Cetearyl alcohol is a white, waxy, solid material in the form of flakes. It is oil soluble, but it is not water-soluble. It is a mixture of fatty alcohols.
An alcohol in this sense is not a fermented mixture; it is a chemical compound of a certain molecular structure based on carbon and oxygen.
Fatty alcohols were originally prepared from fats and oils by hydrolysis, which produces fatty acids. These were then hydrogenated to form fatty alcohols. More efficient forms of hydrogenation enable fatty alcohols to be formed directly from triglycerides (vegetable oils).
Cetearyl alcohol is an emulsifier. In creams and lotions, it supports the main emulsion system and gives texture to the product. In conditioners, it creates a thickening effect. We use it about 1%.
Cetearyl alcohol in combination with other ingredients in the formula (such as triethanolamine and stearic acid) forms an emulsion. This stops the oil and water from separating.
In our creams, the emulsion system is very important. We consider the naturally occurring levels of materials, such as fatty acids, which are in the cocoa and shea butters, when we are deciding on how to balance the formula. The optimum level of cetearyl alcohol is then decided.
If emulsified excessively, a cream will sit on the surface of the skin and will not be effective. Our creams and lotions are gently held together by this combination of materials. They break down easily when applied to allow the lovely ingredients to benefit the skin.
For thirty years, we have used this emulsion system in our creams and lotions. Its emulsifying quality enables fresh ingredients to be emulsified with softening cocoa butter and soya lecithin, resulting in more effective products.