Have you ever come across the word Carbomer when you scroll through the list of ingredients in your skincare products. Carbomer is considered to be a key ingredient in many skincare products due to its incredible properties. It is diligently used in almost all cosmetic products. Today we are going to discuss Carbomer, which is used as an aesthetic ingredient in many of your skincare products.
What Is Carbomer?
The term Carbomers is used for describing a series of polymers which are made from acrylic acid. Carbomers are white coloured, fluffy powdery substance which is extensively used as gels in many skincare and haircare products. It is used as a thickening agent and is also known to provide stability to the product formulae. It is a key ingredient in many pharmaceutical products, household products and also used in the manufacturing of educational supplies such as printing ink and adhesives.
Carbomers consist of large polymer chains, the larger the chain, the denser is the effect they have on skincare formulations. It also acts as an emulsifier and helps prevent the emulsion from separating into oil and liquid components. Carbomers are also known to control the viscosity, texture and appearance of cosmetic products. Due to these beneficial properties, Carbomers are extensively used in makeup, nail polish and personal care products apart from skincare and hair care products. It also helps to increase the shelf life of your beauty and cosmetic products.
Quick Facts About Carbomers
- The Carbomers are large molecules with higher molecular weight which are made from monomers which are relatively smaller chemical compounds.
- The monomers which are used to make Carbomers are acrylic acid and poly alkyl polyethers.
- Carbomers have the ability to absorb and retain water, due to which these polymers can swell many times their original volume.
- All the Carbomers are chemically the same but differ only in their molecular weight and viscosity.
When you check the label of the cosmetic product you may come across Carbomer which may be associated with a particular number such as 910, 934, 940, 941, 934P. These numbers indicate the molecular weight of that Carbomer and its specific components.
Properties Of Carbomer
Let us go through the incredible properties of Carbomer, which makes it a versatile chemical compound used in numerous hair care, skincare, personal care and pharmaceutical products.
- Carbomers are polymers with high molecular weight.
- They can be very sensitive to shear after neutralization than before.
- They are UV sensitive and a UV absorber needs to be incorporated in the gel for clear packaging.
- It is a white, fluffy powder which is hygroscopic in nature and has a slightly acetic acid odour.
- Carbomer polymers are known to show extremely low irritancy and non-sensitizing properties even with repeated use.
- Due to its high molecular weight, Carbomers are not able to penetrate the layers of the skin and remain on the surface, without affecting the therapeutic efficiency of the formulation.
- They exhibit super thickening, emulsifying and suspending properties due to which they are extensively used in various cosmetic and personal care formulations.
- It controls the viscous properties in the formulation, hence successfully used in many commercial products.
- It exhibits high viscosity at low concentrations.
- It shows better bioadhesive properties.
- Carbomers have good thermal stability.
- Carbomers are known to exhibit good rheological properties on the application site.
- They are anionic polymers which require naturalization to become jellified.
- They are soluble in water and some organic solvents, but insoluble in oils.
- Due to the amphiphilic structure of Carbomer, it acts as a surfactant and is used to increase the water solubility of hydrophobic substances.
- Carbomers exhibit water absorption and water retention properties, they can swell in water up to 1000 times their original volume.
These incredible properties of Carbomers are utilized commercially in the formulation of a large number of cosmetic, personal care products and pharmaceutical products.
How Is Carbomer Beneficial In Skincare Products?
PAA (polyacrylic acid) which is popularly known as Carbomer is a synthetic high molecular weight polymer of acrylic acid. This white, fluffy hygroscopic powder is considered to be non-toxic and non-irritating when applied topically, hence extensively used in many skin care formulations. Carbomers play an important role in distributing or suspending insoluble solids in the liquid, due to which it is widely used in the formulation of gels. It also prevents the emulsions from separating into their oil and liquid components. Let us get into the details of Carbomer and find out how is Carbomer beneficial in skincare products.
- Carbomers are used as thickening agents which help to control the viscosity of cosmetic products.
- It helps to distribute and suspend insoluble solids in the liquid suspension.
- It helps to absorb and retain water, swelling up to 1000 times their original volume, therefore used in the manufacture of gels.
- It also helps to stabilize the formulation and increase the shelf life of the products.
- It helps to enhance the texture and appearance of the formulations.
- This chemical ingredient forms a colloidal, mucilage-like consistency when mixed with water and hence used in gel-like formulations.
- Due to its shear-thinning rheology, it makes your skin soft and smooth.
- It is capable of making aqueous or alcoholic clear gels.
- It is used as an emulsifying agent in many cosmetic and personal care products.
Thus, due to its thickening, suspending, emulsifying, gelling and viscosity controlling properties, Carbomer is used as a gel in skincare and cosmetic products such as creams, lotions, moisturizers, facial serums and gels. Its water-retaining property helps to keep your skin soft and smooth. Carbomer is used in most of the anti-ageing, under eye gels and moisturizing creams.
Uses Of Carbomers
Carbomers are synthetic crosslinked polymers of high molecular weight. Due to its thickening, gelling, stabilizing, dispersing, suspending, emulsifying, viscosity controlling and water retention properties it is widely used in cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceutical, household cleaning products and industrial products.
- In Skincare products, Carbomer is used in facial moisturizers and creams, body lotions, eye serums, cleansers, anti-ageing treatments, face masks, scrubs and makeup products.
- In Haircare products, Carbomers are used in the manufacture of shampoos, conditioners, styling gels and mousses.
- In Pharmaceuticals, Carbomers may inactivate the antiseptic chlorhexidine gluconate. It is widely used in skin ointments which are helpful in the treatment of various skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis. It is used in eye lubricant creams.
- In Household cleaning products, Carbomers or PAA are used in the manufacture of household surface cleaning liquids, detergents and floor cleaners.
Side Effects Of Carbomers
Carbomers or PAAs are generally known to be gentle and mild on skin and are considered safe for topical application. It does not make your skin dry, tight or tacky. This ingredient is known to have a low potential for phototoxicity, photo-contact allergenicity, skin irritation and sensitization at a concentration up to 100%. This chemical compound does not have any direct effect on your skin, it is added to your skincare products to improve and enhance the texture, appearance and stability of the formulation. Hence, it is considered to be safe when used in cosmetic and personal care formulations.
Written By - Akhila Menon
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