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)
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 or tetrasodium EDTA may or may not be disclosed on the label, and could possibly be contaminants in the formulation.