Vanishing Creams

Vanishing Creams: Creams that spread easily and seem to disappear rapidly when rubbed on the skin are termed ‘vanishing creams’. These creams are composed of emollient esters which leave a little apparent film on the skin and have a low percentage of the oil phase. Traditional formulae of vanishing cream are based on stearic acid. Stearic acid melts on body temperature and crystallizes in a form to be invisible providing a non-greasy film. Stearic acid also imparts an attractive appearance to the cream. With stearic acid, white creams are produced, and sometimes because of this whiteness, these creams are called ‘snow’. 

Vanishing creams are all oil-in-water type products with stearic acid or one of its fat-like hydrophilic esters as the major emulsified ingredients and with comparatively little other fat or oil constituents. Stearic acid is the most important constituent in one type of these creams.  A good quality triple-pressed grade should be selected. High melting- point, pure whiteness,  very little odor, and very low iodine number are the most important criteria. Excess stearic acid, soap, and water are the basic constituents of stearate vanishing creams. Purified water,  distilled, softened, or deionized quality is required for the stability of the creams. Hard water will lead to the formation of lime and magnesium soaps which tend to invert the creams. The soap is formed in situ by the reaction between a suitable alkali and stearic acid.  The type of soap, added or made at the time is very important in determining the hardness and other characteristics of the cream. 

The consistency of vanishing cream is governed by the amount of stearic acid saponified or neutralized and also by the alkali used. Sodium hydroxide form harder soaps than potassium hydroxide and comparable amounts will form harder creams. Apart from potassium hydroxide, triethanolamine is also an excellent alkali to prepare good-quality creams. The use of triethanolamine makes the preparation easy and of viable nature. Borax can be useful to make a very white cream, but the disadvantage is that the product has a distinct tendency to grain. Ammonia solution tends to discolor creams made with it after some time. Glycerine not exceeding 10% is also incorporated to maintain consistency and enhance spreading ability. But, being hygroscopic, it may absorb moisture after application, forming minute globules of water. These problems can be overcome by using alternative glycols. 

Pearliness, the luster assumed by vanishing creams on standing, is due to the absence of interfering ingredients rather than to the presence of any substance likely to promote pearliness. A mixture consisting of soap, excess stearic acid, and water, will become nearly,  because of the formation of minute crystals of stearic acid or an acid stearate on standing for about two weeks. Low heat and occasional stirring may speed up this process. Preservatives should always be present if the cream contains substances likely to deteriorate under bacterial or fungal action. Methyl and propyl parabens are the preferred preservatives.  Perfumes, either as they are commercially available or after dissolving in alcohol or a perfume solvent, are mixed in thoroughly when the mixture is cool enough to avoid excessive loss of perfume by evaporation. A temperature of about 40oC is generally considered suitable. 

Sensory Advantages of Vanishing Cream

  • It helps to keep the skin moisturized. In dry and cold areas, vanishing creams help to keep the skin from becoming rough and scaly. It captures the water of the skin and also gives it a clearer and fresher look than before.
  • It is sometimes used as the base for cosmetics and make-up and even just plain foundation. Vanishing cream is not a beautifying cream, but rather a protective covering that the skin gets so that it does not get harmed by all the chemicals that cosmetics usually contain. It is easier for pores to be blocked if vanishing cream is not applied as a base. It also makes the powders and the make-up adhere to the skin more gently and naturally.
  • Vanishing creams are also helpful in keeping the skin afresh. Vanishing creams retain moisture and this helps in keeping the skin healthy. It also maintains a certain tautness that is sometimes missing as the person gets older. Their skin tends to sag. Vanishing creams have been known to deal with that problem too.
  • An important benefit of using vanishing cream is that it does not stick or irritate the skin. Vanishing creams also do not give an oily feeling and as they vanish quickly in absorbance by the skin, it is sometimes the most preferred type of cream in the market.
  • As vanishing creams had a semi-matt finish, they could also be used without powder to reduce the effects of oiliness and shine on the skin where this was a problem, making them popular with African-Americans.  


Vanishing creams are not to be used all the time and they do not remove marks of acne scarring. It does not remove scars but only heals the acne minimally. 

Vanishing Creams as Cosmeceuticals 

The introduction of creams based on functions helped cosmetic companies to differentiate their lines from competitors. It also gave increasingly educated consumers an impression of product sophistication. Vanishing creams became progressively seen as simple and old-fashioned. As such, consumers thought it unlikely that they could achieve the results promised by the new lines. Despite the demise of products labeled ‘vanishing cream’,  stearate creams continue to be manufactured to this day – with hand or body creams and lotions, and shaving creams being good examples – so in that sense, vanishing creams never really disappeared. In addition, the rising interest in vintage products has seen a  re-emergence of the word ‘vanishing’ on the labels of several skin-care lines. Some of these are true stearate creams but others are not. Only a careful reading of the label will tell.  Currently vanishing creams are being commercialized with a specific beneficial ingredient that has the potential to offer treatment along with cosmetic functionality. The preparation thus becomes cosmeceutical. Vanishing creams help in curing pimples. These creams can make pimples and spots appear less significant or make them disappear in a period of three to four days. It also helps in fading dark spots on facial skin. Table.1 and  Table.2 summarize the functional ingredients of some commercial products for the treatment of dark spots and pimples on facial skin.

Table.1: Vanishing creams for dark spots as cosmeceuticals

Vanishing creams for dark spots as cosmeceuticals

Table.2: Anti pimple creams available in the Indian market

Anti pimple creams available in the Indian market
Anti pimple creams available in the Indian market
Make sure you also check our other amazing Article on : Cold Cream
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