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'.

Cetyl alcohol 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.)

Plant Based, Please!

The Cetyl Alcohol I use in my products is vegetable based, made from Palm Kernel Oil Fatty Acid (also called Palmitic Acid).

Do Tell

Have you worked with cetyl alcohol? Did you ask the supplier where it was sourced?


Unknown said…
I read somewhere that you can use cetyl alcohol or stearic acid in body butters to help with the over texture and melt point. Have you ever used it in a body butter? I tried it, an although I liked the texture the skin feel felt waxy. I used 2% in an anhydrous body butter. I am thinking about remaking it and using only 1% cetyl alcohol. I will keep you posted.
LisaLise said…
HI Michelle, I've not used cetyl alcohol in a body butter, but have used stearic acid. You do have play with proportions to get the right skin feel though. Sometimes even adjusting your butter to oil ratios slightly can make a difference. Best of luck with it and please feel free to post your updates here!
Unknown said…
Thank you for the quick response. One things for sure, the one I made using cetyl alcohol has staying power on my skin. I applied it early this morning and I can still feel it on my skin and it is not oily. The "feel" almost reminds me of using a product that has beeswax in it, I like it, but I need to play around with the ratios.

Have a great weekend!
LisaLise said…
HI Michelle - I know what you mean about the waxy feel and staying power. I'm sure you won't have too much trouble getting the ratios perfect for YOUR taste. Best of luck with it all :)