Is Cetearyl Alcohol Flammable?

In this article, we will answer the following question: “Is Cetearyl Alcohol Flammable?”, and provide other important information about the compound.

Is Cetearyl Alcohol Flammable?

No, cetearyl alcohol is not flammable. It will not catch fire easily. But the molecule can ignite if enough heat is provided. Cetearyl alcohol is combustible and shouldn’t be left anywhere near an intense heat source or a naked flame.

What is Cetearyl Alcohol?

Cetearyl alcohol, Cetostearyl alcohol, or cetylstearyl alcohol is a mixture of fatty acids. 

The compounds have a large carbon chain between 16 and 18 carbons, which gives them waxy properties. They also have a hydroxyl ligand in one tip that grants them the status of alcohol.

By playing in both teams, Cetearyl alcohol can help mix water and oil compounds together, so it can change the viscosity of a cream.

Uses

Its most prominent use is in the cosmetic industry. It is used to compose cosmetic formulas.

What it does is serve as an emollient, an emulsion stabilizing, and a surfactant, it helps control the viscosity of a cream and has emulsifying properties.

Even though it has alcohol in its name, Cetearyl alcohol can be considered alcohol-free because it doesn’t behave like smaller alcohol chains such as ethanol.

Basic Chemistry

In order for us to show more important information about Cetearyl alcohol, first, we must share some basic chemistry concepts.

Chemistry deals with the principles of matter and energy.

Like other natural sciences, it deals with compounds such as atoms, molecules, and ions. It explains how they behave, the composition, structure, properties, and changes, especially during chemical reactions.

Source: https://www.dreamstime.com/carbonatom-image192899965

An atom is the smallest particle commonly dealt with in chemistry. Almost everything in our world that has mass is made of atoms. If you can put on a kitchen scale and weigh it, it has atoms (there are many things too small to be weighted, but you got the major point).

The picture above is only a representation. An atom’s nucleus is 100 times smaller than the electron cloud.

Every chemical reaction takes place when an atom decides to give or accept electrons. As you can see from the picture above, a carbon atom has 4 electrons on its most external layer. This is why carbon can makes 4 connections.

These electrons are called valence electrons, they are the ones used in chemical reactions. The other two are closer to the nucleus. Like the poles of a magnet, the nucleus pushes the atoms very harshly, so they are never loosened under normal conditions.

All atoms seek in their life is to become stable. There are many ways to do so. Carbon normally decides to make 4 connections with another atom, exchanging their electrons in something called covalent bonding.

The electron cloud of a carbon atom can acquire many different shapes, depending on the other atoms that are bonded. This gives carbon the ability to create many types of connections. Life on our planet is only possible because of that.

Hydrocarbon

In chemistry, we name types of molecules according to their major characteristics. Hydrocarbons are molecules made entirely of carbon and hydrogen. They are simpler organic compounds.

The most common source of hydrocarbons is crude oil.

It is very important to comprehend these molecules to understand how fire happens.

Hydrocarbons are a series of carbons bonded with each other, and with hydrogens bonded on their extremities. Alcohols are similar molecules, but they have different ligands that change everything.

Source: The author

The picture above shows examples of hydrocarbons and alcohols. In some, the hydrogens and carbons were hidden. 

When an organic molecule burns, the carbon atoms start connecting with the air’s oxygen, the hydrogens too. This results in CO2 and H2O, plus energy. 

Alcohol

Alcohols are molecules very similar to hydrocarbons, but they have one or more hydroxyl functional groups (-OH) bound to a carbon.

Although this change is simple, it makes the hydrocarbons and alcohol behave differently, even if we judge molecules that are about the same size.

When an alcohol molecule burns, the chemical reaction is simple. The molecules break down until they reach the form of carbon dioxide and water. The hydroxyl (-OH) also reacts, generating a water molecule (H2O).

Cetearyl Alcohol

As you can see from the picture above, the Cetearyl Alcohol molecule has a long carbon chain (precisely, between 16 and 18 carbon atoms). Which is why it is considered to be fatty alcohol.

