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Seize the closest skin-care product to you, and take a look at its ingredient record — likelihood is excessive cetyl alcohol makes an look on the high of the record, close to good ol’ water. Simply glancing on the phrase alcohol would possibly make your pores and skin begin feeling parched and itchy after years of overdrying with alcohol-based astringents within the ‘90s. However concern not, cetyl alcohol is nothing of the type. It does not even fall into the identical household because the alcohol you add to your margaritas or powers your hand sanitizer. In reality, the FDA permits magnificence manufacturers to label their merchandise “alcohol-free” even when it comprises cetyl alcohol, says Ohio-based dermatologist Hope Mitchell.

We requested dermatologists to share why cetyl alcohol is a vital ingredient in moisturizers and lotions. 

What precisely is cetyl alcohol? 

Cetyl alcohol is a waxy-like strong added to lotions and lotions to assist stabilize and bind their components collectively “to forestall them from separating into an oil or liquid,” in line with New York Metropolis-based board-certified dermatologist Marina Peredo

One other perform of cetyl alcohol is extending a product’s shelf life, in addition to amping up its viscosity to make it really feel richer and extra concentrated, beauty chemist Ginger King provides. 

How is it completely different from different alcohols? 

The alcohols usually utilized in skincare might be categorized into three completely different varieties: easy, fatty, and fragrant. Easy alcohols, corresponding to isopropyl (aka rubbing alcohol), ethanol, or methanol, are what we’re used to irritating and drying out our complexions whereas having a robust, nasal hair-burning scent. They’re usually added to skin-care merchandise as a “degreasing agent used after cleaning the pores and skin and previous to making use of a chemical peel for finest absorption,” Mitchell says. 

Fatty alcohols, like cetyl alcohol, do exactly the alternative. (Extra on that quickly.) Sometimes, they’re derived from vegetable oils, significantly palm and coconut, King says. Nonetheless, up to now, cetyl alcohol wasn’t vegan in any respect — it was extracted from sperm whale oil. 

How does cetyl alcohol profit pores and skin? 

Apart from appearing as an emulsifier or thickener in skin-care merchandise, cetyl alcohol can be an occlusive agent, much like petroleum. It is “nice at defending the pores and skin barrier from drying out and stopping water loss,” explains Pittsburg-based board-certified dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky.


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