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What Is Cetyl Alcohol and Why Is It Considered a ‘Good for You’ Ingredient When Other Alcohols Aren’t?

Another day, another confusion by way of ingredients. Today, the burning question is, what is cetyl alcohol? The reason for the furrowed brows is because we have it instilled in us that alcohols in hair and skincare products is traditionally bad and dries us out. But yet, this mystery alcohol is heralded by many.

To get to the bottom of this seemingly crowd-pleasing product component, we reached out to Nikki Neubarth, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Product Development at UNITE Hair, a brand that incorporates cetyl alcohol into many of its formulas. Keep reading to find out just what is cetyl alcohol, and why it’s different than some of the other alcohols that are shunned in beauty products.

curly-haired woman tugs are her dark strands
(via Unsplash)

What Is Cetyl Alcohol?

“Cetyl alcohol is considered a fatty alcohol,” Neubarth tells Mane Addicts. “It is mostly derived from either vegetable or coconut oils.”

Benefits of Cetyl Alcohol in Hair Products

“Cetyl alcohol is commonly used in hair care because of its moisturizing properties,” Neubarth says. “They can also help smooth and seal the hair cuticle, leaving a softer, silkier finish.”

Why Cetyl Alcohol Is Different from Other Alcohols

“Cetyl Alcohol is a ‘Fatty Alcohol,’ which is moisturizing, as opposed to a ‘Simple Alcohol’ such as SD Alcohol which can be drying to the hair,” Neubarth explains. “Simple Alcohol ingredients are often used in hair products to help decrease the dry time of the product (such as a hairspray), increase spreadability or as a carrier for heavier ingredients. Whereas ‘Fatty Alcohols’ such as Cetyl Alcohol are added for their moisturizing and smoothing qualities to the hair.”

Now that we’ve uncovered just what is cetyl alcohol, HERE‘s everything to know about glycerin, another all-star haircare ingredient.

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