What is cetyl alcohol?

A cosmetic cream that contains cetyl alcohol.

Cetyl alcohol is a lubricant and thickening agent used in a variety of products. Also known as palmityl alcohol, it is a synthetic fatty substance made from oils that reduces the surface tension of a liquid. It is most commonly found in shampoos and conditioners as it can make hair smooth and soft. It is also used to thicken lotions and other cosmetics, as well as to lubricate industrial machine parts such as screws and fasteners.


Cetyl alcohol is found in many hand and body lotions.

This substance contains 16 carbons, which makes it oilier than many other types of alcohols. This helps add moisture to the products, which is good when the goal is to make your skin or hair soft and smooth, but it can also leave your hair or skin feeling dirty and oily if overused. The composition of cetyl alcohol also makes it an effective thickening agent. It has the ability to increase the viscosity of a substance, a process that is called emulsifying, making it appear thicker and hold better. Emulsifiers can be used to increase the stability of a substance by keeping the unmixable components in it evenly dispersed rather than separated like oil and water.

hair care

Shampoos and conditioners often use cetyl alcohol to help moisturize your hair.

Shampoos and conditioners often use cetyl alcohol to help moisturize your hair. Protects hair cuticles and helps them stay flat to prevent dryness and frizz. While conditioners with fatty alcohols can be effective moisturizing agents, it is perhaps even more important that people choose a shampoo that contains them. Many shampoos draw moisture out of the hair and can become very dry if the moisture is not replenished after cleansing. At the same time, people with oily hair may not benefit as much from shampoos that contain this substance because their hair is already straight.

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lotion and makeup

Cetyl alcohol is sometimes an ingredient in blushes and other makeup products.

In cosmetics, cetyl alcohol is used as an emollient that softens the skin when used in adequate amounts. Moisturizers that contain it are often used for normal skin types. They can maintain the skin’s moisture balance and not create oiliness if used correctly. In addition to moisturizers, cetyl alcohol is present in foundations, blushes and other cosmetics. The thickening agents in it help keep makeup from falling off the skin.

Industrial Uses

Moisturizers that contain cetyl alcohol are often marketed to people who have a “normal” skin type.

While cetyl alcohol is most commonly used in cosmetics, it is also found in water-based lubricants for screws, nuts, bolts, and studs. It can be used to keep threaded and non-threaded fasteners moving properly, making them easier to use. This is particularly the case with tools that don’t fit together as they should. For best effects with a cetyl alcohol-based lubricant, instruments should be fully immersed in the liquid, then removed and dried before use.

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