Thursday, October 7, 2010

An aside...cetearyl alcohol

Since my first experiments with cetyl alcohol and stearic acid were a bust, I thought I'd turn to another fatty alcohol - cetearyl alcohol! (And you've seen how well the other two ingredients worked out!) 

Cetearyl alcohol (also known as cetostearyl alcohol and cetylstearyl alcohol) is a blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohols that we can use at up to 25% in our creations. It can be a 30% to 70% cetyl alcohol to stearyl alcohol or 30% to 70% stearyl alcohol to cetyl alcohol, but you might find 50-50 from some manufacturers. (I have no idea which version I have, but it looks a lot like Lanette O, which is 50-50.)

It's an emollient, meaning it will confer moisturizing to your skin, and it can be used in conjunction with a low HLB emulsifier to create an emulsification system (the HLB is 15.5). It's often part of what we call emulsifying wax NF (INCI: Cetearyl alcohol and polysorbate 60, which are both high HLB emulsifiers, so it's a curious combination indeed!)

I need to add something here: Cetearyl alcohol is used in some emulsifying waxes, but it isn't something you can create at home using the HLB system. It is something that has an HLB value, like oils and butters, not an emulsifier under that system. I have no idea why it works in something like e-wax - and to be honest, I've had nothing but problems with generic e-wax, so maybe it doesn't! - and I don't think it's an emulsifier at all! Don't buy this thinking you're going to use the HLB system to make your own emulsifier. You won't. Buy it thinking you're going to add it as a waxier feeling thickener for lotions! 

It can be added to your conditioners at 50% of the cationic compound to boost substantivity! (In fact, we find it in Incroquat CR for that very reason). It's oil soluble and should be included in your heated oil phase of your creation. Its melting point is 49˚C to 58˚C.

The cetearyl alcohol I have comes in a little round pill like format and they melt quite easily in a Pyrex jug in my double boiler, and you can find them in flake format as well. It's oil soluble, so you want to add them to the heated oil phase of your product.

So why use it instead of cetyl alcohol? I'm not completely sure, to be honest. It is supposed to be more emollient than cetyl alcohol, so that's a bonus, and it definitely feels more occlusive to me than cetyl alcohol alone.

Join me tomorrow for my attempt at the whipped shea without butters project using cetearyl alcohol. 


Anonymous said...

I'm curious to see how this and the other experiments regarding whipped oil work out. I'd like to do something similar with castor oil but haven't had much luck. I tried a 5% stearic, 5% cetyl alcohol mixture but the castor oil started to separate out. Interestingly enough though, I took half of the mixture and mixed in some turmeric powder and that product hasn't separated.

Madeaj said...

Would 1% of DryFlo AF Pure help keep it from separating?

marjo said...

thank you i was wondering and wanted to order both but will stick to ceterearyl now :))

queenie said...


is cetyl alcohol considered cationic?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

It's non-ionic or neutrally charged. Check out this post for more information: Fun with chemistry: Anionic, cationic, and non-ionic.

Manang said...

Hi Susan,
I am new to lotion-making, and ever since I have been using my homemade lotions, my eczematous rashes on my skin have resolved. I now use my lotions at least twice a day and what a great timing that I learned how to make lotions right before winter. My co-workers (I am an RN) have been encouraging me to sell my lotions. Since then, I have been reading up on lotion-making and came across your blog. I have been reading descriptions of various ingredients and have been buying some of them even when I am not ready yet to experiment with them. I just purchased your ebook on Lotion 101 to glean some more insights into this. My lotions do use whole grass-fed cow's milk + ROF water. I have been selling more lotions than natural soaps (my original passion that started last year). It's very exciting that, as I was feeling that essential oils would be wasted on the caustic nature of soap making, here comes my new hobby of lotion-making that is the perfect accompaniment to my natural soaps and which will allow me to use my essential oils and maximize their healing/beneficial properties. Once I get to read your ebook, I am sure I will have questions and advice to ask, and it is comforting to have your blog as an additional resource, especially knowing that you will be there to entertain queries. Thank you!

