Texture enhancer

No known benefits

Hydroxyethylcellulose at a glance

  • Naturally derived thickening agent
  • Comes from cellulose, a sugar found in the cell walls of plants
  • Ruled safe as used in cosmetics
  • Approved as a non-direct food additive

Hydroxyethylcellulose description

Hydroxyethylcellulose is a thickener typically used as a binding agent or emulsifier. It is derived from cellulose, a naturally occurring polysaccharide (complex sugar) found in the cell walls of plants. In clinical settings, it is used in wound healing applications and to help deliver drugs (such as antimicrobial agents) to skin. Hydroxyethylcellulose in its raw for is a white, odorless, tasteless powder. It is currently used in concentrations as low as 0.0002%, and as high as 39%. The independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has ruled hydroxyethylcellulose safe as used in cosmetics, even in amounts much higher than what would occur from normal human exposure. The United States Food and Drug Administration has also approved hydroxyethylcellulose as an indirect food additive as an adhesive component and in non-water-soluble form, as a food packaging material.

Hydroxyethylcellulose references

  • Pharmacia, December 2019, pages 187-193
  • Journal of Physics, June 2018, pages 1-7
  • Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, 2018, ePublication
  • European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, May 2015, pages 146-154
  • https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/hydroxyethylcellulose
  • http://www.beauty-review.nl/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Amended-Safety-Assessment-of-Cellulose-and-Related-Polymers-as-used-in-Cosmetics.pdf

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.


We couldn't find this in our ingredient dictionary. We log all missing ingredients and make continuous updates.

Not rated

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