Cetyl Alcohol - The Natural Stabilizer
Cetyl alcohol (INCI: Cetyl Alcohol) is one of those 'background' ingredients that helps keep a product 'behaving as it should'. It performs as a thickening agent in creams and lotions, helping stabilize the texture of the product.
What's With The Whale?The cetyl name derives from the Latin word for whale (cetus). Cetyl alcohol was originally discovered in 1817 by a French chemist, who isolated it by melting spermaceti (from whale fat) and mixing it with caustic potash. As the mixture cooled, flakes of cetyl alcohol were left behind. (You almost have to wonder what he was aiming for with this experiment)
Petroleum or Plant?Today, cetyl alcohol is (happily) no longer animal-based. It can, however be either petroleum-based or plant-based. If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember me mentioning that an INCI name on an ingredients list does not reveal the source of the ingredient – only the name.
To know whether the cetyl alcohol in your cream is sourced from petroleum or plant, you need to ask the supplier of the product. (For another example of this, please read about squalane.)