Carbomer 101: What Is It and Why Is It in So Many Skincare Products?

At some point, you’ll have read the ingredients list on a bottle and marvel at the long words. And on skincare products, Carbomer is one of the more popular ones. Carbomer is often found in lotions and moisturizers, but what is it, and what does it do?

We explain the answers to these burning questions in this Carbomer 101 guide.

What is Carbomer?

Carbomer, also known as Carbopol, is a polymeric thickener used in most lotions and moisturizers. The chemical structure of Carbomer consists of long chains of acrylic acid. These properties make it an efficient thickener because the molecules are tightly packed together and form a film.

Carbomer produces a pliable product with an even consistency, without any lumps or streaks when applied to the skin. It is also present in some toothpaste and mouthwash. But the version of Carbomer you’ll find in each product can also differ, depending on the molecular structure’s makeup.

Different Forms of Carbomers

Not all carbomers are the same when it comes to consistency. Different types of Carbormers are available for manufacturers to purchase from companies such as Umbrella Chemical: Carbomer 934 and 136 are two of the most common. These varying substances will have different polymerization levels, which affects how they will react with other ingredients, such as water.

Carbomer 934 is the one you’ll find on your moisturizer bottle. It’s made up of shorter chains than other carbomers because they have more cross-linking groups between the molecules. It is also more resistant to water, and it’s a popular choice for lotions and moisturizers.

Carbomer 196, on the other hand, has a longer chain with fewer cross-linking groups that makes it more soluble in water. It is also an effective thickener, but it has greater tolerance to higher salt concentrations than carbomer 934. So it’s excellent for hair gel use where the extra thickness is needed.

What Does Carbomer do?

Carbomer has a gel-like consistency at lower temperatures and can make products thicker or more viscous. It also reduces the surface tension of liquids, which can be useful as an emulsifier or dispersant in cosmetics.

These textural properties can also give your skin a soft, velvety feel by making it feel smooth. Carbomer also creates a barrier on the skin’s surface and protects it from the effects of environmental factors. For example, extreme humidity and cold temperatures can cause the skin’s surface to dry out and become damaged.

Interestingly, at the same time, Carbomer can help products such as moisturizer absorb into the skin quickly and reduce tackiness. These barrier properties make it most popular and effective in a variety of lotions and moisturizers.

Carbomer is Incredibly Useful

As you can see, the numerous chemical properties of Carbomer make it the perfect choice for lotions and moisturizers. In its multiple other compound formations, it’s one of the most useful chemicals used in manufacturing.

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