The difference between ethyl alcohol and fatty alcohols

Better understand the role of different alcohols in our formulas

Despite both being called " alcohol", ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and fatty alcohols (such as cetyl, cetearyl, stearyl or even behenyl alcohol) have different specificities and properties in cosmetics. This similarity in their names comes from the fact that they contain the chemical compound of alcohol (-OH). The rest of their chemical structure gives them different qualities and characteristics.

The role of ethanol (or ethyl alcohol): Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a transparent, volatile and flammable. It is the component found in alcoholic drinks which is responsible for the side effects that we all know. It can be either plant-based or synthetic.
In cosmetics, it is used for its anti-microbial, astringent, antifoaming and solvent action, and as a masking agent and viscosity controller [CosIng]. It also has a drying effect that is sometimes open to controversy. It’s all a matter of using the right dosage and concentrations in formulas.

The role of fatty alcohols Fatty alcohols are nothing like ethyl alcohol, neither in appearance nor in properties. Fatty alcohols are fatty, waxy substances that have remarkable cosmetic qualities, including film-forming, emollient, hydrating, softening and protective effects. These ingredients are beneficial for both hair and skin.

A fatty alcohol is a long-chain carbon alcohol, usually with an even number of carbon atoms.

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