Cetyl Alcohol might not be what you think it is.

Cetyl Alcohol might not be what you think it is.

When you think about ingredients in skincare, what do you think about the inclusion of alcohol? In this case, cetyl alcohol. Probably that it's a bad thing to see on the ingredients list, right? Well it's not so simple.

All alcohols are not created equal. In fact there are long-chain alcohols (also known as fatty alcohols) and short-chain alcohols and they have very different effects on the skin. 

laboratory with glass beakers and chemicals


Short-chain alcohols

Two examples of short-chain alcohols are ethyl alcohol (known as denatured alcohol) and isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol). Both of these are used in cosmetic and skincare products for various reasons such as: improving texture, preserving, anti-foaming etc. Although they are officially classified as safe ingredients, they CAN cause problems for people with sensitive skin. Here are just four possible negative effects of short-chain alcohols:

  1. They can dry out the skin and cause redness, itching, and burning. In addition, short-chain alcohol can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it feeling tight and dry.
  2. They can break down the skin's barrier function. The skin's barrier function is responsible for keeping moisture in and harmful substances out. When this barrier is compromised, the skin is more susceptible to irritation, infection, and other issues.
  3. Short-chain alcohols can also increase the skin's sensitivity to UV rays. This means that if you're using skincare products that contain these ingredients, you may be more likely to experience sun damage and premature aging.
  4. Lastly, they can cause inflammation, which can lead to the formation of wrinkles and age spots.

Many people are fine with this ingredient, but I made the decision to exclude short-chain alcohols from all Wilderness Lab products because I want to be as gentle as possible on your skin.

That's where long-chain fatty alcohols come in, specifically cetyl alcohol. 

bowl of cetyl alcohol in front of some plants. Photography by Wilderness Lab


Cetyl Alcohol

Cetyl alcohol is a popular ingredient in many skincare and haircare products, including moisturizers, creams, lotions, and conditioners. It appears as white waxy pellets (yes, that's it in the photo above).

The cetyl alcohol we use is naturally derived from vegetable sources such as coconut oil. Despite its name, cetyl alcohol is not an irritant and does not have the drying effects of short-chain alcohols 

You may have noticed that cetyl alcohol is the second ingredient on the list (behind cocoa butter) for our Tasmanian Gold solid lotion bars. There are some great reasons for this, and I'd like to explain four of them here.

  1. One of the main benefits of cetyl alcohol is its ability to moisturize and soften the skin. It helps to form a barrier on the skin's surface to retain moisture. This makes cetyl alcohol a potent addition to Tasmanian Gold, along with all the other nourishing and moisturising ingredients (including cocoa butter, hemp oil, calendula, and olive oil).
  2. In addition to its moisturizing properties, cetyl alcohol also improves the texture of skincare products. It gives Tasmanian Gold that famous smooth, silky texture that our customers just LOVE on their skin. It allows you to enjoy a lighter and fast-absorbing moisturiser instead of a greasy, heavy feeling.
  3. Cetyl alcohol is also known for its low allergenic potential. It is generally considered safe for use on all skin types and is unlikely to cause allergic reactions or irritation. This makes it a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
  4. As a bonus, cetyl alcohol has been found to have antimicrobial properties, making it a useful to prevent the growth of bacteria. This is important in skincare and particularly in a lotion bar product where it frequently comes into direct contact with hands.

woman rubbing in moisturiser to her legs


So now you can see why we've included cetyl alcohol in the ingredients of our Tasmanian Gold solid lotion bar. Its moisturising and silky feel make it a great choice, while still being a vegan-friendly and naturally-derived ingredient that's safe for sensitive skin. 

Of course, as is always the case, it is still possible to develop an allergy to any ingredient in your skin care (even essential oils).  Please patch test before using and discontinue use if any reaction occurs.

Cheers to happy skin!

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