What is cetearyl alcohol?
Cetearyl alcohol is a chemical found in cosmetic products. It’s a white, waxy mixture of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, both fatty alcohols. They’re found in animals and plants, like coconut and palm oil. They can also be made in a laboratory.
They are used in personal care products, mainly skin lotions, hair products, and creams. They help create smoother creams, thicker lotions, and more stable foam products.
Fatty alcohols are sometimes called long-chain alcohols because of their chemical formula. They usually have an even number of carbon atoms, with a single alcohol group (–OH) attached to the last carbon.
What is it used for?
Cetyl alcohol helps prevent creams from separating into oil and liquid. A chemical that helps to keep liquid and oil together is known as an emulsifier. It may also make a product thicker or increase the product’s ability to foam.
Products with cetearyl alcohol
- skin lotions
- skin creams
- hair removal creams
- hair mousse
- anti-frizz hair cream
- hair dye
It most often appears on the ingredient list as cetearyl alcohol, but may have many other names.
- (C16-C18) alkyl alcohol
- alcohols, C1618
- C16-18 alcohols
- cetostearyl alcohol
- cetyl/stearyl alcohol
- 1-octadecanol, mixed with 1-hexadecanol
Cetearyl alcohol isn’t the only fatty alcohol used in cosmetic products. Other examples include cetyl alcohol, lanolin, oleyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol.
Cetearyl alcohol is used to help soften the skin and hair and to thicken and stabilize cosmetic products, such as lotions and hair products. As an emollient, cetearyl alcohol is considered an effective ingredient for soothing and healing dry skin.
Unless you have very sensitive skin, you probably don’t need to avoid products containing cetearyl alcohol. Not only is it considered safe and nontoxic for use on the skin and hair, but it’s also not drying or irritating like other types of alcohol. Due to its chemical structure, cetearyl alcohol is even permitted by the FDA as an ingredient in products labeled “alcohol-free.”