In personal care products like skin lotions and creams, cetyl alcohol serves as a thickening agent and emulsifier (An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (unmixable or unblendable).), to help keep product ingredients from separating. Because cetyl alcohol melts at temperatures higher than the average human body temperature, it is useful in cosmetic products like lipsticks, helping lip color adhere to the skin.
For nearly 30 years, a Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) expert scientific panel has stated that cetyl alcohol is safe for use as cosmetic ingredients. In 2005, CIR considered available new data and reaffirmed its original safety conclusion.