What are Carbomers?

Carbomers are high molecular weight polymers of acrylic acid that are available as a white fluffy powder and have the formula C3H4O2. To know in detail that what are Carbomers? you should know that they are emulsifying agents and used as 50% concentration in cosmetics and personal care products. They are safe for all skin types and mostly found in gel form. Carbomers have a very low potential for skin irritation at a concentration of up to 100%.

Carbomers, Physical form

1. Carbomers - Introduction

:diamonds: Carbomers are the polymers of acrylic acid cross-linked with poly alkenyl polyether. They absorb the water readily and increase in size, reaching about 1000 times their original size if remain in the water for long.

:diamonds: All the resins available are similar in chemical properties while differing mainly in the molecular weights. Some properties have been mentioned below:

:white_check_mark: Acrylic acid range 98.70% - 99.90%
:white_check_mark: Physical appearance White, fluffy, free-flowing powder
:white_check_mark: Odor Slight and characteristic
:white_check_mark: Nature Mucilaginous, slight acidic, highly ionic
:white_check_mark: Molecular weight 500000-4000000
:white_check_mark: Dissolution Water, alcohol, glycerin
:white_check_mark: Density 1.15g/ml
:white_check_mark: Melting point 1160C

1.1. Types of Carbomers

Here are the details of types, after understanding that what are Carbomers? Carbomers have several types that are slightly different from each other regarding molecular weight or cross-linking with sucrose or propylene. These types are given as:

  1. Carbomer-910 – cosmetic ingredient
  2. Carbomer-934 – cosmetic ingredient
  3. Carbomer-934P - “P” stands for Pharmaceutical grade
  4. Carbomer-940 – cosmetic use
  5. Carbomer-941- used in emulsions and suspensions
  6. Carbomer-962 – cosmetic ingredient

1.2. Amounts of Carbomer used in products

:diamonds: Carbomers are used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry and present in almost all the products including eyeliners and mascaras also.

:diamonds: For example, serums used to remove forehead lines or forehead wrinkles may also contain the carbomers.

:diamonds: There are the concentrations of Carbomer-934 that are being incorporated in certain cosmetic products also including the products used in simple makeup:

Product % of Carbomer-934
Eyeliner 0.1-1
Mascara Less than 0.1
Perfumes 0.1-1
Eyeshadows 0.1-1
Hair conditioners 0.1-1
Blushers More than 1-5
Foundations More than 1-5
After shave lotions More than 0.1-1
Shaving creams More than 0.1-1
Cleansing products More than 1-5
Wrinkle removers 0.1-1

Summary :pencil2:
Carbomers are polymers of acrylic acid that are cross-linked with polyalcohols or sugars. They are used as thickening and emulsifying agents in the cosmetic industry and pharmaceutical industry.

2. Carbomers for skin

:diamonds: Carbomers are part of a vast variety of skincare and other personal care products including the products used to get rid of textured skin.

:diamonds: They act as emulsifying agents in general and increase the thickness of the products. That’s the reason for using them in cosmetic products such as Biologique Recherche P50 lotion so that they hold all the particles together.

:diamonds: They work as thickening agents and prevent the separation of oil and water components of the product. They are considered as completely safe products such as the products used to get rid of acne scars.

:diamonds: However, Carbomers are reported to show some sort of skin irritation and sensitization up to the concentration of 100%.

:diamonds: It doesn’t mean that carbomers alone have the potential for improvement of skin but they are effective when used in combination with other agents.

1) Carbomers - Thickening and emulsifying agents

  1. Carbomers act as emulsifying and thickening agents that hold the particles together by maintaining the flowability of the products.

  2. Being the emulsifying agents, they help in suspending and distribution of the solid particles evenly in the liquid portion to maintain consistency.

2) Carbomers - Texture improving agents

  1. Carbomers are the polymers of acrylic acid with a cross-linking of polyalkenyl polyether. Same as all other polymers, carbomers have the capacity to retain the water and expand in size.

  2. They can expand up to 1000 times their original size if retained in the water. The creamy and smooth texture is obtained when the carbomers are incorporated in the shampoos, lotions, etc.

Creamy texture by carbomers

3. Carbomers – Why and How to use?

Carbomers are present in approximately all cosmetics and personal care products. As they are the polymers of acrylic acid so have the capability to retain a large amount of water in them.

