Gums in cosmetic products: what uses?

At present, cosmetic products can take every conceivable form: cream, powder, oil and even gel. If so many textures are possible, it is mainly thanks to the wide range of choices offered by today's cosmetic actives. If you know us, get rid of synthetic ingredients, we want NA-TU-REL! But how to naturally thicken a cosmetic preparation? With gums. In cosmetic products, gums are not used to "erase" your imperfections, that would be too nice, but will modify the viscosity of the aqueous phase of the product.

Mode of action and properties of gums

Mode of action

Gums are macromolecules (big molecules), which are also called polymers because they are made of several monomers. The monomers are subunits, it can be amino acids in the case of proteins, nucleotides for DNA, and so on. In gums, the monomers are oses, or monosaccharides, which are the simple sugars. But yes, you know them, we have for example glucose and fructose! When we have a chain of several monosaccharides, as is the case in gums, we get in fact nothing but... Polysaccharides, and yes!

The main interest of gums in cosmetic products is the texture they will impart. They are called texture agents, or viscosity agents. Due to their conformation, they will unfold to form a 3-dimensional network with a great capacity to retain water or any other solvent. This is how they will form the famous gel. By increasing the viscosity of the product, they will also reduce the mobility of the product. Thus, all gums are soluble in water, at temperatures that can vary.


  • Gelling agents: they make the mixture more viscous and decrease their mobility.
  • Stabilizers: they participate in the stabilization of the emulsion, they are also called co-emulsifiers. They also help to maintain the homogeneous aspect of the mixture.
  • Thickening: they add body to the texture.
  • Adhesion agent: they enhance the adhesion capacity of fats.
  • Skin care agent: they are emollient, softening and smoothing the skin.

The main gums used in cosmetic products

To find gummies, there's no need to look for noon at two o'clock: Nature is so good at serving them to us on a platter! If that's not beautiful. All gums are indeed natural, with very different origins: vegetable, marine or microbial. Take a look...

The plants

Some gums are extracted from plant parts such as legume seeds or tubers. Both serve as a reserve for the plant, which is why they are rich in polysaccharides. Legume seeds are generally rich in galactomannans, a polymer of galactose and mannose as its name suggests. This reserve is used by the embryo during germination, and is located in the albumen. It is thus this part which is extracted to obtain the gum!

Guar gum

INCI: Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba (Guar) Gum

Origin: Guar Gum is obtained by grinding the seeds of Cyamopsis tetragonolobus, a legume native to India.

Solubility and stability: Soluble in water at room temperature, relatively unstable at acidic pH.

Composition: Galactomannans


  • Gelling agent
  • Thickener
  • Emulsion stabilizer
  • Skin and hair care agent

Tara Eraser

INCI: Caesalpinia spinosa gum

Origin: E xtracted from the seed of a tree native to South America.

Solubility and Stability: Best dispersion at 40°C, stable over a wide pH range

Composition: Galactomannans


  • thickener
  • skin and hair care agent: it is a conditioner and a humectant, and also a film-forming agent

Dosing: 0.8 to 1 percent

Konjac gum

INCI: Amorphophallus konjac

Origin: Extracted from tubers of Amorphophallus Konjac.

Solubility and stability: Thermoreversible, but can be added cold to the aqueous phase

Composition: Glucomannans, polymer of mannose and glucose


  • Gelling agent
  • Skin and hair care agent: moisturizing, softening and smoothing

Dosing: 0.25 to 1 percent


Gums can also be of marine origin, from algae. Well, we grant you, they are in this case generally more qualified as gelling agents, but the properties are very close. They are therefore often considered as gums! They come mainly from 2 different families of algae: brown algae and red algae. Among the brown ones, the most famous are the alginates. In the red family, I would like... the famous Agar Agar, and the carrageenans.


INCI: Algin

Origin: Alginates are present in the cell wall of brown algae, of the Fucaceae, Laminariaceae and Macrocystis types. It is sodium alginate that is mostly used in cosmetics. It is extracted by successive washings of the algae in acidic and basic solutions in order to separate them from the other components.

Solubility and stability: They solubilize well in water but are not thermoreversible: heat does not allow them to become liquid again.

Composition: Mannuronic acid and guluronic acid.


  • Water thickener
  • Gelling agent
  • Emulsifier
  • Stabilizer

Agar Agar

INCI: Agar

Origin: Agar Agar enters the composition of the cell wall of 2 large families of red algae: the Gelidiaceae and the Gracilariaceae. Their mucilage is extracted while hot, purified, then dehydrated and ground to powder.

Solubility and Stability: Soluble in water at 85°C and gels poorly in acidic media

Composition: Agarose and agaropectin polymer.

Property: Highly gelling, from only 0.1%.

Dosing: 0.1 to 3%.


INCI: Chondrus crispus extract

Origin: Carrageenans were originally extracted from Chondrus crispus, but are nowadays extracted instead from Kappaphycus alvarezii and Euchema denticulatum, all red algae. There are different types, but the best known are the k (kappa) carrageenans, which form fairly rigid gels, and i (iota) and l (lambda), which form fairly flexible gels.

Solubility and stability: In hot water at about 70°C, thermoreversible.


  • Gelling even at high temperatures, up to 60°C
  • Thickener
  • Skin and hair care agent (often called "vegetable silicone"!)

Tree exudates

Gums can come from trees. They are produced naturally and are generally recovered by incision in the trunk. At the base, they are used to seal wounds. Viscous at the exit of the trunk, they harden quickly in contact with the air and are then harvested.

Acacia or arabic gum

INCI: Acacia Senegal Gum

Origin: Exudate from Acacia senegal, a tree native to Africa

Solubility and stability: Better solubility in hot water.


  • Skin maintenance agent: in low concentrations, it forms a sort of network on the surface of the skin that provides a tensor and lifting effect when it retracts.
  • Adhesion agent: it has a very good adhesion capacity on hydrophobic surfaces
  • Emulsion stabilizer

Dosing: 1 to 3% as a "tensor" active, 1 to 25% as an adhesion agent and co-emulsifier

Tragacanth or tragacanth

INCI: Astragalus gummifer gum

Origin: Exudate of Astragalus gummifer, a small tree native to the Middle East

Solubility and stability: Better solubility in hot water, stable over a wide pH range


  • Gelling agent, especially in acidic environments
  • Thickener

Dosing: 1 to 4%.


La gomme la plus connue et la plus utilisée en cosmétique est issue... d’un micro-organisme. Berk me direz-vous ! Mais non, certains micro-organismes sont inoffensifs pour l’Homme, et ont même des avantages. Par fermentation, ils permettent la transformation de sucres en produits plutôt intéressants. C’est ce qu’il se passe pour le pain ou la bière par exemple, et c’est également ce qu’il se passe pour certaines gommes !

Xanthan Gum

Origin: Produced by fermentation of beet, cane or corn sugar by Xanthomonnas campestris bacteria, from which it takes its name.

Solubility and stability: Better solubility in hot water.


  • Gelling agent
  • Low concentration emulsion stabilizer.

Dosing: 0.1 to 0.3%.