Cetyl Alcohol, also known as Palmityl Alcohol, is fatty alcohol typically derived from vegetable oils, such as coconut oil or palm oil. It can also be synthetically made in a lab. It is commonly found in cosmetic products such as moisturizers, lotions, shampoo, sunscreen & many more.
This ingredient acts as an emulsifier for the other ingredients in the product, which means that it acts as a stabilizer that prevents ingredients that usually separate from each other to break up. It also acts as a thickener, so that it increases the viscosity of a product & gives it a creamy texture for easy application.
However, don’t let the word “Alcohol” in its name fool you!
Unlike the alcohol ingredients in skincare products that everyone warned you about, Cetyl Alcohol does NOT dry out your skin at all. In fact, it actually does just the opposite!
Benefits of this ingredient include:
1. It moisturizes!
As mentioned above, this is a fatty alcohol. Thus, it only makes sense if it moisturizes your skin as you apply it. The ingredient acts as an emollient, which means it generates an oily layer on your skin in order to retain the moisture inside.
2. It does not irritate your skin
Due to its fatty nature, Cetyl Alcohol soothes & heals your skin. It typically does not dry out or irritate your skin, but softens it instead and decreases the cracking & peeling of very dry skin.
But on the downside…
1. It is slightly comedogenic
This ingredient is undeniably made from fat & oil, and it literally forms a layer on your skin to seal your moisture in, so of course, it may possess pore-clogging characteristics. Based on numerous reports, on a 5-point scale, it is found that Cetyl Alcohol scored between 2 to 3. This means that it has a borderline pore-clogging potential.
2. It may cause allergic reactions for sensitive skin
There is still an extremely small percentage of people who may experience allergic reactions, especially those who have sensitive skin. A report shows that out of 737 people with sensitive skin, 7% have experienced redness, inflammation & irritation after using this ingredient.
However, don’t fret! The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) has stated that Cetyl Alcohol is indeed safe to be added into a skincare product & to be used on our skin. So rest assured!
The Bottom Line:
Cetyl Alcohol is certainly part of the “GOOD” alcohol ingredient gang. It keeps our skin soft and moisturized, instead of drying it out, unlike the “BAD” alcohols. Yes, although it has the potential to clog our pores, it is a very important ingredient that most products require in order to be appliable. Yes, it seals the moisture in by creating a layer on top which, again, may potentially clog pores. However, would you rather let all your moisture leave your skin & trigger your glands to produce more oil which can also clog up your pores more? Moreover, I wouldn’t worry too much about it being an irritant as I personally have sensitive skin as a small incident involving me getting severely sunburned has made my skin super sensitive to harsh ingredients. However, always do a patch test when you are trying out any new skincare products, just in case!
Therefore, you don’t have to worry too much about this ingredient! It does more good than damage 🙂
Interesting Fact: “Cetyl Alcohol acquired its name from the Latin word Cetus, which means ‘whale oil’ as that is where this fatty alcohol was originally derived from!”
Note: All the information presented in my posts are based on my personal experience with the products & secondary research that I found online, either through journal articles, professional website or other credible blogs. I am neither a professional dermatologist nor a scientist, hence I am no expert. Please feel free to do more research instead of deciding on trying a product based purely on my posts to avoid any misunderstandings and mistakes!