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Cetearyl Alcohol

Veterinarian Reviewed on January 9, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Cetearyl Alcohol


Cetearyl alcohol, along with Cetyl Alcohol, Myristyl alcohol and Behenyl alcohol are described as being white wax-like in appearance. These are the major components of many skin care products because of their ability to bind an emulsion together; they act as binders to keep the emulsions from separating into oil and liquid. Cetearyl alcohol is also used as a thickener in liquid preparations and also to stabilize foamy liquid products.

Cetearyl alcohol is one of the key ingredients of personal care products and without it, skin care preparations would separate and would be unable to foam up when they are used.

History and Origin

Cetearyl alcohol is considered straight chain alcohols with a combination of Cetyl and Stearyl alcohol. It is also called Cetostearyl alcohol, C16-18 or simply alcohol. It is derived from vegetable oils or from other synthetic sources.

Ancient Uses

The use of Cetearyl alcohol was never heard of during the ancient times. Vegetable oil, which is one of the main sources of this type of alcohol was usually used in cooking, as well as in therapeutic health remedies. Other oil sources such as nuts were mostly used for their medicinal value.

Modern Uses

In today’s more modern times, Cetearyl alcohol is used for its many properties to help preserve solutions and emulsions. It was first derived from vegetable and plant sources, but then it was later synthetically produced in the lab. First of all, it is an emulsion stabilizer that keeps an emulsion from separating to its liquid ingredient and oil based ingredients. It makes skin care products easy to use, as well as easy to be absorbed by the skin. This is essential for lotions, moisturizing products and skin care treatments created especially for dry skin.

Cetearyl alcohol is also a surfactant that boosts a products foaming capacity. This property is important in bath soaps, hand soaps, shampoos, conditioners and many other personal care products.
It can increase the viscosity of a particular solution which is important in food preparation. This property can be useful in thickening skin care products for easy application on any type of skin. Cetearyl alcohol is also a main ingredient in cosmetics such as foundations, concealers, liquid lipsticks and mascaras to stabilize a solution and to prevent the separation of emulsions.

Side Effects

Cetearyl alcohol is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a food additive to stabilize, thicken and preserve commercially prepared foods. This alcohol is also safe as an indirect food additive to improve taste to food as well.

Cetearyl alcohol is also considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. It can be used as an additive for cosmetics without causing harm or irritation. Although it is evaluated as safe to be used as an ingredient in personal skin care products, there may be still a small number of people who are sensitive to products that do contain Cetearyl alcohol. If you have extra sensitive skin, consult a dermatologist for the most appropriate skin care product to use. Young children and infants that do have sensitive skin should also seek a consultation with a dermatologist for a milder and gentler skin care product to use.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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