Stearic acid is found in various animal and plant fats, and is one of the many useful types of saturated fatty acids that occurs naturally in various plants and animal derivatives. When used in cosmetic products, stearic acid primarily fulfills the role of a thickener or hardener. Stearic acid has an eighteen carbon chain and is considered a long-chain fatty acid.
Stearic acid is mainly used in the production of detergents, soaps, and cosmetics such as shampoos and shaving cream products. It also helps objects such as bars of soap, candles, oil pastels and hard candies retain their shapes. Soaps are not made directly from stearic acid, but indirectly by saponification of triglycerides consisting of stearic acid esters, which produce a pearly effect in shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetic products. Unlike many fatty acids, stearic acids can have either animal or vegetable origins.