So what exactly is a fatty alcohol anyway?

In the first installment of Ingredient Profiles, I’ve decided to showcase the ingredient in my balms and scrubs that separates them from their non-vegan counterparts: cetearyl alcohol. So what is it exactly? It’s a mixture of fatty alcohols, consisting predominantly of cetyl and stearyl alcohols and is classified as a fatty alcohol (Wikipedia). If you understood any of that, you clearly have a better understanding of organic chemistry than I do. To put it simply, it’s a waxy substance used in many applications, including emulsifying and thickening cosmetics. I primarily use it as a substitute for beeswax. Although cetearyl alcohol (the main component of a substance simply known as emulsifying wax) can be animal-derived, mine is guaranteed to be plant-derived. It’s an amazing stabilizer, incredibly emollient, and a very economical plant-based organic wax.

And as of 2019, I will not be using it anymore.

If it’s such a great ingredient, why not? Well, there are two main reasons why. For one, when speaking with customers and getting their feedback on my products, many people do not like the chemical-y sounding name, or the idea of using a moisturizer with alcohol in it. While I can explain to those individual customers what a fatty alcohol is (I know I certainly didn’t know before I researched it) and that it doesn’t dry the skin the way other alcohols do, I know that it is an off-putting ingredient to many looking for more natural, organic products.

The second and probably more crucial reason why I will stop using cetearyl alcohol by the end of the year is, while my supplier previously only sold coconut-derived CA, they have now decided to include palm-derived CA, and not offer the option of one or the other. As I cannot guarantee how the palm was harvested, I will not be purchasing it from them. Of course, I could find a new supplier, but with both of these reasons in mind, I have chosen to revise my recipe.

Well then, if not cetearyl alcohol, then what? There are many fantastic vegan waxes to choose from, like candelilla, carnauba, and even sunflower. My new wax of choice is rice bran wax, a very firm, smooth wax that I’ve been tinkering with for some time now (more on that in a future post). For now, I’ll say that tests have been very positive, and I do believe I prefer the recipes I’m coming up with to the old ones!

Speaking of recipe changes, next week we’ll talk about cocoa butter, and we’ll see why I prefer it to my previous use of mango butter and shea butter.

One thought on “Ingredient Profile: Cetearyl Alcohol

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