Cetyl alcohol is an organic compound classified as a fatty alcohol, a hybrid alcohol
and fatty acid or oil. In skincare it functions primarily as an emollient and emulsifier,
enhancing product texture while protecting skin from allergens, bacteria and
Frenchman Michel Chevreul discovered cetyl alcohol while experimenting with
sperm whale oil in 1817. Modern production of cetyl alcohol is usually from tree
oils, and is in the form of a white waxy solid - not like alcohol at all! And unlike
alcohols, not at all drying to the skin, quite the opposite!
As an emollient cetyl alcohol helps maintain the skin's natural barrier by providing
a protective layer that reduces moisture loss. Cetyl alcohol is approved by the U.S
FDA as non-sensitising, non-toxic, and safe for inclusion in skincare (as directed by the FDA, formulations containing it can be labelled alcohol-free). It has the lowest
EWG hazard rating of 1 on their scale of 1 to 10. Although in rare case it could cause
irritation, there are no warnings connected to this ingredient. It helps keep formulas
stable, smooth and pleasant to use.
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