WOW! That sounds like what I like to call methyl-ethyl bad shit! But is it?
Hydroxyethyl Cellulose or HEC is a thickening agent that is used in cosmetics. There are a lot of thickeners, as well as reasons to use certain thickeners. Cetyl Alcohol is a great thickener and feels really wonderful, but some people might be sensitive to it. Cetearyl Alcohol is a nice thickener, but might not have quite as nice of a feel to it. Xanthan Gum, which is a food additive and also a cosmetic, can be used in place of HEC, but has some ionic incompatibility issues in certain products, which is why I alternatively use HEC in some situations. Both Xanthan Gum and HEC are actually water stabilizers and help to create a more stable emulsion in an unstable oil-and-water environment, which is what any lotion is. Basic chemistry states that oil and water do not mix. When you make lotion, you must add an emulsifier, but sometimes an emulsifier alone does not create the most stabile environment and a water stabilizer is needed. Depending on the situation, I use both HEC and Xanthan gum.
HEC is a naturally-occuring compound derived from cellulose and the most common organic compound found on earth. Approximately 33% of all plant matter is cellulose. Cellulose from wood pulp, cotton and other plant fibers is used in making paperboard and paper. HEC is also used to help medications dissolve in the gastrointestinal tract. There are no adverse side effects or warnings concerning HEC, and due to its stabilizing and thickening properties, it is a good addition to lotions and other products.
In conclusion, what sounds like ‘methyl ethyl bad shit’ in this case hydroxyethyl cellulose, is actually not what it sounds and is a very beneficial ingredient in lotions and cosmetics. As always, I hope this clear up some confusion with ingredients that sound worse than they actually are!