Polyvinyl Alcohol

What Is It?

Polyvinyl Alcohol is a polymer of vinyl alcohol. In cosmetics and personal care products, Polyvinyl Alcohol is used in a wide range of products, including makeup, skin care products and facial masks.

Why Is It Used?

Polyvinyl Alcohol increases the thickness of the lipid (oil) portion of cosmetics. It may also be used as a film former or a binder.

Scientific Facts

Polyvinyl Alcohol is a synthetic alcohol that can occur as a white, tasteless and odorless powder. Polyvinyl Alcohol is produced by the controlled hydrolysis of polyvinyl acetate and normally contains some level of unhydrolyzed acetate groups. Polyvinyl Alcohol has a variety of noncosmetic uses including its use in solutions for the eyes.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Polyvinyl Alcohol on its list of basic compounds allowed to be used in food contact surfaces. Polyvinyl Alcohol is also allowed to be used in coatings in contact with food. The safety of Polyvinyl Alcohol has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated scientific data and concluded that Polyvinyl Alcohol was safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products.

CIR Safety Review: Clinical studies did not indicate that Polyvinyl Alcohol caused irritation. In an repeat insult patch test, Polyvinyl Alcohol had a low incidence of irritation during induction and no evidence of sensitization upon challenge. Further, a cumulative irritation study reported a low irritation. The CIR Expert Panel felt that the ingredient does not present a reproductive or developmental toxicity risk. No ocular irritation was noted from undiluted Polyvinyl Alcohol. Based on the available information, the CIR Expert Panel concluded that Polyvinyl Alcohol was safe as used in cosmetic formulations.

FDA: Link to Code of Federal Regulations for Polyvinyl Alcohol

Polyvinyl Alcohol 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.

Link to the EU Cosmetic Regulation: 

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has established an Acceptable Daily Intake of 50 mg/kg body weight for Polyvinyl Alcohol.

More Scientific Information

Polyvinyl Alcohol is a water soluble synthetic polymer. In addition to being used in cosmetics and personal care products, it is used as a carbon dioxide barrier in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.


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

Food Ingredients and Packaging: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/default.htm

Food Contact Substances: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/PackagingFCS/defaul…

Substances Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS): http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/default.htm

Search the Code of Federal Regulations http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm

EU Cosmetics Inventory http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing/