What Is It?

Carrageenan is a polysaccharide extracted from various members of the Gigartinaceae or Solieriaceae families of the red seaweed, Rodophyceae. Calcium Carrageenan, Potassium Carrageenan and Sodium Carrageenan are salts of Carrageenan. In cosmetics and personal care products, Carrageenan and it salts are used in the formulation of a variety of products including dentifrices, shaving creams, shampoos and cleansing products.

Why Is It Used?

The following functions have been reported for Carrageenan and its salts.

  • Binder: Carrageenan, Potassium Carrageenan, Sodium Carrageenan
  • Emulsion stabilizer: Calcium Carrageenan, Potassium Carrageenan, Sodium Carrageenan
  • Film former: Calcium Carrageenan, Potassium Carrageenan, Sodium Carrageenan
  • Hair conditioning agent: Carrageenan
  • Viscosity increasing agent – aqueous: Carrageenan, Calcium Carrageenan, Potassium Carrageenan, Sodium Carrageenan

Scientific Facts

Carrageenans are large, highly flexible molecules which curl to form helical structures. This gives them the ability to form gels at room temperature. They are widely used in the food and other industries as thickening and stabilizing agents. A particular advantage is that they thin under shear stress and recover their viscosity once the stress is removed. This means that they are easy to pump but stiffen again afterwards.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits Carrageenan and its salts to be added to food, including some processed cheese and bakery products, as well as jams, jellies and fruit preserves. Carrageenan and its salts (ammonium, calcium, potassium or sodium) are also permitted to be used as chewing gum base.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Carrageenan:

Carrageenan and its Calcium, Potassium and Sodium salts may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union.

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation:…


The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) advising the World Health Organization has concluded the following with respect to Carrageenan: “These closely related polysaccharides are very little absorbed when ingested by several species. The available short- and long-term studies support the safety of these materials despite the small numbers of subjects employed. Carrageenan has a long history of human use without known ill-effect.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified native Carrageenan, which is used in food, as unclassifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. Degraded Carrageenan has been classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans. A JECFA monograph indicates that degraded Carrageenan is prepared from the extract of a specific species of seaweed, Eucheuma spinosum by partial hydrolysis using dilute hydrochloric acid and that this material is not used in food.

Link to the IARC summary:

Link to the JECFA monograph:


Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration

Food Ingredients and Packaging:

Food Contact Substances:…

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS):

Search the Code of Federal Regulations

EU Cosmetics Inventory