What is Cetyl Alcohol and what does it do in products?

What is Cetyl Alcohol and what does it do in products?

EPA Safe Ingredient - YES
EWG® Score – 1
EU and Canada Approved – YES
Plant-based – Yes – palm oil
Skin Irritant - Mild
Environment Hazard – Relatively Low
Biodegradable – Easily
CAS – 36653-82-4

What is Cetyl Alcohol

Cetyl Alcohol is a long chain aliphatic alcohol.  It is also known as C16 fatty alcohol, palmityl alcohol and 1-hexadecanol.  It can be derived from palm oil- or palm kernel oil- or petro-derived. Most personal care products are made from environmentally sustainable palm oil.

Wait, I don’t want alcohol in my hair and skin products!

This isn’t the kind of alcohol you can drink (ethanol) or use as a sanitizer (isopropyl).  Those types of alcohols will dry out your skin and hair.  Fatty alcohols like Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol and Behenyl Alcohol are emollients, which help to soften the skin and hair and are widely used in personal care products, especially lotions and creams.

Why do we use Cetyl Alcohol

This fatty alcohol keeps the oils and liquids from separating and helps alter the thickness of our products giving them a better consistency and look.  Cetyl alcohol is widely accepted by many experts as safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products.  We look for ingredients that are on the EPA Safer Choice list to help us make better choices on ingredients for our products.   

We use cetyl alcohol in our hair and skin care line of products.   In hair care, cetyl alcohol can coat the hair cuticle which helps in wet combing and gives a smooth feeling when hair is dry.  In skin care, cetyl alcohol lubricates the skin.  

Is Cetyl Alcohol safe to use? Is it nontoxic?

Cetyl alcohol is one of the most widely used and versatile, nonirritating personal care ingredients available.


What is the environmental impact of cetyl alcohol?

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on cetyl alcohol, it has no toxic effects on aquatic life and is readily biodegradable.  Since it is on the EPA Safer Choice list it also must meet certain requirements to be considered safe and nontoxic to the environment.

In Summary

Rustic Strength uses cetyl alcohol because it is safe for the environment and the inhabitants of that environment.  It is rarely an allergen that would cause contact dermatitis.  It is used by many manufacturing companies as an emollient to help stabilize water and oil products. We currently use it in our lotion products to help lubricate the skin, and we also use it in our conditioning products to coat the hair cuticle which helps in wet combing and gives a smooth feeling when hair is dry.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other chemical we use feel free to reach out to customercare@rusticstrength.com  We would be more than happy to answer your questions. 


We invite you to do your own research! 

Scientific journals and articles are the foundation of evidence-based decisions at Rustic Strength. Blogs can provide helpful information. However, if it can not cite scientific articles, its claims stand on little. 

EPA Safe Ingredient - https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/safer-ingredients

EWG® Score = https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/701263-CETYL_ALCOHOL/ 

EU - https://echa.europa.eu/registration-dossier/-/registered-dossier/16007/7/11/2

Canada - https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredient-hotlist-prohibited-restricted-ingredients/hotlist.html#t1c

Plant-based -  SDS and manufacturers statement on file


Biodegradable - SDS and manufacturers statement on file

aliphatic alcohol - https://www.cosmeticsandtoiletries.com/research/literature-data/article/21837264/cetyl-alcohol-a-multifunctional-addition-to-formulators-toolboxes




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