Fatty alcohol that is a mixture of gentle cetyl and stearyl alcohols. It’s used as an emollient, texture enhancer, foam stabilizer, and carrying agent for other ingredients. Can be derived naturally, as in coconut fatty alcohol, or made synthetically. It is almost always combined with similar-feeling ingredients to create a product’s texture and influence its slip when applied to skin.
Cosmetic products labeled "alcohol free" are allowed to contain cetearyl alcohol, whose effects are quite different from skin-aggravating forms of alcohol. We repeat: fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol do not pose a risk of sensitizing skin.
Reference for this information:
FDA Labeling Claims, 2014