OH alcohol! It’s commonly used in cosmetics, but it’s got a bit of a bad reputation. Drying, tightness, flaking… it seems like the last thing you’d want in your moisturizer. But is this reputation deserved? Is there an alcohol without the astringent effect?
Yes! And one of them is cetearyl alcohol. You might recognize this as one of the ingredients in our new sunscreen lotions.
Cetearyl alcohol in brief
Cetearyl alcohol is what’s known as a “fatty alcohol.” That’s because it’s derived from the fatty acids found in coconut and sustainably harvested palm oil. It has strong emollient properties, meaning it’s soothing to the skin. And in our sunscreens, it helps to bind water and oil together as an emulsifier.
Fatty alcohol versus ethanol
Here’s your crash course in cosmetic chemistry. Put your thinking cap on!
Fatty alcohols, including cetearyl alcohol, are “long chain.” This means that an alcohol group (-OH) is attached to a long chain of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are fats or oils. The alcohol head is what connects oil to water, and the long chain of hydrocarbons is what gives cetearyl alcohol its skin-softening feel.
Yes, you read correctly. Cetearyl alcohol has a skin-softening feel.
Ethanol is probably what comes to mind when you think of alcohol. Ethanol type, such as denatured alcohol, is commonly used in cosmetics for its astringent and antiseptic properties. Organic ethanol is created by distilling organic grains that have been fermented. It has a tightening effect on the skin, which is why it’s commonly used in aftershaves.
Denatured alcohol is “short chain,” meaning that the alcohol group is only attached to a short tail of hydrocarbons. An additive is then added to make it unfit for drinking.
Badger has used denatured alcohol in previous lotion formulations, with lavender as the additive. However, we received a lot of feedback from fans all over the world asking us to remove it. So we did, replacing it with cetearyl alcohol. In addition to emulsifying the product, cetearyl alcohol also helps to stabilize the formula, making it really pleasant to apply and really shelf-stable, too!
Cetearyl alcohol is actually a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohols. These long chain alcohols are 16 and 18 carbons long, respectively. Badger uses this mixture because it provides a unique skin feel and increases the overall stability.
So, now you know there are alcohols that can be good for the skin. Next time you see your friends, impress them with your cosmetic chemistry savvy!
Still have questions? Post them in the comments below and get answers from Badger’s holistic chemist!