If the molecule was a hydrocarbon with 16 carbon atoms long chain, it would be a solid immiscible in water. 

But the  Cetearyl Alcohol molecule has a hydroxyl ligand that makes it more miscible in water. This happens because H2O(we can write it as H-OH) also has a hydroxyl group.

Because it can play on both teams, it is used to compose cosmetics formulas. It can help facilitate that a water-based ingredient dissolves in another oily ingredient, stabilizing the emulsion. It can’t act alone as an emulsifier, it’s more like a support role.

Cetearyl alcohol flammability

Cetearyl alcohol is basically a type of fat that has an alcohol ligand on it. Fats are usually combustible, but are they flammable?

The difference between combustible and flammable materials is that a flammable one can catch fire more easily. By “easily” we mean that it can help under mild conditions.

The more willing to catch fire at room temperature a compound is, the more flammable it is. Fats and oils normally can’t ignite readily, but if enough heat is provided, volatile organic compounds are released from the material, and then it becomes flammable.

Flashpoint

We normally consider the boiling point of a product as the temperature at which a compound will start evaporating. 

In fact, the boiling point is the temperature a substance will start evaporating asap. The flashpoint is when some of the substance will eventually start evaporating.

We normally don’t care about the water’s flashpoint because water can’t harm us. When it’s in the air, it is moisture. But it is very important when it comes to fats.

Volatile organic compounds are flammable because they are in a gas phase. But again: it can’t happen unless heat is provided.

The flashpoint of Cetearyl Alcohol is at 170°C/338ºF.

But is Cetearyl alcohol flammable, after all?

Well, most information we found online points to the fact that it can barely be considered flammable. Some manufacturers don’t consider it flammable, some say it has a low level of flammability, but it exists.

All of them agree that the fire hazard is only possible if a source of ignition and heat is provided. At room temperature, even if it is 40ºC/ 104ºF, the product shouldn’t burn. 

To prevent the formation of VOCs that could start a fire, good storage practices are required (leaving the compounds covered and away from the sun, heat, sparks, and flames).

You can check some safety data sheets for Cetearyl alcohol formulations in the following links: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Conclusion

Cetearyl Alcohol has low flammability. Its hydrocarbon chain is very long, so it takes a lot of heat to start breaking down the molecules and allowing a fire to happen. The compound would only burn if it is left close to a source of heat and fire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is Cetearyl Alcohol Flammable?

is cetearyl alcohol natural?

It can be. Cetearyl alcohol can both be crafted in a laboratory and be found naturally in plants like palm trees, corn plants, and soy plants. Unfortunately, it’s up to the manufacturer to provide this information.

Is cetearyl alcohol bad for skin?

It is considered good for the skin and is used in many cosmetic formulations. It’s considered a good emollient and humectant, besides helping change the physical properties of a cosmetic.

Is cetearyl alcohol halal?

The compound can be found naturally in plants and can be synthesized in a laboratory. In both cases, no ingredient has an animal origin.

Even though the compound has “alcohol” in its name (and indeed has a  hydroxyl functional group (−OH)), agencies like FDA don’t consider it an alcohol, because it doesn’t behave like one.

Citations

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/cetearyl-alcohol#what-it-is
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetostearyl_alcohol
https://incidecoder.com/ingredients/cetearyl-alcohol
https://www.nwabr.org/sites/default/files/MSDS_Cetostearyl_Alcohols.pdf
https://www.echemi.com/sds/cetearyl-alcohol-pd20161015111441048.html
https://www.oxfordlabchem.com/msds/(C-02552)%20%20CETOSTEARYL%20ALCOHOL%20Extra%20Pure.pdf
https://hebeloft.com/blogs/health-and-beauty-secrets/alcohol-in-halal-beauty-products#:~:text=2)%20Cetearyl%20Alcohol&text=It%20can%20be%20manmade%20and,in%20lotions%2C%20creams%20and%20makeup.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocarbon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetyl_alcohol

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