What is Cetearyl Alcohol?

If you're anything like me, reading the ingredients labels on beauty products can be incredibly confusing.  In fact, once I get past the first ingredient - usually water - I'm lost.  So, I wanted to start researching what some of these different ingredients were, and what they did.  I don't think I'm the only one that's curious about this, so I figured I'd share my findings with you.  I'm starting with something called cetearyl alcohol, which sounds like it'd be incredibly drying, and yet it's in all the lotions and hair products that I've reviewed thus far.  So, I thought I should check it out.

Cetearyl alcohol, also known as cetostearyl or cetylstearyl alcohol, is a combination of fatty alcohols, which consists of primarily cetyl and stearyl alcohols.  It leaves the skin feeling moisturized, and also helps combine products that usually do not mix together, such as different oils and water.  Knowing just this little bit already makes me less nervous about this ingredient, but then what are cetyl and stearyl alohols?

As it turns out, cetyl alcohol has a rather sad past.  It was discovered in 1817 by French chemist Michel Chevreul when he heated spermaceti, which is a waxy substance obtained from sperm whale oil, with potassium hydroxide.  It was discovered that flakes of cetyl alcohol were left behind after this concoction cooled.  However, after the demise of commercial whaling, cetyl alcohol was instead produced by using vegetable oils like palm oil and coconut oil.  If you have eczema, you may want to stay away from this stuff, as some people may be sensitive to it.  But, this may be due to impurities rather than cetyl alcohol itself.

Stearyl alcohol is also used as a moisturizer, and helps combine products, but is instead created by treating animal or vegetable fat with water at a high pressure and temperature, then distilling the resulting mixture.

So, although cetearyl alcohol sounds like it would be a drying product, it is actually the opposite, and helps to keep your products nice and smooth.  However, if you live a vegan lifestyle, you may want to do a little more research as to where the cetearyl alcohols come from in the products you use, because although it may be created from vegetable fat and be completely fine to use, there is a chance that it could be from animal fat, as well.

I hope you found this post informative, and hopefully it either gave you something to think about, or perhaps it helps to put your mind at ease about at least one ingredient in the products you use every day.  If there are other ingredients you'd like me to look into, please let me know in the comment section below!

I hope you're having a marvelous day!