A fatty acid found naturally in skin and used as the basis for many palmitiate ingredients, such as isopropyl palmitate. Palmitic acid has many functions in cosmetics, from detergent cleansing agent to emollient. In a cleanser, it has the potential to be drying depending on what it is combined with and the cleanser's pH level.
In moisturizers, palmitic acid is a very good emollient just as many other naturally-occuring fatty acids are. It helps reinforce skin's healthy barrier function for a smoother surface (Sources: www.dermaviduals.com/english/publications/problem-skin/essential-fatty-acids-cosmetic-from-inside-and-outside.html; www.cell.com/biophysj/abstract/S0006-3495%2894%2980629-0; and Biophysical Chemistry, August 2010, pages 144-156).