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



Hydroxyethylcellulose is classified as a non-ionic polymer which is soluble in water. This is primarily used as a thickening agent in many cosmetic and personal skin care and hair care products. It is also effective in improving the dissolution of many medications or drugs in the gastrointestinal tract.

Hydroxyethylcellulose appears as a white to off-white powder in room temperature and is effective in dissolving large particles without creating large lumps on the solution. It is called a nonionic thickener in most industries.

History and Origin

Hydroxyethylcellulose is derived from cellulose and is used in many industries such as skin care products, hair care products, cleaning solutions and many other common household products that are used every day by the general public. Its importance in the field of medicine makes it an indispensable ingredient in making hydrophobic drugs and medications that are usually packaged in capsule forms. Hydroxyethylcellulose makes this medication easily absorbed by the walls of the gastro intestinal system.

Ancient Uses

The use of Hydroxyethylcellulose was unheard of during the ancient times. However, thickening agents were also used in cooking and in making sauces back then. Natural ingredients such as wheat or flour was often used which was perfect in reducing some skin care conditions as well.

Modern Uses

During today’s modern times, Hydroxyethylcellulose was created to improve the quality of many care and cleaning products so as to dissolve perfectly in water. This makes this an indispensable additive in most personal care items such as shampoos, body washes, moisturizing gels, shower and bath products.

In the cosmetic industry, Hydroxyethylcellulose is perfect in thickening cosmetic emulsions such as concealers, foundations and mascaras. It makes these products easy to apply onto the skin and to remain on the skin as well.

This chemical is also found in many household cleaners, household products and other personal care items.

Side Effects

There are no notable side effects in the use of skin care or hair care products that contain Hydroxyethylcellulose. It is important to note though that there may still be people who may develop side effects after using products with this chemical. If you develop a skin irritation, have severe itching, rashes or redness, it is best to discontinue use of the offending product and to seek a medical consult immediately.

When using cosmetics with Hydroxyethylcellulose, it is best to do a patch skin test first to check for any allergies from any cosmetic brand. Any sign of skin irritation, redness or itching should never be discounted. Consult a dermatologist for an ideal alternative in case any of these happen to arise.

Products with Hydroxyethylcellulose must never be used for infants and young children’s extra sensitive skin. A dermatologist can advise the ideal skin care regimen for people and babies that have this kind of skin type. Although Hydroxyethylcellulose is safe to use as a cosmetic additive, it is best to remove all traces of makeup before retiring, with a makeup remover or wash your face thoroughly with a mild facial wash. Do not wear makeup unless necessary.

If you work closely with chemicals, wear protective clothing such as goggles, mask and gloves to shield yourself from accidental splashes and spills. Hydroxyethylcellulose can cause minor skin irritation especially after receiving a direct exposure.

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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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