Triheptanoin at a glance

  • Made from glycerin and an oily liquid known as heptanoic acid
  • Sometimes used as a replacement for siloxane-type silicones
  • Provides elegant, non-greasy emollient aesthetics
  • Also used as a dispersing agent for UV filters

Triheptanoin description

Triheptanoin is a skin-softening emollient made from a triester blend of glycerin and an oil-like liquid known as heptanoic acid. Its sensory properties and lightweight emollient feel make it a good stand-in for siloxane-type silicones such as cyclopentasiloxane. Along with helping to smooth and soften skin as it prevents moisture loss, triheptanoin is also used as a dispersing agent for UV filters, ensuring that they’re distributed evenly in sunscreen formulas and, in turn, on skin. It has the same benefit for pigments, so you may also see triheptanoin used in makeup. Although considered a synthetic ingredient, triheptanoin is often derived from the palm, coconut, or castor plants (Paula’s Choice does not use the palm-derived type). Both types offer the same benefits for skin and the formula itself. Usage levels of triheptanoin range from 1–20%. It’s considered safe as used in cosmetics. Interestingly, triheptanoin is also being explored for use in people with certain metabolic disorders that lead to low energy.

Triheptanoin references

  • Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, April 2021, pages 227–233
  • Drugs, October 2020, pages 1,595–1,600
  • JAMA Neurology, October 2014, pages 1,255–1,265
  • International Journal of Toxicology, Supplement 20, 2001, pages 61–94

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.


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Not rated

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