Difference Between Carbomer 940 And 980

Carbomers are essential polymers widely used in various industries for their ability to control the viscosity and texture of products. Among the many types of carbomers, Carbomer 940 and Carbomer 980 are particularly popular due to their unique properties and applications. Understanding the differences between these two can help in selecting the right one for specific industrial needs.

Carbomer 940 and Carbomer 980 differ primarily in their viscosity levels and applications. Carbomer 940 provides high viscosity and is commonly used in formulations requiring thickening agents, while Carbomer 980, with its moderate viscosity, is favored in products that need a smoother, less sticky texture. These distinctions make them suitable for different types of products, from gels to creams.

In the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, the choice between Carbomer 940 and Carbomer 980 can significantly impact the efficacy and user experience of the final product. Factors such as solubility, ease of dispersion, and the final product’s desired consistency play crucial roles in this decision. Knowing these differences is essential for formulators aiming to optimize their products.

Carbomer Basics

What Are Carbomers?

Carbomers are synthetic polymers made from acrylic acid. They are widely used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and personal care industries. These polymers are known for their ability to thicken and stabilize products, making them essential in various formulations.

Definition and Chemical Nature

Carbomers are high molecular weight cross-linked polymers of acrylic acid. They are typically found in a white, fluffy powder form and are often used as thickening, dispersing, suspending, and emulsifying agents in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. The chemical structure of carbomers includes polyacrylic acid chains that are cross-linked with allyl ethers of pentaerythritol, creating a network that can absorb and retain water.

Common Uses

Carbomers are incredibly versatile, making them valuable in a range of applications:

  • Thickening agents: Used in gels, creams, and lotions.
  • Stabilizers: Help to maintain the consistency of emulsions.
  • Suspending agents: Prevent particles from settling in liquid formulations.
  • Emulsifiers: Assist in mixing oil and water-based ingredients.

Key Features

Carbomer 940

Chemical Properties

Carbomer 940 is a highly efficient thickener that produces crystal-clear gels and creams. It has a high viscosity and is capable of suspending insoluble ingredients. The cross-linking density in Carbomer 940 is higher, which contributes to its superior thickening properties.

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Industrial Applications

Carbomer 940 is commonly used in:

  • Topical gels: Provides a smooth, non-greasy feel.
  • Creams and lotions: Enhances texture and stability.
  • Pharmaceutical formulations: Used in controlled-release medications.

Carbomer 980

Chemical Properties

Carbomer 980 is similar to Carbomer 940 but with slightly different viscosity properties. It also forms clear gels and thickens formulations effectively, though it provides a slightly smoother texture compared to Carbomer 940.

Industrial Applications

Carbomer 980 is ideal for:

  • Lotions and serums: Offers a light, smooth consistency.
  • Personal care products: Used in shampoos and conditioners for improved texture.
  • Pharmaceutical gels: Provides stability and ease of application.

Comparing Carbomer 940 and 980

Chemical Composition

Carbomer 940 and 980 have similar chemical compositions but differ in their cross-linking densities. This difference affects their viscosity and how they interact with other ingredients in formulations.

Viscosity Levels

  • Carbomer 940: Known for its high viscosity, making it suitable for thick gels and creams.
  • Carbomer 980: Has a moderate viscosity, which is perfect for products needing a lighter, smoother texture.

Solubility and Dispersion

Both carbomers are soluble in water and can disperse well in aqueous solutions. However, their solubility and dispersion properties can vary based on pH levels and the presence of other ingredients:

  • Carbomer 940: Excellent solubility in water, forming clear, stable gels.
  • Carbomer 980: Similar solubility, but may disperse more smoothly in some formulations.

Advantages and Limitations

Advantages of Carbomer 940

  • High Viscosity: Ideal for thick, stable formulations.
  • Stability: Maintains consistency over a wide pH range.
  • Transparency: Produces clear gels and creams.

Advantages of Carbomer 980

  • Moderate Viscosity: Suitable for smoother, lighter products.
  • Texture: Provides a more pleasant feel in lotions and serums.
  • Flexibility: Works well in various personal care products.

Limitations of Each Type

  • Carbomer 940:
    • Handling: Can be challenging to disperse in high concentrations.
    • Cost: Higher viscosity can make it more expensive.
  • Carbomer 980:
    • Stability: May not be as stable in some formulations as Carbomer 940.
    • Viscosity: Lower viscosity might not be suitable for all applications.

Industry Applications

Pharmaceutical Uses

Roles in Medication

Carbomers play a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry. They are commonly used in medications to improve the texture and consistency of formulations. These polymers act as controlled-release agents, ensuring that the medication is released at the desired rate, enhancing its efficacy.

Carbomer 940 and 980 are often found in:

  • Topical medications: Provide a stable, smooth base for creams and gels.
  • Oral suspensions: Help to keep the medication evenly distributed.
  • Eye drops: Ensure the solution remains consistent and effective.
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Roles in Topical Agents

Topical agents benefit significantly from the inclusion of carbomers. These polymers help create smooth, non-greasy formulations that are easy to apply and absorb quickly into the skin. They also improve the spreadability of the product, making it more user-friendly.