1. Stabilize, emulsify and thicken

:small_blue_diamond: When used in skincare products, Carbomers used as stabilizers, emulsifiers, and thickening agents. They hold the ingredients together and maintain the flow properties of products.

:small_blue_diamond: Not only do Carbomers have all these properties, but they also provide the products a smooth texture such as in lotions and creams, etc.

2. Versatile and fit-to-all

:small_blue_diamond: Carbomers are not used in a single way or in a single industry, but because of their versatility, they are being used in medicine, cosmetics, and even in the ■■■■ care products industry.

:small_blue_diamond: They have a “fit for all” nature and that makes it must add an ingredient in almost every product.

3. No toxicity

:small_blue_diamond: Another important factor that makes their use possible in all kinds of personal care products is their safety.

:small_blue_diamond: Carbomers have no associated toxicity until they have a concentration reaching the maximum.

In short
Carbomers absorb the water and expand up to 1000 times their original size. They are not having any effect on the skin but when combined with other agents they give the product a smooth creamy texture.

4. Best products with Carbomer

:diamonds: Carbomers are not as much known as they are used. Most people are unaware of them and their uses in products, especially products used to treat the textured skin.

:diamonds: This is because of the reason that carbomers are not given publicity hype when advertising the products.

:diamonds: You will be amazed to know that carbomers are used in the vast majority of products ranging from the pharmaceuticals to lotions and creams. Some best products with the carbomer have been enlisted:

Product name Company Uses Price
:small_blue_diamond: Squalene + peptide eye gel Biossance Anti-aging gel, ultra-hydrating $ 54.00
:small_blue_diamond: Coconut & lemon natural hand sanitizer Everyone 99.99% effective in sanitizing $2.39
:small_blue_diamond: Soothing gel aloe vera 95 Varuza Skin healing, anti-acne $12.99
:small_blue_diamond: RESIST brightening essence Paula’s choice Anti-oxidant, glowing properties $42.00
:small_blue_diamond: Suncare baby sunscreen lotion CeraVe SPF 45, protects from UV radiations $18.00
:small_blue_diamond: Cetaphil SPF 15 daily facial moisturizer Cetaphil Moisturizing, sun-screen $6.23

Sunscreen with carbomer

:point_right: See Also :closed_book:

Is aluminum a metal?
What is P4O10?
Why compounds of transition metals are colored?

5. Carbomers - side effects

:diamonds: Carbomers are so safe-to-use agents that they are considered free of any side effects. Neither do they interfere with sensitivity-related skin allergies nor alter the functioning of the immune system.

:diamonds: Only if they reach 100% concentration they may cause some kind of skin irritation but they are used in such minute quantities that there are no chances of any skin allergy or photosensitivity.

:diamonds: So, you can conclude that no matter what kind of skin allergy you already have, carbomers present in the product of your use will not impart any effect on it.

Frequently asked questions

As Carbomers are used in almost all kinds of daily use products ranging from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, you may have certain questions other than the question that what are Carbomers? Some of them have been answered below:

1. Are carbomers safe?

:white_check_mark: Yes!

  1. Carbomers are the resins or polymers of acrylic acid and have certain types. They are used as stabilizing and emulsifying agents – both in the cosmetic industry and the medical industry.

  2. According to the safety studies data, there are no side effects associated with the carbomers. They only cause minor skin irritation if their concentration reaches its maximum – i.e. 100%.

2. Is carbomer the same as Carbopol?

:x: No!

  1. They both are not the same although both are polymers and have almost similar properties such as gel formation.

  2. Carbopol is the granular polymer that is used in direct-compression products. Moreover, Carbopol is the brand name of a synthetic polymer.

  3. While carbomers are also synthetic, high molecular weight polymers of acrylic acid that are used as a thickening and emulsifying agents.

3. How do you dissolve a carbomer?

  1. Carbomers are resins or polymers and absorb water when coming in contact. They are soluble in glycerin, water, and alcohol.

  2. To dissolve the acrylic acid, sprinkle the carbomer in distilled water and wait for dome time to get hydrated. After 5-10 minutes, the hydrated polymer is mixed well with a hand mixer and it gets dissolved.


