How Fatty Alcohols Are Used in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products

Cosmetic & PCP

Personal care products like lotions, skin creams, shampoos, conditioners and petroleum jelly are found on store shelves and in household medicine cabinets across the globe. While the ingredients in each product differ, it is nearly guaranteed that alcohol is one of them. 

That may seem counterintuitive, because certain alcohols are known to dry the skin and scalp. But not all alcohols – particularly fatty alcohols – are bad. In fact, they are a safe, versatile, active ingredient that comes from vegetable oils and other natural sources. 

At Cremer, we supply fatty alcohols in various quantities and forms to our customers who use them in the production of personal care and cleaning products. In those applications, fatty alcohols serve several important functions.

  • Emollient
    You know that smooth, soft feeling you get after you apply a quality cream or lotion to your skin? This happens when the emollients – which the fatty alcohols are used for – in the lotion create a flat layer on the surface of your skin. 
  • Emulsifiers
    Oil and water don’t mix – unless an emulsifier is used. For skin creams and lotions, fatty alcohols act as that emulsifier. This is what creates the familiar, rich texture of the product.
  • Cosurfactants
    Shampoos and conditioners are generally formulated by combining a surfactant (a detergent that creates lather) such as ammonium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate with a cosurfactant like fatty alcohol. It can also be used as a thickener and to help lock in moisture. 

Fatty Alcohol Types and Utilizations

Although fatty alcohols are found in most personal care products, they aren’t all the same. Here are some different types of fatty alcohols we supply to our partners and how they might be used:

  • Cetyl Alcohol – Derived from palm oil and used to create the right consistency in skincare and haircare products.
  • Stearyl Alcohol – Also derived from palm oil and used to stabilize foaming properties in hair care products.
  • Cetearyl Alcohol – This compound is a blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohols.
  • Lauryl Alcohol – Also known as dodecanol, this alcohol is often used as a base in surfactants and as a thickener and foam control agent in soap and personal care products. 

To learn more about fatty alcohol applications and to view our spec sheets, click here.

Reach out to a Cremer expert for more information, to learn about our fatty alcohol services or to order samples.

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