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Cetearyl Alcohol - The gentle emulsifier



What is it?


I know that you automatically see the word alcohol in an ingredient name and freak out a little inside.


Cetearyl Alcohol is not "bad for you, your skin or your hair!

It is actually very different from normal alcohol which you see used in hand sanitisers and aftershave etc

You may have heard that you should avoid hair and skin products that contain alcohol because many alcohols are very drying and lead to itchiness and peeling or flaking and that is true but the difference here is that Cetearyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol which has a very different composition.

It’s a white, waxy substance made from cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol, both fatty alcohols. They’re found in animals and plants.



Cetearyl Alcohol


Why Do I use it?


  • As I was learning to formulate one of the basic things you learn is that clearly oil and water do not mix. If you put them together they will just separate. Cetearyl alcohol is used in my formulations as an emulsifier which basically means that it allows the water and oil ingredients in a formula to mix an stay mixed.

  • Fatty alcohols trap water and provide a soothing feel to the skin.

  • It helps make products thicker which helps give the consistency of the Moisturising Cream.

  • It increases the products ability to foam which is why I use it as the emulsifier in my shampoo bars.

  • Even cosmetics labelled "Alcohol Free" are allowed to contain Cetearyl alcohol and other fatty alcohols and it is included on the FDA list of safe and permitted food additives. Which technically doesn't count in New Zealand however the requirements of skincare are much stricter in the United States where this is accepted.


Who shouldn't use it?


There is of course with anything a small risk of allergic reaction to it however unlike some other fatty acid emulsifiers it has a significantly lower reaction rate.

If you have sensitive skin a patch test is always recommended but this isn't really possible if you are using the Shampoo Bars. Try the bar once and if you notice any reaction discontinue use.

I am happy to say though that I am yet to have a person react to my bars in fact many people who suffer from Psoriasis of the scalp and dandruff wont use anything else because they work so well for them and personally I don't like using lye to harden my soap bars because before it goes through saponification it is very caustic. Most soaps contain lye which you can identify in the ingredients list as sodium hydroxide which is as far from a natural ingredient as you can get and makes my skin react every time!

What do I use it in?

I use Cetearyl alcohol in my moisturising cream to help mix the oil and water and give it a thicker consistency and both our shampoo bars to give the lathering effect.





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