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Carbomer is a term used for a series of polymers primarily made from acrylic acid. The Carbomers are white, fluffy powders but are frequently used as gels in cosmetics and personal care products. Carbomers can be found in a wide variety of product types including skin, hair, nail, and makeup products, as well as dentifrices.
The Carbomers help to distribute or suspend an insoluble solid in a liquid. They are also used to keep emulsions from separating into their oil and liquid components. Carbomers are often used to control the consistency and flow of cosmetics and personal care products.
The Carbomers are large molecules prepared from relatively small chemical compounds called monomers. The monomers used to make Carbomer polymers are acrylic acid and polyalkenyl polyethers.
The Carbomers are all chemically similar, differing from each other in molecular weight and viscosity. Carbomers have the ability to absorb and retain water, and these polymers can swell to many times their original volume.
On a label of a cosmetic or personal care product, the name Carbomer may be associated with a number such as 910, 934, 940, 941 and 934P. These numbers are an indication of molecular weight and the specific components of the polymer.
The safety of the Carbomer has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Carbomer polymers were safe as ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.
In 2001, as part of the scheduled re-evaluation of ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel considered available new data on Carbomer polymers and reaffirmed the above conclusion.
CIR Safety Review: The CIR Expert Panel reviewed acute oral studies showing that Carbomer polymers have low toxicities when ingested. Minimal skin irritation and no to moderate eye irritation were observed. Subchronic feeding studies with a Carbomer polymer resulted in lower than normal body weights, but no abnormal changes were observed in the organs. Some gastrointestinal irritation and marked pigment deposition within specific cells in the liver, called Kupffer cells, were seen in studies with Carbomer.
Clinical studies with Carbomers showed that these polymers have low potential for skin irritation and sensitization at concentrations up to 100%. A Carbomer polymer demonstrated low potential for phototoxicity and photo-contact allergenicity.
The Carbomers may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.
The Carbomers are synthetic, high molecular weight, nonlinear polymers of acrylic acid, cross-linked with a polyalkenyl polyether. Carbomers function as thickening, dispersing, suspending and emulsifying agents in cosmetics and personal care products. They are widely used to provide emulsion stability.
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