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Is hydroxyethyl cellulose harmful to the skin when used in skin care products?

Dec. 12, 2023

When you see ingredients like hydroxyethylcellulose in skin care products, you may instinctively want to run. While this scary-looking seven-syllable word is hard to pronounce, the ingredient won't hurt you.


Hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC) has been used in skincare and cosmetics for decades. Despite its unfriendly name, hydroxyethylcellulose is considered safe for use on all skin types. It is mainly used as a thickener, gelling agent, and stabilizer to help improve the texture and stability of cosmetics. Hydroxyethylcellulose is typically derived from natural cellulose, such as wood fibers, and is, therefore, less irritating to the skin in most cases.

hydroxyethylcellulose in skin care products


What is hydroxyethyl cellulose?

Hydroxyethylcellulose is an ingredient used in skincare, cosmetics, and shampoo products including lotions, mascaras, masks, and serums. It is a smooth, gel-like substance that dissolves easily in water. This white, odorless powder has a pH range of 6.0 – 8.5, depending on the concentration.

This compound is derived from cellulose, a natural polymer found in nearly all vegetation and plant matter. Cellulose is processed in a laboratory to change its chemical composition and form a clear gel called hydroxyethyl cellulose. It is produced commercially by mixing cellulosic sodium hydroxide with propylene oxide.

While it's popular in skin care products, it's also used in industrial applications such as oil drilling, manufacturing paints and other coatings, and even aiding in the digestion of certain oral medications.


What are the benefits and uses?

Hydroxyethyl cellulose is a multifunctional cosmetic ingredient. It is mainly used as a thickener, gelling agent, and stabilizer to help improve the texture and stability of cosmetics. It is commonly used in various cosmetics and plays a role in different functions. Here are some possible cosmetic applications and their effects:

●Creams and Lotions: As a humectant, hydroxyethyl cellulose helps provide long-lasting hydration, leaving skin softer and smoother.

●Facial cleansers and shampoos: In cleansing products, hydroxyethyl cellulose can act as a thickener, improving the texture of the product and making it easier to use.

●Foundations and Powders: As a gelling agent, hydroxyethylcellulose helps improve the texture of foundations and powders, making them easier to apply evenly and helps provide long-lasting wear.

●Lipsticks and Lipsticks: Used as a stabilizer, hydroxyethylcellulose can help lipsticks and lipsticks maintain their shape and texture, increasing product stability.

●Eye Creams and Eye Shadows: In eye care and cosmetics, hydroxyethylcellulose can be used as a gelling agent to help improve the adhesion and spreadability of the product, making it easier to apply.


Is hydroxyethyl cellulose safe in skin care products?

According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, hydroxyethylcellulose is considered safe for use in skin care products and cosmetics. Hydroxyethylcellulose has no known side effects in skin care products.

You don’t have to worry about this ingredient being in your favorite skincare products. While it doesn't bring direct benefits to the skin, it can improve the texture of products, making them easier and more enjoyable to use. In some cases, this can also increase the effectiveness of the product. Hydroxyethylcellulose helps you achieve a smooth, creamy product without the use of silicones or other less-than-ideal ingredients.

Shijiazhuang Henggu Jianxin Cellulose Co., Ltd.

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