Carbomer in skin care: what are its benefits and harms to the skin?

Carbomer in skin care: what are its benefits and harms to the skin?

So we got another name, which is akin to Chinese characters, on the label of care products – this is carbomer (Carbomer, carbopol, RAP – Rarely Cross-linked Acrylic Polymers, PAC – PolyAcrylic Acid or VPPSA – High Molecular Weight Polyacrylate Cross-Linked with Allyl Pentaerythritol. Horror! But, in fact, everything is not so scary – this is an ordinary polymer, one of the varieties that have firmly entered our everyday life.

What it is

In pure science, such polymers are called carbopols, but in medicine and cosmetology they are called carbomers to emphasize the use of substances for commercial purposes. Carbomer has been working in cosmetics for about 40 years, a respectable age.

Many newer and more innovative competitors have appeared, but manufacturers are in no hurry to replace carbomers with these new substances. Why? About everything in order. Carbomer is an unnatural but safe component of many skin care products. By its origin – a derivative of acrylic acid.

In general, although carbomer is pure synthetics, absolutely natural substances also belong to polymers: ordinary proteins, polysaccharides, for example.

They are united by the length of a molecule with repeating identical atoms. Therefore, the beneficial properties of carbomer are fully justified. Outwardly, the substance looks like a white powder, has hygroscopicity, and in contact with water forms a colorless non-sticky gel. It is used in shampoos and creams, serums and conditioners and performs its main functions without fail:

  • gives the desired density and viscosity to cosmetic products, which is especially important for liquid detergents, creams, lotions;
  • stabilizes cosmetics, that is, it combines all the components of a care product into a single whole: it’s impossible, in fact, to allow your favorite shampoo to fall apart into components in a couple of weeks and just disappear? Here the carbomer is trying;
  • retains moisture in the epidermis, without which the skin will never look beautiful and healthy;
  • refreshes the dermis in conditions of unfavorable ecology, soothes – with errors in the diet.
  • Add to this the non-toxicity of the substance in order to completely feel sympathy for carbomers.

Where is used

Carbomers, due to their useful properties in combination with safety, are widely used in cosmetics:

  • personal hygiene products;
  • shampoos and conditioners;
  • cleansing foams and gels;
  • sunscreen;
  • scrubs;
  • children’s cosmetics;
  • moisturizers and anti-aging serums.

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Benefit and harm

Carbomer is valued for its ability to control the fluidity and viscosity of cosmetic products, to suspend desired formulations, to distribute solids in liquids, and to prevent oil and water segregation. The polymer not only thickens the product, but also improves its texture and stability.

Numerous scientific studies and clinical trials have proven the practical safety of carbomers. These substances have minimal phototoxicity, photocontact allergenicity, do not irritate the skin, do not sensitize it, but moisturize it. The polymer is easy to use, found in the composition of drugs. But there is also the other side of the coin.

In at least two cases, the use of the substance should be abandoned:

  • during pregnancy and breastfeeding: carbomers can enter the systemic circulation, and there is no reliable information about its effect on the fetus or newborn.

Although they talk about the absence of teratogenicity and mutagenicity of the substance, therefore, the use of products with carbomer during the period of bearing a baby is justified only when the expected effect of its action many times exceeds even the potential risk to the child or fetus (we can talk about eye drops, for example, or contact lenses).

  • with individual intolerance to the substance: all cosmetics with it are used only after a preliminary allergy test: a couple of drops of the substance on the wrist and after half an hour you can judge the reaction of the skin to carbomer.

Itching, peeling, redness – a taboo for use, no reaction – a green light. We would like to emphasize that even a low concentration of a substance, namely this is what all manufacturers of cosmetic products are talking about, can provoke an allergy. The polymer enters the bloodstream through the skin, where it quickly transforms into poison. The liver and kidneys are the first to suffer, followed by all other internal organs.

With all this, carbomer is easily combined with any components, as it is biologically inert, and therefore it is still used in cosmetics, not intending to give up its leading position. If you ask whether it is worth buying cosmetics with carbomer, you will not hear a clear answer.

It is clear that allergies are an absolute contraindication for such chemistry. In this case, organic cosmetics is considered the only way out. In all other cases, carbomer is appropriate and safe, since it is used in the minimum allowable dosages.

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