Cetearyl Alcohol For Skin and Hair : Everything You Need To Know

Updated: February 22, 2022

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Cetearyl Alcohol For Skin and Hair : Everything You Need To Know

Browse through the list of ingredients for any lotion or conditioner and you will find a staple ingredient in all of them: Cetearyl alcohol. A hugely popular compound in most body products, Cetearyl alcohol is a thickener with amazing moisturizing properties and is used in making lotion, cream, and conditioner.

Let’s take a look at what is Cetearyl alcohol and its properties and how Cetearyl alcohol can improve your skin or hair, a complete guide on Cetearyl alcohol for skin and hair.

What Is Cetearyl Alcohol?

Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol that is used as a thickener in lotion, cream, salves, body butter, emulsified face cleanser, emulsified body scrub, and hair conditioner. It adds body and thickening to products with a mid-weight velvety richness and provides an extra moisturizing effect on the skin.

Unlike simple alcohols like ethanol and denatured alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol does not dry out the skin or hair. This is because Cetearyl alcohol has a long fatty chain that can trap water molecules and effectively moisturize the skin and hair.

Cetearyl alcohol is derived from plant oils. Essentially, it is a combination of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. Both these alcohols are extracted from several plant sources such as coconut, soy, or palm. This combination of cetyl and stearyl is added to cosmetic and hygiene products because it helps to stabilize the emulsions (though Cetearyl alcohol is not a complete emulsifier) and simultaneously acts as a thickener and surfactant.

Appearance – Cetearyl alcohol appears as waxy white beads or pellets or flakes.

Solubility – Cetearyl alcohol is soluble in oil. It is added to the heated oil phase of the formulations. Additionally, it melts at a temperature that is slightly higher than body temperature, making it ideal for use in cosmetics.

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Usage Rate – It can be added at 1% – 25% of the final weight of the formulation. The lower amounts are for emulsions to be used as a thickener and higher amounts are for anhydrous products like emulsified body scrubs, emulsified cleansers, salves, and body butter.

What Are The Benefits Of Cetearyl Alcohol For Skin And Hair?

Cetearyl alcohol is included in almost all skincare and haircare products. Cetearyl alcohol improves the quality of the products in numerous ways. The reasons why Cetearyl alcohol is used in wellness and hygiene products are as follows:

1. Cetearyl Alcohol Acts As A Thickener –
Cetearyl alcohol works on improving the consistency and texture of the body care product. Using Cetearyl alcohol, the viscosity of the cream increases and it becomes thicker. Thick creams and conditioners can be applied evenly as they glide smoothly over the surface of the skin.

2. Cetearyl Alcohol Acts As An Emollient and Moisturizer –
One of the important reasons why Cetearyl alcohol is used in skincare and haircare products is because it can moisturize the skin extremely well. Being emollient, Cetearyl alcohol forms a protective layer on top of the skin that can hold moisture.

This moisturizing property of Cetearyl alcohol makes it invaluable in skin care products. Cetearyl alcohol can eliminate the roughness and dryness of the skin and make it smooth.

3. Cetearyl Alcohol Acts As A Surfactant – 
Another function of Cetearyl alcohol in shampoos and hair conditioners is as a surfactant. It can reduce the surface tension between two liquids such as water and oil. Upon application on the scalp, Cetearyl alcohol attracts the grease, oil, and dirt from the scalp towards the lather so that it can be washed away. Thus Cetearyl alcohol can increase the foaming ability of the cleansers and clear impurities fast.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Natural?

No, Cetearyl alcohol is not all-natural and it is plant-derived. Cetearyl alcohol which is used in skincare and domestic products is manufactured in laboratories. Although the raw material from which Cetearyl alcohol is made is natural, the final product is synthesized. As a whole, Cetearyl alcohol is 95% natural.

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Is Cetearyl Alcohol Safe To Use?

Yes, Cetearyl alcohol is safe to use in cosmetics. United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels Cetearyl alcohol safe for topical use. Cosmetics that are labeled as “alcohol-free” can also contain Cetearyl alcohol as it has no damaging effect on skin and hair.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel has also permitted the use of Cetearyl alcohol for cosmetic purposes. It is found to be non-toxic and non-mutagenic, making it perfectly safe.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Vegan?

