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* Ceteareths are made from cetearyl alcohol- a blend of cetyl and stearyl alcohol (natural fatty acids from coconut oil), and ethylene oxide. The numerical value - for example cetearerth-33 - represents the average number of molecules of ethylene oxide added.
Functions as an emollient and emulsifier. It's usually used in conjunction with other alcohols and fatty acids, working to thicken a solution and help other ingredients dissolve in a solvent. It also functions as a nonionic stabilizer in oil in water emulsions. This ingredient is one of the most common emollients used in cosmetics, and you can find it in products such as hair dye, facial moisturizer, anti-aging treatment, conditioner, cleanser, sunscreen, exfoliant/scrub, depilatory cream and acne treatment.
Safety Measures/Side Effects:
The cosmetic industry appears to be torn on the safety of Ceteareth-20. One side of the fence (mainly natural & organic skin care advocates) classifies this ingredient as a toxic allergen that can enhance the skin's absorption of other potentially harmful ingredients. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends that consumers stay away from ingredients that contain the clause "ceteareth," claiming that it can contaminate a product with carcinogens. More specifically, ceteareths may contain 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, both possible human carcinogens. The EWG also condemns many moisturizers containing ceteareth-20, claiming that their cosmetic manufacturers violated industry standards by incorporating an ingredient that's not safe to use on injured/damaged skin.
While there doesn't appear to be any substantial evidence supporting these claims of toxicity, research does point to the ingredient's adverse effects when used on damaged skin. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel found that when used on burn victims, ceteareths may result in kidney damage. They determined that this ingredient should not be applied to damaged/injured skin. With regards to the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane, the CIR Expert Panel assessed that the potential presence of this material is well known and can be controlled through purification steps to remove it from ceteareths before blending into cosmetic formulations.
Thus, the panel classifies this ingredient as safe to use in cosmetics, as long as it follows the FDA's restrictions on cosmetics containing 1,4-dioxane. The EU Cosmetics Directive also allows it to be used in personal care products according to the general provisions of the directive.
Recommended Products w/ ceteareth-20:
Kinerase Clear Skin Regulating Mask ($55), Your Best Face Control ($160)