Isohexadecane is a petroleum-derived ingredient with formulation benefits. It’s considered a safe ingredient by a handful of trusted sources. But we don’t consider this a clean ingredient. You won’t find it in brands that focus on clean plant-based ingredients.
Similar to silicone ingredients, it offers benefits that are hard to recreate with natural ingredients. But it comes with tradeoffs and potential concerns.
It may not be the best ingredient for acne-prone, oily, or sensitive skin. If you fall into one of these camps, you’ll want to keep reading to see details.
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What is Isohexadecane?
Isohexadecane is a type of isoparaffin that is derived from petroleum. The “hex” in the name is in reference to the chain of 16 carbons in this ingredient. It is a mixture of highly branched C16 isoparaffins with trace amounts of C12 and C20 paraffins of a similar structure.
It’s a clear odorless liquid that acts as an emollient, cleansing agent, and texture enhancer in skincare, personal care, and cosmetic products. Isohexadecane is useful in products such as sunscreen, foundation, deodorant, makeup removers, and moisturizers.
Isohexadecane Skin Benefits
Isohexadecane acts as a cleansing agent, texture enhancer, and skin conditioner. It’s most known (and used) for giving products a thick, creamy, and smooth texture.
It offers these benefits without feeling heavy or greasy on the skin. This makes it an attractive option for products formulated for oily skin.
Isohexadecane is an emollient that helps soften and moisturize the skin. It can reduce dry flaky skin for a smoother and softer feel.
It also supports a healthy skin barrier that protects the skin against moisture loss.
It helps products have a nice thick and creamy texture. It thickens products for a smooth and velvety finish, without feeling heavy or greasy.
Isohexadecane feels lightweight on the skin and leaves a matte finish.
It can act as a solvent in cleansers and makeup removal products. Isohexadecane helps break down makeup on the skin so it can be easily removed from the skin.
Is Isohexadecane Safe for Skin?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel considers isohexadecane safe to use based on present practices and concentration.
This analysis focused on a variety of isoparaffins that included isooctane, isohexadecane, isododecane, isoeicosane, and more. Isohexadecane was not found to cause irritation or be a toxicity risk.
While this ingredient is deemed non-irritating, allergies can still occur. If you have sensitive skin or allergy-prone skin, take note of this ingredient.
There are also concerns around potential contamination in isoparaffin-based ingredients. There is a potential risk of contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a cancer-causing ingredient.
Isohexadecane and Acne
This ingredient is non-comedogenic, meaning it will not clog your pores. There isn’t any evidence to suggest isohexadecane is bad for acne or blemish-prone skin.
However, some experts recommend avoiding ingredients like isohexadecane with oily or acne-prone skin. It is an occlusive ingredient that can trap dirt, oil, and bacteria on the skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about isohexadecane.
You’ll likely be fine using products with isohexadecane. It probably won’t irritate the skin and appears to be safe overall. But it’s not one of our favorite ingredients. With all else being equal, we’d opt for the product without isohexadecane.
A nice silky texture is attractive but we’re all about ingredients that directly deliver skin benefits, without harm. If you’re already struggling with allergic reactions, then it’s worth cutting this ingredient from your routine. Or if acne is a current concern you may also want to avoid products with isohexadecane.