Polyacrylamide is a polymer of acrylamide monomers. The popular commercially polyacrylamide is poly(2-propenamide) which is simply called polyacrylamide or PAM. It is a non-ionic, water-soluble and biocompatible polymer that can be used in a broad range of applications. It is found as a simple linear-chain or cross-linked structure.

This material is often used to change the rheology of water-based formulations, which means it helps increase viscosity and thicken the gel products. In cosmetics and personal care products, polyacrylamide is used in the formulation of many product types including skin cleansers, moisturizers, lotions and creams, sunscreens, makeup, hair care products and nail care products.

Functions of polyacrylamide in cosmetics

Polyacrylamide is used in cosmetics and personal care products in two different forms. The cross-linked form which forms a soft gel that is highly water-absorbent. The straight-chain form functions as a thickener and suspending agent. When polyacrylamide dries, it forms a thin coating on the skin, hair or nails. In makeup, this function helps hold the ingredients of a compressed tablet together. In sunscreen products, polyacrylamide keeps the active ingredients of the sunscreen on the skin after immersion in water. Small polyacrylamide beads may be used as an abrasive in skin cleansing and exfoliating products. In hair care products, polyacrylamide helps hair hold its style by inhibiting the hair’s ability to absorb moisture.

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