Cetearyl Alcohol

1. Overview of Cetearyl Alcohol 

1.1Composition and Formation of Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetearyl alcohol is a waxy white solid compound that is characterized by a mild soapy odor. In cosmetics, the compound is used as an emollient, emulsifying agent, opacifying agent, viscosity controlling agent, and emulsion stabilizing agent. (Information, 2022) This a straight-chain aliphatic alcohol that is produced via high-pressure and high-temperature catalytic hydrogenation of the fatty acids. The compound appears in the flake form. Cetearyl alcohol is composed of 36%-80% stearyl alcohol (octodecanol) and 20%-35% cetyl alcohol (hexadecanol). The mixture also contains smaller quantities of shorter and longer chain-length alcohols. The compound is soluble in oils and alcohol, however, the compound is insoluble in water. The impurities include hydrocarbons such as n-octadecane and n-hexadecane, branched-chain primary alcohols, and straight-chain odd-numbered alcohols. (Elder, 1988) 

  • Common Names of Cetearyl Alcohol 

The common names of Cetearyl alcohol include cetostearyl alcohol and cetyl/stearyl alcohol. (Information, 2022)

  • Mechanism of Action of Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetearyl alcohol and other long-chain aliphatic alcohols are used for manufacturing lotions and creams. These alcohols function as viscosity control agents, emollients, coupling agents, foam stabilizers, and emulsion stabilizers in cosmetic formulations. Cosmetic products enriched with long-chain aliphatic alcohols can be applied to the skin multiple times a day or once per week. The relevant products can be repeatedly used for several years. The use of long-chain aliphatic alcohols is not just limited to cosmetic products. The compounds are also found in pharmaceuticals and textile soap where the compounds function as stiffening agents and emulsifying agents. (Elder, 1988)

  • Benefits of Cetearyl Alcohol
  • Alkyl Polyglucoside (APG) Surfactant 

Alkyl polyglucoside (APG) surfactant comprise Cetearyl glucoside and Cetearyl alcohol, and this mixture is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for topical formulations. The APGs are found in creams, lotions, shampoos, perfume stabilizers, and rheology modifiers. The APGs have a non-irritant to slightly irritant effects on the skin. The irritant effects are measured by evaluating the transepidermal water loss or TEWL across the skin. The mixture of Cetearyl alcohol and Cetearyl glucoside does not increase the TEWL significantly. In some cutaneous regions, the mixture of these compounds in known to reduce the TEWL in a healthy skin as compared to the baselines levels of TEWL. The APG have beneficial effects concerning the skin barrier. When the target skin is damaged, APGs are known to accelerate the mechanisms underlying barrier repair. The colloidal structure of APGs mimics the molecular organization within the stratum corneum of the skin. This strengthens the stratum corneum skin barrier and reduces TEWL. The beneficial effects of APG are also attributed to improved hydration of the skin and increased elasticity of the stratum corneum. These emulsifiers modulate water retention in the stratum corneum, leading to prolonged hydration and improved moisturization of the skin. These properties make APG safe and effective delivery vehicles for different skin formulations and topical ingredients. (Tasic-Kostov et al., 2014)

  • Emollient Properties of Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetearyl alcohol forms a protective barrier over the skin while improving the texture and spread-ability of the topical formulations including lotions and creams. This reduces water loss, prevents the skin from becoming dry and rough, and helps the skin become soft and smooth. The emollient properties are also responsible for the use of this compound in shampoos and conditioners. (Elder, 1988)

  • Surfactant Properties of Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetearyl alcohol is a safe and effective surfactant that reduces the surface tension between liquid and liquid or solid molecules as well as enables the oils, fats, and dirt to be washed away while cleansing the face. The foaming capacity of skincare and haircare products also improves upon the addition of Cetearyl alcohol in the formulations. (Elder, 1988)

  • Emulsifying Properties of Cetearyl Alcohol 

Cetearyl alcohol forms a stable emulsion in conjugation with other emulsifying agents. A stable emulsion prevents the separation and splitting of oil and water-based components of topical formulations. (Elder, 1988)

  • Safety Profile and Adverse Effects of Cetearyl Alcohol

Cetearyl alcohol, along with other related compounds are assessed for its oral, cutaneous, and ocular toxicities. The skin irritation effects of Cetearyl alcohol were evaluated using New Zealand albino rabbits with intact and abraded skin. For intact, the erythema scores ranged from 1.7 to 2.67 24 hours after the application. For abraded, the erythema scores ranged from 1.17 to 2.50 24 hours after the application. The researchers concluded that the cream has mild skin irritation effects. Albino rabbits were also used for evaluating the ocular irritation effects of topical formulations containing Cetearyl alcohol. This compound is labeled as a non-irritant substance concerning contact with the eyes. The topical application of cosmetic products containing Cetearyl alcohol does not induce skin sensitization reactions as well. (Elder, 1988)

  • Emulsifier Complex and LipidTAC Products 

LipidTAC offers a wide range of products suitable for every skin type. The products nourish and restore the imbalances in the skin, improving the overall appearance of the skin. The LipidTAC emulsifier complex is derived from natural sources and does not contain any ethoxylated ingredients. The complex is a self-emulsifier for oil-in-water emulsions. The acyl lactylates of the emulsifier complex are responsible for conditioning skin and hair. The lactic and acyl component of fatty acids react together to produce anionic lactylates. The two constituents are natural moisturizing factors (NMF) present in the skin. Lactylates are excellent conditioners, enhancers, and stabilizers. The emulsification system is balanced and complete and is used in creams and lotions to provide a conditioned and soft feel to the skin. Raw materials used for the production of emulsifier complex are GMO-free. Glyceryl stearate, sodium stearoyl lactylates, and Cetearyl alcohol are the key constituents of the LipidTAC emulsifier complex. The initial two compounds are also added to edible formulations, however, Cetearyl alcohol is not food grade, hence, used in cosmetics only. 


Elder, R. (1988). Final report on the safety assessment of cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, isostearyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, and behenyl alcohol. J Am Coll Toxicol, 7(3), 359-413. 

Information, N. C. f. B. (2022). PubChem Compound Summar for CID 62238, Cetostearyl alcohol. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Cetostearyl-alcohol 

Tasic-Kostov, M., Vesic, S., & Savic, S. (2014). Objective skin performance evaluation: How mild are APGs to the skin? In Alkyl Polyglucosides (pp. 135-161). Elsevier.

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