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Today's Chemical:


EWG Skin Deep Hazard Score:


What is it:

Carbomer is a white fluffy powder that's used in lotions and other cosmetic formulas as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier.  Carbomer does not actually refer to one particular molecule, but is a generic term for a series of polymers primarily made from acrylic acid.  Source

What are its risks:

  • The Cosmetics Industry Review Board has deemed carbomer safe for cosmetic use.
  • Carbomer can have a varying pH that must be neutralized in order for it to do its job of thickening.  A formula containing carbomer will sometimes have these neutralizing agents listed, including triethanolamine (TEA), sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, tetrasodium EDTA, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.  Other times, companies will buy pre-neutralized carbomer, which may or may not list the neutralizing agent.  (Source)
  • Full-strength carbomer can be highly irritating to skin and eyes and may have a permeating effect on skin.  (Source)

Steph's Opinion:

Carbomer is a synthetic chemical made specifically for cosmetic use.  It has been in use for over 50 years, and has a pretty long history of safety.  However, neutralizing agents such as TEA may or may not be disclosed on the label, and could possibly be contaminants in the formulation. 

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