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Ingredients: Fatty alcohols and their use in skincare

Made from fatty acids, fatty alcohols are commonly used in cosmetics as thickening agents and co-emulsifiers. They are not the same as alcohol, and no, they are not dangerous. Read on and let our chemist Jaana educate you.

We'll say it again: fatty alcohols are not the be confused with alcohol, e.g. ethanol. Alcohol has a completely different function in skincare products (e.g. preservation) and can be drying or irritating on skin, while sugar alcohols, e.g. glycerin or xylitol, and fatty alcohols have moisturising and conditioning properties.

All this said, since fatty alcohols are surfactants (surface-active ingredients), individuals with sensitive skin may not tolerate them very well and that’s why we’ve chosen to leave them out from our our leave-on products. The replacement of fatty alcohols is quite challenging, but can be done by choosing optimal emulsifiers and other natural thickeners, like gums.

In our Milk Cleanser we use a fatty alcohol called cetyl alcohol as a thickener and co-emulsifier. Since the cleanser is a wash-off product, the cetyl alcohol usually does not irritate even very sensitive skin. In our Face Cream, a leave-on product, we have chosen to use different kinds of gums, such as xanthan and sclerotium, and lecithin as thickeners instead of fatty alcohol, so as not to risk upsetting delicate faces.


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