PPG-5-ceteth-20 is a polyoxypropylene, polyoxyethylene ether of cetyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol). The cetyl alcohol portion of this ingredient is lipophilic (attracted to oil) while the polyethylene glycol and polypropylene glycol portions of this ingredient are hydrophilic (attracted to water). This structure enables PPG-5-ceteth-20 to function as a surfactant, emulsifier, and wetting agent in cosmetic products. PPG-5-ceteth-20 is used as a surfactant in cleansers, body washes, and shampoos. Its lipophilic portion attracts oil and dirt on the skin while the hydrophilic portion enables these impurities to be washed away.
PPG-5-ceteth-20 can be used as an emulsifier in formulations that contain both water and oil components. Mixing water and oil together creates a dispersion of oil droplets in water (and vice versa). However, these two phases can separate if the product is left to settle. To address this problem, an emulsifier can be added to the system to help the droplets remain dispersed. As a wetting agent, PPG-5-ceteth-20 is useful in decorative cosmetics because it improves the pigment distribution in the formulation. By producing homogeneous, stable pigment dispersion, wetting agents improve the rheology, sensory profile, color, and functionality of the final formulation.