Carbomers are used in:

  • Antibiotic gels: Provide a stable medium for active ingredients.
  • Anti-inflammatory creams: Ensure consistent application and absorption.
  • Moisturizing lotions: Enhance the product’s texture and effectiveness.

Cosmetic Applications

Importance in Beauty Products

In the cosmetic industry, carbomers are highly valued for their ability to create smooth, stable formulations. They are used in a wide range of beauty products to improve texture, stability, and performance. Carbomers help to achieve the desired viscosity and ensure that the product remains consistent over time.

Carbomer 940 and 980 are commonly used in:

  • Facial creams: Provide a luxurious, smooth feel.
  • Serums: Ensure even distribution and absorption of active ingredients.
  • Hair gels: Offer strong hold without flaking.
  • Sunscreens: Improve spreadability and water resistance.

Other Industries

Additional Uses and Roles

Beyond pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, carbomers find applications in various other industries due to their versatile properties. Their ability to thicken, stabilize, and suspend particles makes them useful in many different formulations.

Carbomers are used in:

  • Household products: Enhance the texture of cleaning agents and detergents.
  • Food industry: Act as stabilizers and thickeners in certain food products.
  • Industrial applications: Used in adhesives, coatings, and lubricants to improve consistency and performance.

Selection Criteria

Choosing Between Carbomer 940 and 980

Factors Influencing Decision

Selecting the right carbomer for a specific formulation depends on several factors. Understanding these factors can help formulators make informed decisions that optimize the product’s performance and user experience.

Key factors include:

  • Viscosity Requirements: Determine the desired thickness of the final product.
  • Product Texture: Decide if a smoother or thicker texture is needed.
  • Application Method: Consider how the product will be applied (e.g., topical, oral).
  • Stability Needs: Assess the stability of the product under various conditions.
  • Cost Considerations: Evaluate the budget for raw materials.

Tips for Formulation

Formulating with carbomers requires careful consideration of several best practices to ensure optimal results. Here are some tips for effective use:

  • Disperse Slowly: When adding carbomers to water or other solvents, disperse them slowly to avoid clumping. Use a high-shear mixer if possible.
  • Adjust pH: Carbomers need to be neutralized to achieve their thickening properties. Use a base like triethanolamine (TEA) to adjust the pH to around 7.0 for optimal viscosity.
  • Hydrate Fully: Allow the carbomer to hydrate fully before adding other ingredients. This ensures maximum thickening efficiency.
  • Avoid Electrolytes: High concentrations of electrolytes can reduce the viscosity of carbomers. If electrolytes are necessary, use them sparingly and test the formulation thoroughly.
  • Incorporate Gradually: When combining carbomers with other thickening agents, incorporate them gradually to prevent separation or instability.
  • Optimize Concentration: Use the minimum effective concentration to achieve the desired viscosity. This helps to reduce costs and minimize potential irritation.
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Best Practices for Effective Use

Ensuring the successful use of carbomers in formulations requires adherence to best practices that maximize their benefits while minimizing potential issues.

Key best practices include:

  • Consistency Testing: Regularly test the consistency and stability of formulations to ensure they meet quality standards.
  • Compatibility Checks: Conduct compatibility tests with other ingredients to prevent adverse reactions or reduced efficacy.
  • Storage Conditions: Store carbomers in a cool, dry place to maintain their quality and effectiveness.
  • Batch Testing: Test each batch of carbomer for consistency in quality and performance.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that formulations comply with relevant regulatory standards for safety and efficacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Carbomer 940 used for?

Carbomer 940 is primarily used in applications that require high viscosity and stability. It is commonly found in gels, creams, and lotions where it acts as a thickening agent, providing a smooth, consistent texture. Its ability to maintain stability under different pH conditions makes it ideal for pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations.

How does Carbomer 980 differ from Carbomer 940?

Carbomer 980 differs from Carbomer 940 mainly in its viscosity and application. While Carbomer 940 offers higher viscosity, making it suitable for thick gels and creams, Carbomer 980 has a moderate viscosity, providing a smoother texture for products like lotions and serums. This difference influences the choice based on the desired consistency of the final product.

Can Carbomer 940 and 980 be used interchangeably?

Carbomer 940 and 980 can sometimes be used interchangeably, but it depends on the specific requirements of the formulation. If a product demands high viscosity and stability, Carbomer 940 is preferred. For formulations needing a lighter, smoother texture, Carbomer 980 is the better choice. Always consider the final product’s desired characteristics before substituting one for the other.

Are Carbomers safe for skin?

Yes, carbomers, including Carbomer 940 and 980, are generally considered safe for use in skin care products. They are non-toxic and non-irritating, making them suitable for a wide range of cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications. However, it is always advisable to conduct patch tests to ensure compatibility with individual skin types.


Carbomer 940 and Carbomer 980, while similar in many respects, offer distinct advantages depending on the application. Understanding their differences in viscosity and texture can help formulators choose the right ingredient for their specific needs, ensuring optimal performance and user satisfaction.

Selecting the appropriate carbomer is crucial for achieving the desired consistency and stability in various products. By considering factors such as viscosity, solubility, and application requirements, formulators can make informed decisions that enhance the quality and effectiveness of their products.

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