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In cosmetics, aluminium stearate acts as a viscosity (resistance to flow) moderator, suspending agent (keeps the oil and water parts of an emulsion from separating), and thickening agent. It’s found mainly in products that require viscosity stabilizers like cleansing gels, shampoos and lotions.
The CIR Expert Panel assesses this ingredient as safe for use in cosmetics and says the potential for dermal toxicity is very low. Several studies have shown that it can cause slight skin irritations, but only when used in very high doses.
Aluminum stearate is a white, wax-like powder that dissolves well in mineral spirits or hot oil. It’s insoluble in water, alcohol and ether but is soluble in glycol, alkali, BTX and chlorinated hydrocarbons.
It exhibits a variety of properties including gelling and thickening action, water repellency, transparency, and synergistic effect with zinc stearate or calcium stearate. It has a relatively high solubility in hydrocarbon solvents when compared to other metallic stearates.
Various industrial uses for aluminium stearate include paints, inks and greases; lubricants for plastics and rope; waterproofing and air entrainment agents for cements; and paper coating compounds. It has also been tested as a denitrification substrate for anaerobic bacteria and as a source of aluminum for phosphate precipitation.
Recent scientific studies have linked the application of antiperspirants containing aluminium chloride or aluminum chlorhydrate to an increased risk of breast cancer and to a risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of constant exposure.