cetearyl alcohol vs ethanol
  • Clean beauty

Cetearyl alcohol & cetyl alcohol vs ethanol

To most people the word 'alcohol' means ethanol, i.e. the clear, colourless, volatile liquid that is found in alcoholic beverages, and which is produced by the fermentation of sugars with yeast.

Von Alexandra Julian

2 Minute read

To most people the word 'alcohol' means ethanol, i.e. the clear, colourless, volatile liquid that is found in alcoholic beverages, and which is produced by the fermentation of sugars with yeast.

When ethanol alcohol is used in skin and hair care products it can have a drying effect, and also acts as a solvent enabling otherwise inactive substances to cross the skin/blood barrier and enter the body.

For these two reasons Green People completely avoids the use of ethanol alcohol in its personal care products.

What is an alcohol?

In chemistry terms, the word 'alcohol' is used to describe any compound which contains an Oxygen/Hydrogen pairing (-OH group) at one end of its molecule.

Such compounds are very common in nature, and their names often end in the letters 'ol'.

Examples of such alcohols include tocopherol (Vitamin E), retinol (Vitamin A) and cholesterol.

These alcohols are often thick oils or solid fats, and many are essential for human health, e.g. the fat soluble vitamins.

Cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol

Another group of alcohols found in nature are the fatty alcohols, which are derived from saturated vegetable fats such as coconut oil and palm oil.

These have the appearance of solid white fatty waxes and are beneficial to both skin and hair, containing fatty acids that are highly compatible with human cell physiology.

Examples include Cetyl alcohol and Cetearyl alcohol.

Cetyl alcohol is a gentle fatty alcohol that works as an emollient. It helps to add texture, thickens and improves skin feel. Cetearyl alcohol is another gentle fatty alcohol. It helps to stabilise cosmetic products and gives softness to the skin and hair. Both of these are used in our personal care products.

As the above examples hopefully illustrate, many different compounds make up the group known as 'alcohols', and different alcohols possess widely differing properties.

Some alcohols can have potentially irritating effects (i.e. ethanol alcohol) and must be used with caution in personal care products, whereas others (i.e. cetearyl alcohol) are beneficial and are used as gentle but effective nourishing and conditioning agents.

We only use the beneficial kind. 

A selection of our gentle skin care products

Read more about alcohol in beauty products. 

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