Is Cetyl Alcohol Safe for Your Skin?

Cetyl alcohol can be seen in many skincare products. However, the question is, is cetyl alcohol safe for your skin? Keep reading and find out the answer here.

You may have been expecting a straightforward yes or no answer when you clicked on this. But unfortunately, the answer is a little more complex than that. So, buckle up because we will explain the science behind cetyl alcohol and why we often see this in many of our everyday products.

First things first…

What is cetyl alcohol?


Cetyl alcohol, also known as 1-hexadecanol or n-hexadecyl alcohol, is a 16-C fatty alcohol with the chemical formula CH3(CH2)15OH. It is derived from vegetable oils such as palm or coconut oil.

It is a waxy-like solid that has found its way in personal care, food, and industrial products because of its versatile properties.


Where is cetyl alcohol being used?

In food, cetyl alcohol is used as a multipurpose food additive that can be used as a flavoring or decorative ingredient. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even deemed cetyl alcohol safe for both direct and indirect food additives.

In industrial applications, cetyl alcohol is one of the go-to solutions in nuts and bolts to keep machines running smoothly. Aside from that, it is a primary ingredient in fuels, chemical intermediates, and plasticizers.


But in personal care products, cetyl alcohol acts as a thickening agent that prevents the product from separating. On top of this, it also melts at temperatures higher than the average human body temperature.

Cetyl alcohol is what helps your favorite lipstick and other cosmetic products adhere to your skin better.


How is cetyl alcohol different from other alcohol?

As many of us know, alcohol isn’t exactly the best for our skin because of its drying effect. And if cetyl alcohol is just like any other alcohol, then it must be bad for our skin as well, right? Actually, not all of them are bad. Here are the different types of alcohol and what they’re used for.

1. Aromatic Alcohol

This is the type of alcohol we commonly find in perfume and other scented products such as phenol, catechol, resorcinol, and quinol. This kind of alcohol may cause skin irritation, especially for sensitive skin. 

2. Simple Alcohol

Speaking to Byrdie, aesthetician Renee Roulea explains that simple alcohols like SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol dehydrate the skin, strip away the skin’s natural oils, and may even be damaging to the skin barrier. 

3. Fatty Alcohols

While aromatic and simple alcohols are often avoided, fatty alcohols are considered the “good” alcohols. According to Maryam Zamani, MD, fatty alcohols can nourish the skin. This type of alcohol is derived from vegetable oils and is proven to moisturize and smooth the skin. 


So… is Cetyl Alcohol Safe for Your Skin?


Totally! Aside from being a thickening agent in personal care products, it also protects the skin barrier from drying out and preventing water loss.

Its softening effects help prevent dry, rough, and itchy areas. Cetyl alcohol can also shield skin from bacteria and allergens for these same reasons.

In an article published on Allure, board-certified dermatologists Marina Peredo and Lindsey Zubritsky even revealed that cetyl alcohol is “safe for basically every skin type.”

But of course, just like any new product you try, it’s always a good idea to do a patch test–especially if you have a history of eczema, rosacea, or contact dermatitis.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why some products can still be labeled as “alcohol-free” even if they contain cetyl alcohol, it’s because it does the exact opposite of drying simple alcohols.

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Author Mama's Choice Team

Mama's Choice Team

A team of passionate writers, young mamas, and creative superheroes who help mamas face motherhood one educational article at a time!


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