Fatty Acids, Alcohols, and Esters - can they be natural?

Posted by Daniela Pelonara on


Getting confused when reading cosmetic labels of natural and organic skincare? Spotting strange and synthetic-like ingredient names like Cetyl Alcohol or Isopropyl palmitate that don’t sound right?

Many naturally-derived emollients are in reality plant oils that go through a reaction (between an organic acid and an alcohol or hydrogen or glycerin). Yes, some emollients are synthetic but there are plenty of 100% natural and sustainable natural alternatives that natural formulators love to use.




Sweet Almond oil, Argan oil, Rosehip oil … They are all cold-pressed extracts from the seeds or kernels of a plant. Among their main constituents are FATTY ACIDS.



They are typically found in animal and plant fats. They can be isolated as compounds. They are used in their isolated form in cosmetics as emollients, thickening, and surfactant (aka detergents) agents.

Here some examples:

Caprylic acid: from Coconut oil

Myristic acid: from Coconut oil

Lauric acid: from Laurel and Coconut oil

Oleic acid: from Olive oil (and other plants)

Palmitic acid: from Palm oil (and other plants).



Some (saturated) fatty acids can be comedogenic on the skin, meaning they can clog the pores. Plus, some may be quite drying. We suggest to use as little as possible in their isolated form; it is best to use wholesome oils, which contain a balanced ratio of naturally occurring fatty acids



These are not ‘alcohols’ like ethyl alcohol but the result of combining fatty acids with hydrogen, creating a slightly waxy texture.  Fatty acids are used as emulsifiers (they bind water with lipids), thickeners and emollients.

Here some examples:

Cetyl Alcohol: from Coconut oil

Cetearyl Alcohol: from Coconut oil

Lauryl Alcohol: from Coconut and Palm oil



Natural fatty alcohols are a very good vegan alternative to beeswax and great emulsifiers for water + oil formulations (creams, moisturizers, lotions).



Esters are fatty acids formed when an organic acid combines with alcohol or glycerin; they are natural and come with a whole host of benefits. They can enhance the feel and performance of other ingredients helping smooth the skin’s texture and acting as protection. They can also be great surfactants.

Here some examples:

Isoamyl laurate: from Coconut oil 

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: from Coconut oil

Isopropyl palmitatefrom Palm oil

Glyceryl stearate: from Palm oil

Sodium Coco-Sulfate: from Palm oil



We love using plant-derived esters as they don’t feel as oily on the skin like other types of emollients and fatty ingredients + they absorb wonderfully.


Our Face oils are blended with a low percentage of Fatty Acids and Esters to improve the smoothness, lightness, and absorption. Che out our clean ingredient list HERE.


← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment



3 Science-Backed Age Delay Skincare Essentials

Daniela Pelonara By Daniela Pelonara

Picture this: a skincare routine that not only promises a radiant and healthy complexion with plant-based ingredients but also boasts the backing of solid scientific...

Read more

Pimples: should I pop them?

Daniela Pelonara By Daniela Pelonara

Popping pimples can be incredibly tempting. That little squeeze, leading to the satisfying discharge release, can feel like an irresistible urge. Doctors even have a fancy...

Read more