A fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long aliphatic chain, which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have an unbranched chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually not found in organisms, but instead as three main classes of esters: triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesteryl esters.
Fatty acids are mainly used in the production of soap, both for cosmetic purposes and, in the case of metallic soaps, as lubricants. Fatty acids are also converted, via their methyl esters, to fatty alcohols and fatty amines, which are precursors to surfactants, detergents, and lubricants. Other applications include their use as emulsifiers, texturizing agents, wetting agents, anti-foam agents, or stabilizing agents.