Tawni said...

Hi Susan,

I recently ran into this ingredient list for a conditioner: "Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behenamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Fragrance, Dimethicone, Stearyl Alcohol, Lactic Acid, Isopropyl Palmitate, Benzyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Disodium Edta, Menthol, Menthyl Lactate, Glycerin, Glycine, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Malic Acid, Benzophenone-4, Aleurites Moluccana Seed Oil, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone."

It looks like cetearyl alcohol and behenamidopropyl dimethylamine are the main ingredients. What do these two bring to a conditioner? And what exactly is behenamidopropyl dimethylamine? Thank you so much!


Anonymous said...

Hi Tawni
Behenamidopropyl dimethylamine is a behenyl amido-amine that provides conditioning properties to creme rinses, finishing rinses, and conditioners. It can be neutralized with a variety of acids to form a cationic amine salt. The major advantage the amine salts offer over quaternary ammonium compounds is that they can be rinsed more easily from the hair, thus reducing the possibility of surfactant buildup. When blended with the proper co-emulsifier, both pearled or opaque type conditioners can be developed.
Hope this helps,

roxy said...

I am going to make the lotion in the your free PDF. I have some cetearyl alcohol kicking about, if I use this instead of the cetyl alcohol it's still basically be okay, won't it?

Thank you.


Mary Walton said...

Hi Susan
If cetearyl alcohol is not an emulsifier, how does BTMS work so well as a complete emulsifier when the INCI is Behentrimonium Methosulfate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol. So does that mean Behentrimonium Methosulfate is an emulsifier? And glyceryl stearate in all sources that I found state that it is a co-emulsifier, but you say the simple answer is, no - glyceryl stearate is not an emulsifier. Confused :)

Crazy Blonde said...

Hi Susan, first of all, thanks for this amazing blog, I'm learning so much! I have the same question as roxy, i bought cetearyl alcohol by mistake... can i use it instead of cetyl alcohol? What is the main difference it may cause in the lotion? TIA!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Mary. Yes, behentrimonium methosulfate is an emulsifier, as is behentrimonium chloride. They are quaternary or cationic emulsifiers. The fatty alcohols are in the mix because they thicken the product and boost the conditioning power. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the posts I've written on BTMS-50 or BTMS-225 as I go into more detail in those posts.

Why do they call glyceryl stearate a co-emulsifier? Because it can be used to stabilize some emulsions and because it can be used as an emulsifier when combined with a high HLB emulsifier when using the HLB system. There are versions that are emulsifiers on their own, like glyceryl stearate SE, but that's a very specific product. (I've gone into more detail about this recently.)

Hi Crazy Blonde. Thank you for your kind words.

As I mention in the post: So why use it instead of cetyl alcohol? I'm not completely sure, to be honest. It is supposed to be more emollient than cetyl alcohol, so that's a bonus, and it definitely feels more occlusive to me than cetyl alcohol alone.

Did you want more information that that? I do discuss this quite a bit in various posts on the blog, too.

Noya said...

Hi Susan

My banenis FBo
Thanks for your awesome website! A wealth of information:)

I would like to know, can I effectively replace cetearyl alcohol (30/70ratio) with stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol (seperate) ingredients and get the same results or is there something specific in the cetearyl acohol that yields a different result. I was thinking about testing this but would be content with a short answer.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Noya! Thanks for your kind words. Without knowing the rest of your ingredients, I wouldn't know whether it was possible or not.

jessica9591 said...

Hi susan i have a question. When you are using emulsifiers or co emulsifiers do you ever need to change the formula based on the supplier you bought it from. Right now im making lotion with cetearyl alcohol and then glyceryl stearate to create the emulsion. Depending on my supplier ive noticed with one supplier i have to increase the cetearyl to almost 20 percent to even get a stable emulsion where as if i buy from another source i only need to use five percent. Is this normal to have to use certain suppliers because they have better stability in their product?