Cetyl alcohol is a fatty acid, which is derived from vegetable fat like palm oil or coconut oil.
Cetyl alcohol is very different from “regular” alcohols, like ethanol. Unlike ethanol and rubbing alcohol, which can be drying and irritating to the hair and skin, cetyl alcohol is a fatty acid and full of saturated fats, which are actually very beneficial to the hair and skin.It is added to cosmetic formulas to increase viscosity (thicken) or to help oil/water concoctions emulsify. It is also considered an emollient. Emollients work by forming an oily layer on the top of the hair or skin to keep the moisture inside and deliver a 'conditioned' feel to the hair.