Cetearyl alcohol is a vegan product. The main sources of extraction of Cetearyl alcohol are coconut or palm oil, making it completely plant-based.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Soluble In Water?

No, Cetearyl alcohol is not soluble in water. Instead, it is soluble in oil and can be added in the heated oil phase of the formulations.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Good For Hair?

Yes, Cetearyl alcohol is good for hair. Cetearyl alcohol is actually very beneficial for hair. Unlike ethanol and other alcohols that can make hair dry and brittle, Cetearyl alcohol nourishes the hair. The moisturizing ability of Cetearyl alcohol moisturizes the hair and makes it smooth. It also adds a ‘slip’ to the hair so that it can be detangled without causing any breakage.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Bad For Your Skin?

No, Cetearyl alcohol is very good for your skin. It will form a protective barrier on the epidermis that does not allow the moisture to escape. This moisturizing ability improves the texture of the skin and prevents it from turning dry and flaky.

What Is The Difference Between Alcohol and Cetearyl Alcohol?

Alcohol or simple alcohol as we know it has a short carbon chain. On the other hand, Cetearyl alcohol has a long carbon chain. Besides, alcohol dries out the skin and hair whereas cetyl alcohol has an intensive moisturizing property.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Actually Alcohol?

No, Cetearyl alcohol is not actually alcohol. Cetearyl alcohol is derived from the fats of plant oils and it is great for skin and hair because of its moisturizing properties.

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Is Cetostearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Alcohol The Same?

Yes, Cetostearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl alcohol are the same products. Both the alcohols are a combination of cetyl and stearyl alcohol. For industrial or commercial purposes, Cetearyl and Cetostearyl alcohol can be used alternatively.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Good For Curly Hair?

Yes, Cetearyl alcohol is good for curly hair. Its moisturizing and surfactant properties help to protect the curls from heat and damage and keep them soft, elastic, and bouncy.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Bad For Acne?

No, Cetearyl alcohol is not bad for acne and it does not clog pores. Chemically, Cetearyl alcohol is one of the good alcohols. It is useful for acne-prone skin because it moisturizes the skin without clogging the pores.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Antibacterial?

Cetearyl alcohol contains cetyl alcohol which is found to exhibit some antimicrobial action. Cetyl alcohol blocks the outflow of nutrients from the skin cells and increases the permeability of the cell. This can prevent the growth of bacteria to some extent.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Good For Rosacea?

Cetearyl alcohol is good for all skin types, including those with skin concerns like rosacea. It can moisturize the soothe the dry and inflamed skin without causing any irritation.

Table Showing Properties Of Cetearyl Alcohol –

What Is Cetearyl Alcohol? Cetearyl alcohol is a combination of two fatty alcohols: cetyl and stearyl alcohol.
Cetearyl alcohol is made from coconut or palm oil through a series of chemical processes.
AppearanceComes in waxy, white beads or flakes or pellets forms.
TextureMakes creamy and thick emulsion
SolubilityInsoluble in water. Soluble in oil. Add it to the heated oil phase of the formulation.
Usage RateThe general usage rate ranges from 1% to 25%. Facial creams and lotions contain 1-3% Cetearyl alcohol.
Is Cetostearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Alcohol the same?Yes, both Cetearyl and Cetostearyl alcohol are the same. Both contain cetyl and stearyl alcohol.
Is It Safe For Sensitive Skin?Yes
Is It Natural?95% natural. Plant-derived not all-natural.
Does Cetearyl Alcohol Cause Breakouts?No. Non-comedogenic.
Why Use Cetearyl Alcohol In Hair Care Products?1. Moisturises hair
2. Adds slip to hair for detangling
3. Acts as surfactant
Is It Vegan?Yes
Does Cetearyl Alcohol Dry Out Hair?No, it moisturizes and conditions hair.
Benefits For Skin1. Moisturises the skin
2. Acts as emollient and forms a protective barrier
3. Prevents skin from drying up or becoming flaky


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