What Is Carbomer?

Cosmetics and personal care creams containing carbomer and menthoxypropanediol being applied to back of hand.
Photo by rawpixel.com, c/o Pexels.

Carbomer  refers to compounds which are polymers of acrylic acid. It is a trade name. The material is commonly used in gels such as personal care and cosmetic products. 


White, fluffy powder


Carbomers are used as thickening agents. They are important viscosity modifying agents especially in cosmetic products because they are not licensed for use in foods. Part of their viscosity modifying effects is to help suspend particulates and insoluble materials in a liquid. They also prevent oil and liquid parts of a solution from separating out. 

Like many gums, they absorb and retain water within their polymer structure. These compounds swell to nearly 1000 times their original volume and are similar to xanthan gum and guar gum which are food additives. Like these natural gums, this artificial material forms a colloid.

Safety Of Carbomer

The ingredient is safe to use in cosmetics and personal care products. The compounds have low potential for phototoxicty, low if any photo-contact allergenicity, minimal skin irritation and does not cause sensitization when used in concetrations up to 100 per cent by weight.

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