What Is Isohexadecane?

Isohexadecane is an ingredient used in skincare and cosmetic formulations to improve the texture, help prevent moisture loss and improve cleansing. 

Isohexadecane is part of a group called isoparrafins. Isoparaffins are a group of ingredients that have a single carbon chain. Their names reflect the length of the carbon chain, in the case of isohexadecane the carbon chain is 16 carbons long. It exists as a clear, colorless, and odorless liquid. Isododecane is another common skincare ingredient, used in a similar way to isohexadecane. 

Isohexadecane is most often found in foundations, sun care products, lip products, deodorants and antiperspirants, and makeup removers.

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the good: Non-irritating emollient that helps the products to glide onto the skin with ease, making them easy to apply.

the not so good:Some sensitive skin types may be allergic to Isohexadecane. Be mindful of allergic symptoms such as redness, rash, and itchiness.

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:Another name for isohexadecane is nonane.

Why Is Isohexadecane In My Skincare?

Isohexadecane functions as a solvent, cleansing agent, skin-conditioning agent, and a texture enhancer in cosmetics and personal care products.

Isohexadecane is too large to penetrate the skin so it can help key ingredients on the surface of the skin, helping them to improve the appearance of the skin. Isohexadecane is an emollient, which means that the makeup will last longer on the skin, and the epidermis will be better moisturized. This also allows isohexadecane to form a protective barrier on the surface of skin. This is beneficial in formulations such as moisturizers, foundations, concealers, and conditioners. Emollients help to smooth the appearance of dry and flaky skin, protecting the skin’s natural barrier. The skin’s natural barrier is the first few layers of skin, which are prone to moisture loss and, when damaged, have been linked to conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. 

As a texture enhancer, isohexadecane creates a very creamy, thick formula. Even though this ingredient helps to produce a rich texture, isohexadecane leaves a non-greasy, light and silky feeling on the skin. It provides a powder-like finish. The texture of isohexadecane also makes it an excellent solvent that is used in makeup removers to dissolve and remove all traces of makeup.

Isohexadecane is often used to provide the skin with a lightweight formulation that doesn’t leave the skin feeling greasy or heavy. This also makes isohexadecane a useful ingredient for hair products as it doesn’t weigh down the hair.

Another reason why Isohexadecane is used in cosmetic products is that it is non-comedogenic. This means that it doesn’t clog pores or contribute to the development of blemishes. 

Is Isohexadecane Safe?

The US Food and Drug Administration is approved for its indicated uses. It is also used as a direct food additive. For example, isohexadecane and related compounds are permitted in coatings on fruits and vegetables.

Isohexadecane’s safety has also been evaluated by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group that reviews the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients. The Expert Panel has reviewed the relevant safety data and determined that isohexadecane is safe for its indicated uses in cosmetic and skincare formulations. It is a non-irritating ingredient.  

Isoparaffins are derived from petroleum, due to this there is potential for contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a substance known to potentially contribute to some cancers. In fact, 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen that penetrates readily into the skin. 1,4-dioxane has also been linked with skin allergies and is a kidney toxin, neurotoxin, and a respiratory toxin. Despite concerns about 1,4-dioxane, the potential presence of 1,4-dioxane can be controlled through purification steps to remove it before blending isohexadecane into cosmetic formulations.

Johnson, W et al., 2012. ‘Safety Assessment of Isoparaffins as Used in Cosmetics’, International Journal of Toxicology, vol. 31, pp. 269S-295S.



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