A fatty alcohol is defined as being derived from natural sources and often used as an emollient in skin and hair care products. It gives a smooth, soft feeling to the hair shaft by helping the cuticle to lie flat on the surface of the hair. Fatty alcohols found in popular curly hair products include lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, and behenyl alcohol. There is one fatty alcohol in particular that I have coveted throughout my natural hair journey: cetearyl alcohol.

Why naturally curly hair likes fatty alcohols

According to curly hair polymer scientist and cosmetic chemist Tonya McKay, these alcohols:

  • are typically naturally derived
  • have a higher carbon content, which makes them great emollients
  • give coarse, thick textured hair a smooth, soft feeling
  • contain anti humectant properties to fight humidity levels
  • flatten the hair shaft cuticle to lay down to prevent frizz

Some of my favorite conditioners contain cetearyl alcohol as a key ingredient

How I apply a styling product

I coat my palm with a thin layer of styling product, wrapping it around a section of hair. I focus on one large quadrant of hair at a time, always starting about an inch away from my scalp and working my way down the length.

Next, I wash my hands so that no product is left over. Then, I lightly spritz a curl refresher over my halo and fluff to enhance the volume. Letting my scalp be free from any styling product helps me to prolong the time between wash days, avoid the greasy, weighed down feeling, and keep my natural volume.

Since I have a full head of high porosity hair, it grasps any bit of moisture coming from the air. This is why I appreciate a product that doesn't give me a limp appearance or feeling but still provides protection against the high humidity levels and defines each curl.

I use one of the following styling products containing cetearyl alcohol

What ingredient makes your curls behave?

Read what happened when I put a smoothie in my hair

Follow me on Instagram @DevriVelazquez. Photos courtesy of Monique Rodriguez (monique_rdz) and haircut provided by Robin of Southern Curl in Atlanta, GA