What is Cetyl Alcohol?

Have you ever wondered why a product might be branded “alcohol-free,” only for you to check on the back and see cetyl alcohol listed in the ingredients? While it might seem counterintuitive, unlike most forms of alcohol, cetyl alcohol is actually good for your skin. 

Cetyl alcohol is a kind of alcohol typically found in cosmetics. It is referred to as fatty alcohol, which is an organic molecule composed of alcohol and fatty acids. As the name implies, this alcohol is used to enhance viscosity or thickness to shampoos and conditioners. It can also be used as an emollient. An emollient is a medicinal moisturizer that includes creams or lotions used to treat sensitive skin or disorders like dermatitis, as well as treat wrinkles.

The name Cetyl comes from the Latin word “Cetus,” which means “whale.” It was discovered in 1817 by Michel Chevreul, a French chemist. He created it by heating spermaceti, a white waxy material derived from sperm whale oil.

Today, cetyl alcohol is mostly derived from coconut and palm oil. For this reason, it is also known as palmityl alcohol.

How is Cetyl Alcohol Used?

Cetyl alcohol is one of the most often used fatty alcohols, with several applications, particularly in personal care products. 

These include shampoos and conditioners, bath oils, creams, skin serums, and lotions. Because it melts at a greater temperature than the average human body, it is also commonly used to produce lipstick and cosmetics.

Aside from cosmetics and grooming aids, cetyl alcohol has a variety of industrial applications. It’s a key element in fuels, chemicals, and plastic. Cetyl alcohol is also utilized in the manufacturing process to lubricate nuts and bolts. It is also deemed acceptable to use as a food ingredient (typically in cakes and confectionery)!

Stearyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol are two closely related alcohols. Cetyl alcohol has a higher viscosity than stearyl, but it can also degrade with time. In comparison, stearyl is more stable. As a result, cetyl alcohol can mix with stearyl alcohol to form cetearyl alcohol. 

Cetearyl, like Cetyl alcohol, is a waxy white material. It can also be employed as a thickening, emollient, or emulsifier to keep components together in a product. This makes it helpful as a foaming ingredient in goods like shampoos.

Is Cetyl Alcohol Natural?

Cetyl alcohol is 95% natural and present in a wide range of plants and animals. Today, it is commonly derived from vegetable oils like coconut and palm tree oil. It can be produced in a laboratory or acquired from petroleum.

In products labeled as “natural,” cetyl alcohol is typically obtained from natural fats and oils. If the source or method of production is a concern, particularly for ethical or environmental reasons, it may be helpful to check product labels or inquire directly with manufacturers regarding their specific sources and processes.

Does Cetyl Alcohol Contain Alcohol?

Yes, but not in the way most people think of alcohol. Alcohol is one of the most prevalent organic molecules.

An alcohol is defined as any substance that has a single oxygen atom bonded to a single hydrogen atom. The majority of people associate the term “alcohol” with simple alcohols.

Simple alcohols include methanol, ethanol, and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.These alcohols can dehydrate and irritate the skin. Unlike fatty alcohols, they are liquid.

Ethanol is derived from fermented fruits and grains and is the major component in alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine. It produces drunkenness and a variety of unpleasant negative effects.

Cetyl alcohol, like stearyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol, is classified as a fatty alcohol. This alcohol is derived from plants and animals. Unlike basic alcohols, fatty alcohol is beneficial to your skin and is commonly used in moisturizing creams. Unlike basic alcohols, they cannot be consumed as liquids.

The Food and Drug Administration permits firms to describe their products as “alcohol-free” if they include solely fatty alcohols rather than simple alcohols.  

What Does Cetyl Alcohol Do to Your Skin?

Cetyl alcohol, unlike other alcohols such denatured ethanol (which is commonly used in antibacterial soaps), does not cause skin dryness.

Instead, fatty acids contribute to the formation of a barrier between the skin and the surrounding air. This helps your skin maintain moisture while also protecting it from allergens and microorganisms. 

Products that Contain Cetyl Alcohol

Various cosmetic products contain cetyl alcohol. 

These include:

  • Conditioner
  • Moisturizer
  • Creams and lotions
  • Hair styling products such as wax and mousse
  • Hair dye
  • Makeup

Can You Drink Cetyl Alcohol?

Cetyl alcohol, unlike simple alcohols such as ethanol, is not drinkable. This is because the material is waxy and white. It does not dissolve in liquid, making it an efficient emulsifier.

Simple alcohol can be consumed. Ethyl alcohol, sometimes known as ethanol, is the most widely used simple alcohol. It is produced by distilling fermented starches.This is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

Excessive use of ethanol causes drunkenness. You may also drink isopropyl and methanol, but these are extremely hazardous and not designed for human consumption.

Isopropyl intoxication resembles ethyl intoxication. 

Cetyl Alcohol Toxicity

Except for a few occurrences, the majority of evidence shows that cetyl alcohol is highly safe. Cetyl alcohol, according to research published in the International Journal of Toxicology, is safe for use in cosmetic products on a daily basis.

Numerous animal tests have proved that it is non-irritating to the skin and eyes and safe to consume, which is why it is often used in lipsticks.

A limited proportion of the data has revealed certain negative effects related with the usage of cetyl alcohol products. People with delicate skin or who are allergic to cetyl alcohol may get contact dermatitis.

Other possible adverse effects include burning, stinging, redness, and inflammation. If you have any of these symptoms, you should speak with a doctor about your choices and available resources.

What Happens if You Drink Cetyl Alcohol?

Cetyl alcohol is not a liquid, hence it cannot be drunk.

If you consume cosmetic goods containing cetyl alcohol, such as hair conditioner, you will not become inebriated. It would not cause any of the adverse effects associated with the intake of ethanol-containing goods such as beer. 

What to Do if You Drink Cetyl Alcohol

Most over-the-counter hair products are safe to consume in tiny quantities. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. 

In big enough amounts, you may still get nauseous and vomit. If you find yourself in this circumstance, get medical attention immediately.

And if you find yourself unable to stop drinking alcohol, consider alcohol treatment in Orange County.