The Truth About Cetearyl Alcohol: Benefits and Uses

It might be time to change your mind about alcohol in skincare—here’s why.

Skincare aficionados know the truth: alcohol is bad for your skin. It harms the skin’s protective layers, leads to blackheads, drys out the skin, and can make oily skin even oiler.  It’s best to steer clear of skincare products with alcohol in them—unless it’s cetearyl alcohol.

Cetearyl alcohol is the exception to avoiding alcohol in skincare. It’s a sort of “good” alcohol that is featured in many products for its benefits. In fact, even though a skincare product is labeled alcohol-free, it may still contain cetearyl alcohol on the ingredient list. 

Still on the fence about it? Read on to find out more about cetearyl alcohol uses and benefits.


What Is Cetearyl Alcohol?

Characterized by its waxy consistency, cetearyl alcohol is actually made up of two different alcohols—cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. These fatty alcohols are found in plants (like palm and coconut) and animals. Labs also create synthetic versions of it. 

Ever wonder how your shampoo gets its consistency? Or why your skin cream doesn’t drip everywhere? That’s probably the cetearyl alcohol doing its job. Cetearyl alcohol acts as an emulsifier, preventing products from separating into oil and liquid. It also helps thicken a product and increase its foaming ability. 


Products featuring cetearyl alcohol include:

  • Sunscreen
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Moisturizers
  • Lotions
  • Anti-frizz hair cream
  • Mousse
  • Mascara
  • Hair dye
  • Hand soaps

3 Benefits of Cetearyl Alcohol on Skin

There’s a reason (or two or three) why cetearyl alcohol is featured in your favorite skincare lines. Here are the top three benefits of cetearyl alcohol:

Softens Skin

Because cetearyl alcohol is derived from plants, it contains a fatty component that may soften and smooth your skin. It’s not going to be as effective as shea butter or coconut oil—but it still lends to the overall effectiveness of a skincare product.  

Stabilizes Products

When it comes to mess-free, functional products, cetearyl alcohol does most of the heavy work. It emulsifies lotions, creams, and more to prevent separated products. This helps encourage even application, so your product does what it needs to do. Just imagine a sunscreen that is clumpy and oily—no thanks!

Safe & Nontoxic 

Clinical studies have shown that cetearyl alcohol has no significant toxicity or mutagenic properties (which means it won’t alter your DNA). The FDA has approved it as safe for use, even as a food additive. As always, be sure to patch test cetearyl alcohol on your skin to make sure you’re not allergic. 


Here’s How To Add It To Your Routine

We get it—using alcohol in skincare products is daunting. But cetearyl alcohol is different. Its fatty components help heal skin and keep your products usable. Plus, it’s non-mutagenic and nontoxic. So, there’s really nothing to lose. And that means it’s time to add cetearyl alcohol to your routine. 

Chances are, more than half of your bath and body products feature cetearyl alcohol. We’ve compiled some simple, easy ways to add it to your day-to-day routine:

Apply Some Lotion. Check your creams and lotions to see if they contain cetearyl alcohol. If not, check out the ingredient list on some products at your local drugstore and choose your favorite one! Or skip the hassle of waiting in line and order a lotion right to the comfort of your home, like A88CBD™’s Hydrating Body Lotion.

Use a Moisturizer. Help slow down aging and give your skin a supple, glowy look with a facial moisturizer. Bonus points if it has cetearyl alcohol! Your skin will surely thank you.

DIY It. Did you know you can make your own cetearyl alcohol products? Cetearyl alcohol pellets are fairly inexpensive and can be added to home-made soaps and scrubs to get that professional-skincare feel.

The bottom line: cetearyl alcohol is a friend, not a foe. So grab the nearest lotion and lather up!

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