Cetearyl alcohol is an emulsifier that thickens cosmetic products and makes them stable by holding water and oil together. It can also be used as a surfactant that foams and washes the hair and skin, and is known for its emollient properties.
Most often, cosmetic products need to be extremely stable to have a long shelf life in order to be stored, handled, shipped etc. This is why emulsifiers, stabilisers and preservatives are often added in large quantities, which tends to create thick creams loaded with synthetic ingredients. At Lush, we like them to glide on seamlessly and feel lightweight on the skin. This makes the stability more fragile which is why they are best used as fresh as possible; but in exchange, the product can be filled with fresh flowers, fruits and other beneficial plants.
Cetearyl alcohol is a solid, waxy material derived from the fats of vegetable oils. It is a common emulsifier used in a vast array of cosmetics. Cosmetic creams and lotions are often composed of water and oil-based ingredients, which are held together by substances called emulsifiers. Without emulsifiers, the formula would separate, causing oil droplets to float on top of the water.
Although it is called ‘alcohol’, it is not a fermented mixture and has nothing to do with ethanol; it is very gentle on the skin and does not dry it out. It is an emollient that makes the skin and hair smooth and supple.