emulsifier and thickening agent; it is most often seen as an ingredient in shampoo and other hair products. PEG 150 Distearate is the Polyethylene Glycol Diester of Stearic Acid (Source).
The 150 designates the molecular weight of this specific PEG. PEGs are controversial ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products, in part because of their ability to penetrate the skin and be absorbed into the body, or assist other chemicals and ingredients in absorption. According to research, lower molecular weight PEG ingredients were minimally absorbed and higher molecular weight PEGs (PEG-75 and greater) were not absorbed through intact skin; PEG 150 is a high weight PEG and is not easily absorbed by the skin.
Despite the many fears regarding PEGs, they are seen as an ingredient in a large number of products because of their diverse properties. In a study published in the Toxicology journal in 2005, entitled "Safety assessment on polyethylene glycols (PEGs) and their derivatives as used in cosmetic products," it was concluded that: "Taking into consideration all available information from related compounds, as well as the mode and mechanism of action, no safety concern with regard to these endpoints could be identified. Based on the available data it is therefore concluded that PEGs of a wide molecular weight range (200 to over 10,000), their ethers (laureths. ceteths, ceteareths, steareths, and oleths), and fatty acid esters (laurates, dilaurates, stearates, distearates) are safe for use in cosmetics."
PEG 150 Distearate is not considered to be an irritant or sensitizer, and is CIR and FDA approved for use, but not on broken skin. Although it is still considered a hazardous ingredient by the EWG (see below), its high molecular weight makes it one of the less dangerous PEGs.
Safety Measures/Side Effects:
The Cosmetics Database finds PEG 150 Distearate to be a moderate hazard depending on usage and notes contamination and toxicity concerns.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Toxicology, PEG 150 Distearate can contain harmful impurities, including: Ethylene Oxide, known to increase the incidences of uterine and breast cancers and of leukemia and brain cancer, according to experimental results reported by the National Toxicology Program; 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen; PAHs, known to increase the risk of breast cancer; lead; iron; and arsenic (Source).
Products and formulas containing PEGs should not be used on broken or irritated skin. Although PEGs are considered safe for use topically on healthy skin, studies showed that patients suffering from severe burns were treated with PEG-based antimicrobial cream; this treatment resulted in kidney toxicity. "The PEG content of the antimicrobial cream was determined to be the causative agent. However, no evidence of systemic toxicity occurred in studies with intact skin. Because of the observation of kidney effects in burn patients, the CIR Expert Panel qualified their conclusion on the safety of the PEG ingredients to state that cosmetic formulations containing these ingredients should not be used on damaged skin" (CosmeticsInfo.org).
Recommended Products w/ PEG 150 Distearate:
Frederic Fekkai Technician Conditioner for Dry, Damaged, Color-Treated Hair