Why Is Cetyl Ethylhexanoate Used?



What Is Cetyl Ethylhexanoate?

Cetyl ethylhexanoate is a synthetic ingredient that is used in a variety of cosmetics and skincare products. It is primarily used as a skin and hair emollient as well as a texture enhancer. Its properties as an emollient allow cetyl ethylhexanoate to help maintain the skin’s moisture levels as an added benefit to improving texture and sensory feel.

Cetyl ethylhexanoate is a synthetic ester of cetyl alcohol and 2-ethylhexanoic acid. Cetyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol produced through the reduction of palmitic acid, which is obtained from palm oil. Cetyl alcohol is commonly used in the cosmetic formulation as an emollient, emulsifier, thickener, and surfactant which are all texture enhancing properties. 

Cetyl ethylhexanoate is an odorless, colorless liquid that is insoluble in water, but freely miscible with vegetable, mineral, and synthetic oils and fats. It is often used as a base oil in the production of a wide variety of cosmetics and skincare products. For example, it can be found in products such as makeup remover, lipstick, foundation, facial moisturizers, anti-aging treatment, lip/eye liner, hair conditioner, and eye shadow. This ingredient should not be confused with cetearyl ethylhexanoate, which has a similar chemical composition but slightly different properties and safety.

Cetyl Ethylhexanoate

the good:Helps to improve the texture and sensory feel of formulations. It also has the added benefit of protecting the skin and trapping moisture.

the not so good:Cetyl ethylhexanoate is derived from palm oil which has ethical issues surrounding the sustainability of its harvesting.

Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients

Keep an eye on:Keep an eye out for brands that use ethically harvested palm oil sources.

Why Is Cetyl Ethylhexanoate Used?

In cosmetics and skincare products, cetyl ethylhexanoate functions as a skin and hair emollient, as well as a texture enhancer.

As an emollient, cetyl ethylhexanoate works to soften, soothe, and lubricate the skin. It also acts as an occlusive ingredient by forming a protective, water-repelling film on the surface of skin. The film helps to prevent evaporation of the skin’s natural moisture. Over time, this increases skin hydration by causing a buildup of water in the uppermost layers of skin. Using a product that contains cetyl ethylhexanoate may help to improve symptoms such as skin dryness and flaking.

Hair care
Cetyl ethylhexanoate is often used in hair care products due to its emollient properties. By coating the hair with a protective film, this ingredient provides increased slip between hair strands, which makes detangling easier. Cetyl ethylhexanoate further reduces tangling by smoothing and flattening the cuticle surface, which can also add shine and gloss to the hair. It leaves the hair feeling soft and silky without weighing it down or making it feel greasy.

As a texture enhancer, cetyl ethylhexanoate improves the spreadability of a product and provides a velvety and silky feel to the skin that is non-greasy. Cetyl ethylhexanoate also imparts water-repelling characteristics to cosmetics and personal care products. It has exceptional clarity and low odor, making it ideal for fragranced products. Cetyl ethylhexanoate is also recommended for dry oil sprays, makeup removers, matte finish makeup, and for inclusion in moisturizers for oily skin.

Cetyl ethylhexanoate can improve the fluidity of emulsions, which modifies the product’s rheology. Rheology can be defined as “the science or study of how things flow”, and it is a requirement of personal care products that they flow in the right way. For example, a skin cream should have a rich, thick appearance in the jar, but should be capable of being easily picked up and spread into the skin. Thus, cetyl ethylhexanoate can be added to a formulation to adjust the product flow.

Is Cetyl Ethylhexanoate Safe?

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel assessed the safety of 16 alkyl ethylhexanoates, including cetyl ethylhexanoate, as used in cosmetics. The highest concentration of use reported for any of the alkyl ethylhexanoates is 77.3% cetyl ethylhexanoate in rinse-off formulations used near the eye, and the highest leave-on use reported is 52% cetyl ethylhexanoate in lipstick formulations.

The Panel reviewed available clinical data related to these ingredients. The Panel concluded that these ingredients are safe in cosmetic formulations in the present practices of use and concentrations when formulated to be non-irritating.

References:Fiume, M, et al., 2015. ‘Safety Assessment of Alkyl Ethylhexanoates as Used in Cosmetics’, International Journal of Toxicology, vol. 34, is. 3.  


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