According to experts, unsafe shampoos are one of the main culprits when it comes to alopecia (hair loss), and dry, damaged, unmanageable hair. We all love our hair and try to research the best shampoo & conditioner formulas, but unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation, a/ka/ ‘Green-washing‘ out there leading us down the wrong path. One common green washing ingredient that is frequently used in shampoos, detanglers and conditioners, is ‘Cetyl Alcohol’.
Cetyl or Cetearyl Alcohol at first appears to have many great properties, and even many ‘organic’ companies claim it is non-toxic and use it for it it’s abilityto increase viscosity and foam enhancing properties, but is it actually 100% safe? Let’s find out.
What is Cetyl Alcohol?
Called by many names and used as many derivatives (Cetearyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol and Myristil Alcohol), Cetyl Alcohol is a form of fatty alcohol that is used in many commercial cosmetics, lotions, creams and other personal care products as an emulsifier, emollient and a thickening agent.
Cetearyl Alcohol (Cetyl + Stearyl Alcohol) is synthetically derived from Coconut oil or Petroleum derivatives.
Oil and water do not normally mix well, but this ingredient works as an emulsifier (think mayonnaise) and is an inexpensive additive and this is why it’s use is so pervasive in commercial products.
Are there any risks associated with Cetyl Alcohol?
The recommended usage level of Cetyl Alcohol is 1- 3%, while some formulations can go as high up as 6%. Usage above 3% helps increase foaming.
Any product that contains alcohol in its formula can cause skin dryness, and, while Cetyl Alcohol, while less drying that alcohol in pure form is no exception. According to dermatologists, it was found that Cetyl Alcohol can cause skin irritation to people having a sensitive skin. Some other types of synthetic alcohols have shown to cause allergies and dermatitis. Additionally, long term usage can also clog pores and thus, accelerate acne and breakouts by bacteria build up.
What are the safer options?
Anything that can give an emollient feel and can blend well with other ingredients in a given product can be used as an alternative to Cetyl Alcohol.
Some of the best and completely organic emollients are: Aloe Vera, Nut & Seed oils, and botanical Ayurvedic extracts.
Ayurvedic moisturizers helps in complete alleviation of drying Vata tendencies, unlike green-washing ingredients like Cetyl Alcohol, which only provides a temporary solution to your skin problems. Here are some good Ayurvedic options as moisturizers for different skin types:
Vata (Dry) Skin – People with Vata skin types needs plenty of moisturization and Aloe, Shea butter, organic essential oils of Olive, Coconut and hemp, as well as steam distilled botanicals like Rosemary, Sage, Horsetail, Lavender and Burdock are good choices for Vata types.
Pitta Skin – Needs light moisturization as well as a cooling and a nurturing effect and some of the ideal skincare ingredients for them are , Aloe Vera Gel, coconut oil and sunflower oil, as well as extracts of Horsetail, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Lavender and Peppermint.
Kapha (Oily) Skin – Thicker, Oilier skin, which ages well, but they may need a hair care product that controls oil, but it still moisturizing such as Jojoba, Coconut, Grape Seed, Apricot & Evening Primrose oils, as well as Apple Cider Vinegar.
The first step in achieving healthier (ie; more beautiful) skin and hair is determining your Ayurvedic Dosha and educating yourself when it comes to partially safe vs. 100% safe ingredients such as Cetyl Alcohol.