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By Devane Sharma

Palm oil is an essential building block for the manufacture of more than a thousand chemical compounds and many of these powers the cosmetics and skincare industry. This includes fatty alcohols and esters such as isopropyl palmitate, which help to enhance the feel and performance of other ingredients. Palm oil’s prevalence stems from being one of the most cost-effective sources of fats. However, many misconceptions exist about its derivatives, such as fatty alcohols used in the cosmetics industry.

Why the Alcohol-Free Labels?

Alcohols in beauty and personal care products are normally considered as ingredients that are not friendly. However, it’s essential to recognize that not all alcohols are the same. Fatty alcohols are different, and some types might, in fact, be good for skin and hair.

If you were to walk down any personal care product aisle at the grocery store or pharmacy, you’d likely see many products that proudly advertise that they don’t use alcohol. This is because low-molecular-weight alcohols—like ethanol or benzyl alcohol—evaporate quickly. Such alcohols are helpful in products like hand sanitizer, but are also associated with drying out skin and hair.

Because of their volatile nature, these alcohols are used in skincare products to diminish the skin’s protective barrier and help ingredients penetrate deeper within the skin. This can help to ensure the absorption of essential skincare ingredients, like vitamin C. However, it is a double-edged sword. They can also increase the absorption of irritants. The product’s other ingredients—like fragrance or essential oils—may penetrate deeper, causing problems like irritation and sensitization.

No wonder many people wish to avoid alcohol-containing products. However, it’s important to recognize that there are other types of alcohol, like the longer chain fatty alcohols that can actually support healthy skin and hair.

Why These Are Better for Skin

The Long-chain alcohols are solid at room temperature due to their higher molecular weight. They’re different from low-molecular weight alcohols such as ethanol in that these are derived from natural feedstock like palm.

The long-chain fatty alcohols act in two main ways in skincare products:

  • Emulsifier: Combines the oil-water mixtures in lotions, moisturizers, and creams
  • Emollient: Imparts a soft, smooth feeling on the skin by flattening skin cells

Long-chain fatty alcohols in skincare are non-comedogenic, non-sensitizing, and suitable for all skin types. They won’t leave skin irritated and may improve skin’s feel and texture. Working to draw moisture in, these alcohols can also support the natural lipid barrier of skin and hair. This keeps hair and skin feeling healthier and more moisturized and are unlike short-chain fatty alcohols that are commonly thought of as bad for hair and skin.

As plant-based ingredients, natural fatty alcohols serve as an excellent vegan alternative to beeswax. For these reasons and more, palm oil and palm oil derivatives are used in 70% of cosmetics products1.

Create High-Quality Skincare Products with Musim Mas

Musim Mas is here to fill the needs of any cosmetics, skincare, or haircare product manufacturer. We offer high-quality fatty alcohols with chain lengths ranging from C8 to C18. Our commitment to sustainability and ethical production ensures that they’re some of the highest-quality ingredients in the world. Contact us for more information.