Cleansing Agent

No known benefits

Steareth-20 at a glance

  • Derivative of fatty alcohol stearyl alcohol
  • Functions as a surfactant and stabiliser
  • Helps keep ingredients together in an emulsion
  • Deemed safe as used in cosmetics

Steareth-20 description

Steareth-20 is a derivative of the benign fatty ingredient stearyl alcohol. In cosmetics, it functions primarily as a surfactant but is also used to make products more stable, especially if they contain active ingredients in an emulsion. Steareth ingredients may be animal-derived or synthetic. They are prepared by interacting with the chemical intermediate gas ethylene oxide with stearyl alcohol, a process which forms an entirely new stable compound. The number that comes after (for instance, 20) indicates the average number of ethylene oxide units used in the preparation. There have been concerns about the safety of steareth ingredients because toxic 1,4-dioxane, a by-product of ethoxylation, can be produced; however, this is eliminated through purification processes. The independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has ruled that steareth-20 is safe as used in cosmetics in amounts up to 25%.

Steareth-20 references

  • International Journal of Pharmaceutics, October 2010, Volume 398, Issues 1-2, pages 107-113
  • Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology, August 2010, Volume 58
  • International Journal of Toxicology, April 1999, Volume 18, Issue 3, pages 41-49

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


We couldn't find this in our ingredient dictionary. We log all missing ingredients and make continuous updates.

Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.