Diisostearyl Malate: What Is It, Skin Benefits & Side Effects

Fact-Checker: Camila Perez
This article was last updated on: November 25, 2023
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Staring at the back of a cosmetic product can sometimes feel like deciphering a complex code. Rows of convoluted names, each promising to be the secret to radiant skin, yet often leave us more puzzled than enlightened. Amidst this sea of ingredients, one name that might catch your eye is Diisostearyl Malate.

This component, while not as commonly discussed as some skincare superstars, plays a crucial role in many cosmetic formulations. In this article, we delve into the world of Diisostearyl Malate. We’ll explore its characteristics, functions, and the reasons behind its inclusion in cosmetic products.

What is Diisostearyl Malate?

Diisostearyl Malate, also known by its scientific name Bis(16-methylheptadecyl) malate, is a multifaceted ingredient commonly used in the world of cosmetics. It primarily functions as a skin conditioner, emollient, and cleansing agent.

This ingredient is synthesized by esterifying malic acid, a naturally occurring substance, with isostearyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol. The resulting compound is diisostearyl malate, which is known for its lubricating properties. It works by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface, which helps to lock in moisture and make the skin feel smoother.

In cosmetic products, the concentration of Diisostearyl Malate can vary, but it is typically used in small quantities. The exact percentage used is often tailored to the specific needs of the product, whether it be in lipsticks for its glossy finish or in moisturizers for its hydrating properties.

Diisostearyl Malate is predominantly found as a component within a broader formulation of ingredients in a product. It is rarely sold as a standalone ingredient in consumer products but is more often a part of a complex blend that enhances the texture, consistency, and moisturizing qualities of the final product.

Who Can Use Diisostearyl Malate?

Diisostearyl Malate is a versatile ingredient suitable for a wide range of skin types. Due to its moisturizing and conditioning properties, it is particularly beneficial for those with dry or sensitive skin, providing a soothing and hydrating effect.

This ingredient is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Since it is synthesized from malic acid and isostearyl alcohol, both of which can be derived from non-animal sources, it aligns well with vegan and vegetarian principles.

Regarding its use by pregnant or breastfeeding women, Diisostearyl Malate is generally considered safe. However, as with any cosmetic ingredient, it is always advisable for expecting or nursing mothers to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating new products into their skincare routine. This ensures that they are making the best choice for their specific health conditions and needs.

Diisostearyl Malate Skin Benefits

Diisostearyl Malate offers several benefits for the skin, each backed by its unique properties and the way it interacts with the skin’s natural processes:

  • Moisturization and Hydration: As an emollient, Diisostearyl Malate is excellent for moisturizing the skin. It works by creating a barrier on the skin’s surface, which helps to prevent moisture loss. This barrier not only traps moisture within the skin but also makes the skin feel soft and supple. This is particularly beneficial for dry or flaky skin, as it helps to reduce roughness and leaves the skin looking and feeling smoother.
  • Improved Skin Texture: Through its skin conditioning properties, Diisostearyl Malate helps to improve the overall texture of the skin. By filling in the spaces between skin cells with lipids, it makes the skin appear more even and refined. This smoother texture can also enhance the application and look of makeup, as products glide on more effortlessly and sit better on the skin.
  • Gentle Cleansing: Although not a primary cleansing agent, Diisostearyl Malate does contribute to the cleansing process in cosmetic formulations. It assists in dissolving and removing dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin’s surface without stripping it of its natural oils. This makes it an ideal component in gentle cleansing products, suitable even for sensitive skin types.
  • Soothing Effects: For those with sensitive or irritated skin, Diisostearyl Malate can have a soothing effect. Its emollient properties help in reducing skin irritation by forming a protective layer that guards against environmental stressors.

It’s important to note that while Diisostearyl Malate provides these benefits, they are not permanent. Continuous use of products containing this ingredient is necessary to maintain its positive effects on the skin. Like many skincare ingredients, its benefits are best observed with regular, sustained application as part of a consistent skincare routine.

Diisostearyl Malate Potential Side Effects

While Diisostearyl Malate is generally well-tolerated, side effects and reactions can vary from person to person. This variability largely depends on individual skin sensitivities and skin type. Factors like skin’s natural oil production, sensitivity levels, and existing skin conditions can influence how one’s skin reacts to any given ingredient.

Potential side effects and interactions with Diisostearyl Malate include:

  • Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, individuals may experience allergic reactions, manifesting as redness, itching, or rash. This is more likely to occur in individuals with a history of skin allergies.
  • Comedogenic Effects: For some skin types, particularly those prone to acne, Diisostearyl Malate might exacerbate or contribute to clogged pores and breakouts due to its emollient nature.
  • Skin Irritation: Although uncommon, some individuals may experience irritation, especially if they have extremely sensitive skin or if the product containing Diisostearyl Malate also has other irritating ingredients.

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product containing Diisostearyl Malate, it’s advisable to discontinue use immediately and consult a dermatologist. They can help determine if the reaction is specifically due to Diisostearyl Malate or another ingredient in the product.

It’s important to note that adverse reactions to Diisostearyl Malate are rare. Generally, this ingredient is safe and effective for most people when used as directed in cosmetic products.

To minimize the risk of reactions, the importance of patch testing cannot be overstated. Our patch testing guide provides a step-by-step approach to safely test new skincare products. This simple process can help you identify any potential irritants or allergens before applying them to larger areas of your skin, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable skincare experience.

Comedogenic Rating

Diisostearyl Malate receives a comedogenic rating of 2 on a scale from 0 to 5, where 0 is non-comedogenic, and 5 is highly comedogenic.

This moderate rating suggests that while Diisostearyl Malate is not highly likely to clog pores, there is a potential risk, particularly for individuals with acne-prone skin. The emollient nature of this ingredient, which forms a barrier on the skin, can sometimes trap oil and dead skin cells, leading to clogged pores in susceptible individuals. However, for most skin types, especially those not prone to acne, Diisostearyl Malate is unlikely to cause breakouts. Those with acne-prone skin should approach products containing this ingredient with some caution, although it does not automatically disqualify its use for such skin types.


Navigating the world of skincare is often a journey of trial and error, requiring patience and consistency to find what truly works for you. Diisostearyl Malate, with its moisturizing and texture-enhancing properties, stands out as a noteworthy ingredient in this journey. Its ability to improve skin hydration and smoothness makes it a valuable addition to various cosmetic formulations.

Despite its benefits, Diisostearyl Malate is not as well-known or popular as some other skincare ingredients. Its presence is more subtle, often playing a supporting role in enhancing product textures and skin feel. In this regard, it shares similarities with other emollients and skin conditioners like isostearyl alcohol and caprylic/capric triglyceride.

The timeframe for observing noticeable results from products containing Diisostearyl Malate can vary. Generally, improvements in skin hydration and texture can be observed within a few weeks of consistent use. However, as with any skincare ingredient, results may differ based on individual skin types and conditions.

If you have concerns about Diisostearyl Malate, especially regarding its comedogenic potential or suitability for sensitive or acne-prone skin, remember that its side effects are rare. Most users find it to be a safe and effective ingredient for enhancing their skincare routine. As with any ingredient, understanding your skin’s unique needs and reactions is key to harnessing its full potential.

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