Cetostearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol or cetylstearyl alcohol is a mixture of fatty alcohols, consisting predominantly of cetyl and stearyl alcohols and is classified as a fatty alcohol. It is used as an emulsion stabilizer, opacifying agent, and foam boosting surfactant, as well as an aqueous and nonaqueous viscosity-increasing agent.
It imparts an emollient feel to the skin and can be used in water-in-oil emulsions, oil-in-water emulsions, and anhydrous formulations. It is commonly used in hair conditioners and other hair products.
It is not really an “alcohol”, such as rubbing alcohol, which would dry the skin, but it is an emulsifying wax, made by combining fatty alcohols from vegetable sources, such as coconut alcohol. It can also be made artificially.
It is used often in cosmetics as an emollient, thickening agent, moisturizer, emulsifier, stabilizer, opacifier as well as a carrying agent for other ingredients. It is a substitute for making lotions if you don’t have emulsifying wax as well.
When compared to Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alchol offers enhanced viscosity building effects as well as improved penetration of other ingredients. Cetearyl Alcohol has long been known as a “carrier” and “penetration enhancer”.
This widely used fatty alcohol is often employed as the sole conditioning agent in crème rinse or hair conditioner formulations, as it adequately moisturizes and improves wet/dry combout.