Did you know that Cetyl Alcohol is a common green washing ingredient that is not only used in almost all skin and hair care products, but, it’s even used in Industrial Manufacturing to lubricate nuts and bolts?
When it comes to choosing a thickening agent or an emollient for cosmetic products, manufacturers seem to blindly pick this so called “safe” ingredient. Though Cetyl Alcohol may not be the worst ingredient, it’s certainly not beneficial either. Thus, it is rightly called a green washing ingredient in hair care and skincare products, where it acts as a non- ionic surfactant.
Typically a cosmetic formulation consists of various amounts of oil and water. Without an emulsifying agent, this oil/water component will not stay evenly dispersed.
Most Cetyl Alcohol used in ‘organic’ products is derived from Coconut Oil, (Cetyl Alcohol can also be derived from petroleum byproducts). However, after the amount of processing required, the final product retains no benefits of the original coconut oil. We assume that cost is a major manufacturing consideration here, since Cetyl Alcohol’s function is to make the final product slicker and more “buttery”, and a multitude of organic plant based waxes and butters, plant gums, beeswax, clays and mud, can all be used (albeit more expensively) as much safer and more beneficial options than Cetyl alcohol.
The following list of emulsifiers should also be avoided:
Palm Based Derivatives (such a Cetyl Alcohol), PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) and PPG (Polypropylene Glycol) based ingredients, Glyceryl Oleate Citrate, Dilaureth 7 Citrate, Polyorbates and other synthetically derived products.
Here are some of the best organic and natural substitutes for Cetyl Alcohol:
Shea Butter or Shea Oil – Shea Butter is able to disbursable in water, meaning it does not need chemical processing, and is thus able to maintain its natural properties (quite unlike Cetyl Alcohol). Extracted from the fruit of Shea tree, shea butter is a completely green natural glyceride that beautifully functions as a biodegradable surfactant. It absorbs rapidly on the skin without leaving a greasy film or feel.
Avocado Butter – Obtained from the highly nourishing flesh of the avocado fruit, it possesses the properties of an emollient, moisturizer, natural anti-oxidant and anti-irritant.
- Guar Gum -A natural extract of the Cluster or Siam bean, Guar gum is ideal for use in emulsified systems like lotions and creams as a protective colloid, increasing emulsion stability and preventing water loss in skin care, and a natural detangler for hair care.
Essential Oils (Jojoba, Evening Primrose, Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Horsetail, Burdock) – These oils are gaining popularity for their amazing beauty and health benefits. Jojoba oil, for instance, is a wax ester that has great nourishing and soothing qualities. On the other hand, Rosemary is not only used a cream stabilizer, but, the herb extract can work as a great preservative as well.
Nut & Seed Oil – (Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Sesame Oil, Rapeseed and Sunflower Oil). Always make sure that only extra virgin versions of these oils are used to make beauty formulations.