Cetyl alcohol

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Cetyl alcohol[1]
Skeletal formula
Space-filling model
IUPAC name
Other names
Cetanol, Cetyl alcohol, Ethal, Ethol, Hexadecanol, Hexadecyl alcohol, Palmityl alcohol
36653-82-4 YesY
ChEBI CHEBI:16125 YesY
ChemSpider 2581 YesY
Jmol-3D images Image
KEGG D00099 YesY
PubChem 2682
Molar mass 242.44 g·mol−1
Appearance White crystals
Density 0.811 g/cm³
Melting point 49 °C (120 °F; 322 K)
Boiling point 344 °C (651 °F; 617 K)
NFPA 704
Flammability code 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g., canola oil Health code 1: Exposure would cause irritation but only minor residual injury. E.g., turpentine Reactivity code 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g., liquid nitrogen Special hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
Flash point 185 °C (365 °F; 458 K)
Except where noted otherwise, data is given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
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Infobox references

Cetyl alcohol /ˈstəl/, also known as 1-hexadecanol and palmityl alcohol, is a fatty alcohol with the formula CH3(CH2)15OH. At room temperature, cetyl alcohol takes the form of a waxy white solid or flakes. The name cetyl derives from the whale oil (Latin: cetus) from which it was first isolated.[2]


Cetyl alcohol was discovered in 1817 by the French chemist Michel Chevreul when he heated spermaceti, a waxy substance obtained from sperm whale oil, with caustic potash (potassium hydroxide). Flakes of cetyl alcohol were left behind on cooling.[3]


Cetyl alcohol is used in the cosmetic industry as an opacifier in shampoos, or as an emollient, emulsifier or thickening agent in the manufacture of skin creams and lotions.[4] It is also employed as a lubricant for nuts and bolts.

Side effects[edit]

People who suffer from eczema can be sensitive to cetyl alcohol,[5][6] though this may be due to impurities rather than cetyl alcohol itself.[7] Ironically, this ingredient is sometimes included in medications for the treatment of eczema.[8]

Related compounds[edit]


  1. ^ Merck Index, 11th Edition, 2020.
  2. ^ Nordegren, Thomas (2002). The A-Z Encyclopedia of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Universal Publishers. p. 165. ISBN 1-58112-404-X. 
  3. ^ Booth, James Curtis (1862). The Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Practical and Theoretical. p. 429. 
  4. ^ Smolinske, Susan C (1992). Handbook of Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Excipients. CRC Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-8493-3585-X. 
  5. ^ Gaul, LE (1969). "Dermatitis from cetyl and stearyl alcohols". Archives of dermatology 99 (5): 593. doi:10.1001/archderm.1969.01610230085016. PMID 4238421. 
  6. ^ Soga, F; Katoh, N; Kishimoto, S (2004). "Contact dermatitis due to lanoconazole, cetyl alcohol and diethyl sebacate in lanoconazole cream". Contact dermatitis 50 (1): 49–50. doi:10.1111/j.0105-1873.2004.00271j.x. PMID 15059111. 
  7. ^ Komamura, H; Doi, T; Inui, S; Yoshikawa, K (1997). "A case of contact dermatitis due to impurities of cetyl alcohol". Contact dermatitis 36 (1): 44–6. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1997.tb00921.x. PMID 9034687. 
  8. ^ Kato N; Numata T; Kanzaki T (1987). "Contact dermatitis due to Japanese pharmacopeia cetyl alcohol". Skin Research 29 (suppl 3): 258–262.