What Is Sodium Stearate Doing in Your Deodorant? And Is It Safe?

sodium stearate in deodorants

Ever stared at a deodorant label and wondered about the ingredients? One of them, sodium stearate, might not sound familiar, but it’s pretty important. It helps your deodorant work better and feel smoother on your skin.

In this article, we’ll break down what sodium stearate is, why it’s used, and whether it’s something you should be concerned about. Ready to get a little smarter about what you’re swiping under your arms? Let’s get started.

What Exactly is Sodium Stearate?

So, what’s the deal with sodium stearate? Well, think of it as a hidden hero in many of the products you use daily, especially deodorants. Chemically, it’s the sodium salt of stearic acid, a fatty acid that’s found in various animal and plant fats. Pretty simple, right?

But here’s where it gets interesting: sodium stearate can be sourced from both animal fats and plant oils like palm or coconut. This versatility is one reason it’s so popular in beauty products. When it comes from plant sources, many brands label it as a “natural” ingredient.

However, “natural” can mean different things depending on who you ask. In the beauty world, it often refers to ingredients sourced from nature rather than made synthetically. So, when you see sodium stearate on the label, it’s worth checking if the brand specifies whether it’s plant-based, especially if you prefer vegan or cruelty-free products.

What Does Sodium Stearate Actually Do in Your Deodorant?

If you’re wondering what role sodium stearate plays in your deodorant, here’s what it does:

  • Thickener and Stabilizer: Sodium stearate helps your deodorant maintain its shape and consistency. It acts as a thickener, preventing the ingredients from separating into a liquid mess. It also stabilizes the mixture to ensure all the components stay well mixed.
  • Texture Enhancer: Sodium stearate contributes to the smooth and creamy texture of your deodorant, making it easier to apply evenly across your skin.
  • Performance Enhancement: While sodium stearate itself doesn’t stop you from sweating, it helps improve the overall performance of the deodorant. It supports other active ingredients that control moisture and keep you feeling fresh.

Sodium Stearate vs. Stearic Acid: Spotting the Differences

When you check out the ingredients in your deodorant, you might see both sodium stearate and stearic acid listed. Though they’re related, they serve different purposes. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Chemical Relationship

Sodium stearate is the sodium salt of stearic acid. This transformation happens when stearic acid is neutralized with sodium hydroxide, turning it into sodium stearate, which functions more like a soap. This alteration enhances the texture and the ease with which products can be washed off.

Roles in Deodorants

Stearic Acid: This is a waxy, white substance that keeps stick deodorants firm and easy to apply. It thickens and stabilizes the deodorant, making sure it doesn’t melt away too quickly. Stearic acid also helps to soften and moisturize your skin, and it keeps all the ingredients nicely mixed together without separating.

Sodium Stearate: This ingredient helps your deodorant glide on smoothly and wash off easily. It ensures that the deodorant doesn’t leave any sticky or gritty feel behind.

The Safety Profile of Sodium Stearate

When it comes to what we put on our skin, safety is a big deal. So, how safe is sodium stearate? Fortunately, this ingredient is well-regarded for its safety in skincare and deodorant products.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, sodium stearate scores a low hazard rating of 1 on their scale, which means it’s considered to be of low concern in terms of health risks.

General Safety

Sodium stearate is not only a staple in deodorants but is also widely used across the cosmetics industry due to its effectiveness and safety profile. While it is non-toxic and typically non-irritating, it’s important to note that like many ingredients, the safety of sodium stearate depends on its concentration and how it is formulated in products.

In appropriate concentrations (0.5 – 20%), it is suitable for most skin types and does not cause dryness or irritation. This makes it a popular choice in a variety of skincare and personal care formulations.

Cancer Myths Debunked

There are myths out there suggesting that ingredients like sodium stearate could be linked to cancer. However, these claims don’t hold up under scientific scrutiny. Research and safety reviews have shown that sodium stearate is not carcinogenic.

Regulatory bodies and skincare experts agree that when used in the concentrations found in personal care products, sodium stearate poses no significant risk of cancer.

So, if you’ve been worried about sodium stearate in your deodorant or other skincare products, you can feel reassured. It’s a safe ingredient that plays a vital role in the effectiveness of many products we use daily.

Potential Side Effects

While sodium stearate is generally safe for most people, no ingredient is perfect for everyone. Here’s what you should know about potential side effects:

  • Skin Sensitivity: In rare cases, some people might find that sodium stearate causes skin irritation or allergic reactions. This usually happens when the ingredient is not well-suited to an individual’s skin type or if it’s used in very high concentrations.
  • Concerns About Dryness and Irritation: Sodium stearate can sometimes contribute to dryness, particularly if used in high concentrations or in products without enough moisturizing components. Moreover, if you’re experiencing underarm irritation, it’s worth considering sodium stearate as a possible factor. The waxy nature of sodium stearate could increase skin-to-skin friction, potentially leading to conditions like intertrigo, where rashes develop from constant rubbing. Additionally, sodium stearate may trap moisture more than usual, exacerbating conditions like heat rash, where perspiration gets trapped under the skin.
  • What to Look For: Be on the lookout for signs like redness, itching, or unusual dryness after using products containing sodium stearate. If you observe such reactions, it might be wise to consider alternatives. Look for products labeled as “for sensitive skin” or those that are free from common irritants.
  • Choosing Alternatives: If sodium stearate doesn’t agree with your skin, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Ingredients like zinc ricinoleate or witch hazel can be gentle and effective substitutes in deodorants and other skincare products. These alternatives can provide similar benefits without the risk of irritation.

Knowing your skin and how it reacts to different ingredients is key. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to patch test a new product before fully integrating it into your routine.


Now you know that sodium stearate helps your deodorant work better by ensuring stability, smooth application, and freshness. It’s safe for most skin types and carries no significant health risks. With this understanding, you can make more informed choices about the deodorants you select, ensuring they’re effective and gentle on your skin.

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