Stabilising and thickening
Sodium stearate is a stabiliser and thickener that helps harden soaps and naked deodorants, allowing a wide variety of shapes and sizes and removing the need for unnecessary packaging and synthetic preservatives. It also has opacifying properties that give foam a creamy white appearance.
Sodium stearate is the sodium salt of stearic acid, an emulsifier. Since stearic acid is most commonly derived from palm oil, so is sodium stearate.
In 2007 Lush developed a palm-free soap base to eliminate palm oil from products, however, it is very difficult to source a sodium stearate that is completely palm-free. We’ve worked with suppliers to produce a new version from other vegetable oils. In 2017, one of these attempts, derived from olive oil, has finally succeeded and has been introduced in a few products.
Why a few and not all our products then? Because it's not that simple. One material does not necessarily replace the other. As they are not derived from the same oil, they do not behave in the same way and switching them affects the appearance, shelf life and effectiveness of products. This is why we are also working on formulas to try and remove sodium stearate completely when possible, without affecting the quality of the product.