Cetyl Alcohol


Texture enhancer

Cetyl Alcohol at a glance

  • Fatty alcohol used as an emollient, emulsifier, and thickening agent
  • Can be naturally or synthetically derived
  • One of the longest-known fatty acids, discovered in 1913
  • Considered safe as used in cosmetics

Cetyl Alcohol description

Cetyl alcohol is a gentle fatty alcohol used as an emollient (moisturising ingredient), emulsifier, thickener, and carrying agent for other ingredients. It can be derived naturally, as in coconut fatty alcohol, or made synthetically. Both forms are considered safe and effective for skin. It is one of the longest-known fatty alcohols, having been discovered in 1913, when a French chemist isolated it from whale oil (hence the name “cetyl”, which is derived from _Cetacea_, the taxonomical infraorder in which whales are classified). It is not related to SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, or ethyl alcohol. There have been some reports of irritation with cetyl alcohol in compromised skin; however, this is thought to be from impurities in the refining process and not from cetyl alcohol itself. Cetyl alcohol is considered safe for use in cosmetics, even in amounts surpassing 50% (although its typical usage range is 5–10%).

Cetyl Alcohol references

  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, December 2012, Issue 34, Volume 6, pages 567-74
  • http://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/115_buff3a_suppl.pdf
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/1-Hexadecanol

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.