If you’re on the fence about investing in some cetyl alcohol I’m hoping this post can help convince you to pick up a couple ounces of the stuff. I first started working with cetyl alcohol in early 2017 and it has quickly become something I’ll never want to be without. It’s inexpensive (a kilo/roughly 2lbs is typically in the $11–13 range), has a long shelf life, and is insanely versatile. I use it in everything from lotions to balms to shampoo bars, and it tends to make everything better!
Cetyl alcohol is a lightweight fatty thickener of vegetable origin. You’ll purchase it in white pellets; I’ve had both larger ones (pictured) and teesny little spheres. I started my relationship with it with a simple get-to-know-you kind of experiment (click this link!). I combined cetyl alcohol with different amounts of liquid oil to see how it worked as a thickener. What percentage of cetyl alcohol resulted in something solid? Soft solid? Firm? How did the mixtures feel? How did they melt?
The results were very cool. Unlike waxes, which add weight and skid along with thickening, cetyl alcohol has an amazing slippy, silky, almost powdery skin feel. It’s wonderfully lightweight, giving thickening/hardening without tackiness or heft. It’s so dang cool! In emulsions 3–4% adds wonderful lightweight thickening to the end product, making it thicker without making it heavier. In anhydrous products it improves slip and skin feel along with thickening/solidifying the end product. It’s really dang cool.
As my love affair with cetyl alcohol continues I thought I’d share ten of the best formulas I’ve shared using it over the past couple years. I hope this collection of recipes will give you an appreciation for all the different things cetyl alcohol can do, and all the different places it can shine!
This beautiful solid serum is thickened using cetyl alcohol. Thanks to its silky finish and incredibly lightweight thickening this gives us an end product that is solid, but not at all heavy—it has the same lightweight feel of a liquid oil serum, but it’s much harder to spill!
I really capitalized on cetyl alcohol’s powdery, silky finish for this solid luminizer. It comes together like a cream, but applies in a fantastic cream-to-powder way. The cetyl alcohol pairs beautifully with the silica microspheres for a divinely silky, powdery skin feel!
This creamy ointment combines beeswax and cetyl alcohol for a unique thickening experience and skin feel. The cetyl alcohol helps lighten the beeswax and improve slip—beeswax can be a bit draggy, while cetyl alcohol is ultra silky, so they’re a great combination. The end product is creamy and almost gel-like, which is super cool!
Massage things need to be ultra-slippy, so cetyl alcohol was an obvious choice here! Paired with silky coconut oil and conditioning BTMS-50 this massage butter is utterly divine. It smells softly of coconuts and has slip for daaaaaays. Awwww yeah.
I am so in love with conditioning body butters. A blend of cationic BTMS-50, ultra-silky cetyl alcohol, and lightweight oils and butters creates a body butter with a stunning dry-touch finish that leaves your skin feeling downright divine. Make sure you follow the chilling procedure fully so the end product stays silky smooth. Prepare to fall in love!
This formula is an update of one of my earliest DIYs, and one of the best things I did with the new version was lighten it up by dialling back the beeswax, which can be a bit heavy for hair, and replacing some of that thickening power with a blend of powdery cetyl alcohol and creamy stearic acid, making more a more buttery balm. I also added some BTMS-50 so this balm ends up being like a touch of solid hair conditioner. Also, it smells amazeballs.
If you are a cleansing balm kind of person you’re going to love the soft, creamy consistency of this delightful Soothing Cleansing Balm. Kelly made it and said “I just made this over the weekend and I LOVE the texture. Neat-o! Almost like ice cream that you leave out for 5 minutesI usually avoid cleansing balms because many have beeswax and I don’t like the feel of that on my face. This one is very creamy, cleanses really well, and is easy to wash off. I used calendula infused in sunflower oil because that’s what I had on hand. Thanks so much Marie for one fantastic recipe!!”
Cetyl alcohol helps harden this cheery orange shampoo bar without any added weight or grabbiness, making for a firm bar that will last a long time in your shower! Hana made this formula and shared “I absolutely of this! My hair is very fine and gets oily at the crown and dry at the ends. This shampoo lathers up beautifully and doesn’t leave a film… It left my hair clean, silky, not dry and crunchy. Thank you Marie!”
This lotion is a fantastic formula for demonstrating the amazing things a small amount of cetyl alcohol can contribute to a batch of lotion. Missy made it and said “HI Marie! I made this today and it is amazing! My very first lotion! I can’t believe how non-greasy it feels and how wonderful it smells.” You should probably make it, too 😉
This silky mid-coverage primer/foundation sort of makeup concoction is one of my favourite things. It has an ultra light skin feel thanks to the glidey cetyl alcohol, which provides almost weightless thickening/hardening (the silky silica microspheres also help!). You can make it in a stick or a compact and it’ll provide some coverage + lots of optical blurring and oil control. Love!