Stearyl alcohol is an organic compound classified as a fatty alcohol. It is widely used as a hair coating in shampoos and hair conditioners. It has low toxicity.
Cetearyl alcohol is used to help soften the skin and hair and to thicken and stabilize cosmetic products, such as lotions and hair products. As an emollient, cetearyl alcohol is considered an effective ingredient for soothing and healing dry skin.
Unless you have very sensitive skin, you probably don’t need to avoid products containing cetearyl alcohol. Not only is it considered safe and nontoxic for use on the skin and hair, but it’s also not drying or irritating like other types of alcohol. Due to its chemical structure, cetearyl alcohol is even permitted by the FDA as an ingredient in products labeled “alcohol-free.