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* A surfactant and cleansing agent
* Please read TIA’s article on What Is It: PEGs
PEG 40 Stearate is used in cosmetics and beauty products primarily as a surfactant and cleansing agent, because PEG Stearates' ability to clean the skin and hair by helping water to mix with oil and dirt so that they can be rinsed away, according to CosmeticsInfo.org. However, it is also seen as an emollient, because of secondary properties.
Unlike typical PEGs, (whose identifying number corresponds to their molecular weight) the numerical value of each PEG Stearate corresponds to the average number of ethylene oxide monomers in the polyethylene chain (from 2 - 150).
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 40 Stearate is not considered to be an irritant or sensitizer (it gave only minimal irritation in studies up to 100%), and are CIR and FDA approved for use, but not on broken skin (Source).
Safety Measures/Side Effects:
However. The Cosmetics Database found PEG 40 Stearate to be a moderate to high hazard ingredient depending on usage. The EWG issues warnings regarding: cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, contamination concerns, irritation, and organ system toxicity.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Toxicology, PEGs (including PEG 40 Stearate) 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 PEG 40 Stearate 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 40 Stearate:
Clinique City Block Sheer Face Protector SPF 15, M Lab Blemish Control, Neostrata Lotion Plus AHA 15