:red_square: Article consists of the details about the question that what are Carbomers and how they are used. Carbomers are the polymers of acrylic acid that have high molecular weights and are available as a white fuzzy powder. They have the molecular formula C3H4O2.

:red_square: They are used as emulsifying agents as 50% concentration in the cosmetic products and certain other personal care products. They are safe for all skin types and mostly used as gels.

:red_square: Carbomers are considered as safest agents as they have a very low potential for skin irritation at a concentration up to 100%. There is a vast range of products that have incorporated carbomers as an ingredient.

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Carbomer is a nonlinear polymer primarily made up of acrylic acid which is its monomer. It is white fluffy powder used as gels in cosmetics and skin care products. It can be found in wide variety of products for skin, hair, nail, cosmetics, and dentifrices. Its chemical formula is C3H2O4, and its chemical name is Polyacrylic acid.

What is Carbomer is used for?

Carbomers is a large molecule that has ability to absorb and retain large amount of water. They are thickening agents that help control viscosity and flow of cosmetic products. They help to suspend insoluble solid into liquids and prevents oil and liquid part of solution from separating. It can swell up to 1000 times when submerged in water that is the reason it is contained in wide range of products like facial moisturizer, sunscreen, shampoo, cleanser, scrubs and many more.

How Carbomer is made?

Carbomer is an important thickening polymer formed by vinyl formic acid and allyl ether chemically crosslinked and comprises of 56-68% carboxyl in molecules. It is slightly acidic in pH and its density is 208 kg/m3. The carbomer need these raw materials by following mass fraction; 100-150 parts vinyl formic, 0.2-0.6 part of initiator (benzoyl peroxide), 0.2-1.5 part of linking agent (tetramethylomethane alkene), 0.2- 1.2 part of stabilizer (polysiloxane polymeric surface-active agent), 780-970 parts of mixed solvent (combination of ethyl acetate, hexanaphthene and normal hexane).
All the raw materials vinyl formic, initiator, linking agent, stabilizer, mixed solvent is mixed and join in reactor and after nitrogen bubble for 20-30 mins, it is put in heating water bath at temperature 50-37C for 4-8 hours. After that, the next step is product filtration. It is obtained, washed, and dried and after all this process we can obtain white, fluffy powder that is carbomer powder.

Is Carbomer toxic?

Carbomers are considered to be the safe ingredient. They are versatile product and cany be used anytime. They have low toxicity when ingested. Carbomers have not shown any allergic reaction and they have low potential of photo toxicity and skin irritation and allergies. It can be used by everyone; it is safe for all skin types and has no adverse effects.

Carbomers for hair

Carbomer creates a healthy film around the hair that smooths the cuticle of hair and helps in styling our hair. It is acidic when put into water solution. When the polymer is neutralized with an ingredient like tea it causes cross linking within the polymer and it turn into gel like structure. This gel formula will help to style hairs. It must be thoroughly mixed and hydrated before use otherwise it will not give its benefit and will have the chances of lump formation. It not only thickens a product but bring texture enhancement.

Properties of Carbomer

  1. They have good thermal stability.
  2. It exhibits high viscosity at low concentrations
  3. They are UV sensitive.
  4. It is hygroscopic in nature and have slightly acetic acid odor.
  5. It shows better bio adhesive properties.
  6. They exhibit water retention and water absorption properties.
  7. They are soluble in water but insoluble in oils.
  8. They are anionic polymers which requires neutralization to have gel like structure.
  9. They exhibit thickening, emulsifying, and suspending properties.
  10. They can be very sensitive to shear after neutralization.


What can I use instead of carbomer?

Amigel, a 100% polysaccharide having the properties of gelling and thickening is an alternative for carbomer. It is a stabilizing agent for the formulation of emulsion.

Is Carbomer soluble in water?

They are soluble in water. After neutralization they are 95% soluble in ethanol and glycerin. When carbomers are added in water they will form an acidic solution and it will thicken when an alkaline medium is added.

Is Carbomer a surfactant?

They are surfactant due to their amphiphilic structure and can be used to increase the solubility of water.

Is Carbomer a chemical?

It is a synthetic chemical used in cosmetic industry for over 50 years. It has a history as a safe ingredient although neutralizing agent such as tea can contaminant the formulation.