Acrylate crosspolymer appears on the contents label of many personal care products that are used daily. It also features in household cleaning products and medicines. It is a versatile and useful ingredient known by many names depending where in the world it is being used.


Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer is a co-polymer of several ingredients. Polymers are usually (but not always) organic, and are formed from large chains of monomers, which are molecules that can bind to each other. Acrylate crosspolymer is formed when C10-30 alkyl acrylate is combined with monomers of acrylic acid or methacrylic acid. This forms a fluffy, white, dry powder. In Europe and Britain, acrylate crosspolymers are known as ‘Carbopol’ co-polymers or ‘Carbomer,’ but the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) always refers to it as acrylate crosspolymer.


Acrylate crosspolymer (or Carbopol) is found in many cosmetic products, including facial moisturizers, treatment creams, anti-aging products, tanning lotions and sun creams that have an SPF of 15 or higher. It appears widely in shampoos, hair coloring and bleaching products, styling gels and lotions, and also in cleaning products and drugs, including chewable, sublingual and effervescent tablets, suppositories and oral suspension medicines.


Acrylate crosspolymers are an excellent thickening and emulsifying agent and are capable of providing flow and clarity to gel systems. A. H. Hosmani, of the Government College of Pharmacy in Karad, India, writes that extensive toxicology studies have shown Carbopols (acrylate crosspolymers) to be safe and effective in topical applications. They rarely irritate when used regularly and have no effect on the biological efficiency of the active ingredients of a product. They also provide benefits in bio-adhesive formulations, by improving the bio-availability of certain drugs, enhancing patient compliance and masking the taste of some bitter drugs.


Lubrizol, the makers of ‘Carbopol,’ have identified that prolonged and repeated applications of products containing acrylate crosspolymer may cause eye irritation or dermatitis. The products might also cause respiratory tract irritation if inhaled or give off a harmful dust. However, studies of Carbopol polymers (acrylate crosspolymers) suggest that its properties will make it a more significant ingredient in the future.