Fatty alcohols are an important part of cosmetic formulations as they are the building blocks of many oft-used ingredients.
Fatty alcohols are the alcohols derived from the natural fats and oils from animal or plant based sources. Due to the unique atomic configuration of fatty alcohols, they have an amphipatic nature, meaning they have both hydrophilic and hydrophobic components.
Fatty alcohols can be used as non-ionic surfactants/ co – surfactants. Fatty alcohols can be used as emulsifiers, emollients, thickeners and also have occlusive properties. Fatty alcohols can also give products a smoother, more velvety feel and better slip.
Common fatty alcohols
- Behenyl alcohol
- Cetearyl alcohol
- Stearyl Alcohol
- Lauryl alcohol
Where do fatty alcohols come from?
Typically, fatty alcohols are made from vegetable feedstocks such as coconut oil and palm oil, but they can also be made from petroleum sources.
The first step to make a fatty alcohol is to convert these oils into a methyl ester or fatty acid. This creates crude glycerine, and the fatty acid is then fractionated and hydrogenated to make a fatty alcohol.
Alcohols are often distilled and fractionated in order to manipulate the chain length of the carbons and thus manipulate the properties of each fatty alcohol.
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