A fatty alcohol that's either produced from the end products of the petroleum industry, or derived from plants (palm oil-palmityl alcohol). It comes in the form of a white, waxy solid. It's no longer derived from sperm whale oil (where it was originally discovered) seeing how whales are now an endangered species.
Works as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener and carrying agent for other ingredients contained in a cosmetic solution. It keeps the oil and water parts of an emulsion from separating, and gives products good spreadability. As a thickening agent and surfactant, it helps alter the viscosity and increase the foaming capacity of non-aqueous (i.e. lotions) and aqueous solutions (i.e. shampoo). It is often misinterpreted as an "alcohol" related to ethyl or rubbing alcohol, both of which can be extremely drying to the skin. The truth, in fact, is quite the opposite, as cetyl alcohol is well known to effectively condition and soften the skin and hair. Because of its multi-functional capabilities, this ingredient is used in a wide range of personal care products such as moisturizer, face cream, shampoo/conditioner, anti-aging treatment, hair dye, sunscreen, cleanser and lipstick.
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