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Sodium Borate and Boric Acid are colorless or white crystals, or powders. In cosmetics and personal care products, Sodium Borate and Boric Acid are used in the formulation of a wide variety of product types including creams and lotions and bath, hair and skin products.
Sodium Borate and Boric Acid prevent or retard bacterial growth, and thus protect cosmetics and personal care products from spoilage. They are also used to control pH and to minimize the change in the pH of a solution when an acid or a base is added. Sodium Borate and Boric Acid also help to keep an emulsion from separating into its oil and liquid components. They are also used to alter the thickness of liquid cosmetics and personal care products.
Sodium Borate, also called borax, occurs naturally as the mineral, tincal, and Boric Acid occurs naturally as the mineral, sassolite. Both Sodium Borate and Boric Acid may also be obtained by treating other minerals such as kernite, ulexite, and colemanite.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the safety of Boric Acid and approved its use as an indirect food additive as a component of adhesives and paper and paperboard. The safety of Sodium Borate and Boric Acid has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Sodium Borate and Boric Acid, in concentrations less than or equal to 5%, are safe as cosmetic ingredients. The CIR Expert Panel also cautioned that cosmetics and personal care products containing free Sodium Borate or Boric Acid at 5% should not be used on infant skin or injured skin. In 2003, as part of the scheduled re-evaluation of ingredients, the CIR Expert Panel considered available new data on Sodium Borate and Boric Acid and reaffirmed the above conclusion.
CIR Safety Review: Investigators have reported that Sodium Borate and Boric Acid are poorly absorbed through intact skin. Both compounds are absorbed through abraded, denuded or burned skin. In a 90-day dermal toxicity study, Boric Acid (25-200 mg/kg/day) was nonirritating and nontoxic when applied to intact skin. Sodium Borate and Boric Acid were relatively nontoxic when tested orally. A 5% Sodium Borate water solution was mildly or moderately irritating to the skin, and practically nonirritating when instilled in the eyes. Acute studies indicated that, at 10% in water, Boric Acid was mildly or moderately irritating to the skin. Sodium Borate or Boric Acid in the diet caused growth retardation. Dose levels of Boric Acid much higher than in personal care products caused reproductive effects. Boric Acid was nonmutagenic in a bacterial test system.
Boric Acid induced genetic effects in fruit flies. Limited carcinogenic and developmental toxicity studies did not indicate any effects. In clinical studies, cosmetic products containing up to 3.2% Sodium Borate were nonirritating to moderately irritating and nonsensitizing when applied to human skin. Formulations containing up to 2.4% Boric Acid were moderately irritating and practically nonirritating. Photopatch testing of formulations containing 1.1% or 1.7% Sodium Borate were negative.
Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Boric Acid
The FDA allows Sodium Borate to be used in denture adhesives that are considered medical devices.
FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Sodium Borate
Both ingredients are listed in the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union under Boric Acid, borates and tetraborates, and may be used in talcs, products for all hygiene, and other products excluding bath and hair waving products, at concentrations up to 5%, 0.1% and 3%, respectively. Sodium Borate and Boric Acid are not to be used on peeling or irritated skin or in cosmetics and personal care products for children under 3 years of age.
EU Cosmetic Regulation
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has determined that it was not necessary to allocate an Acceptable Daily Intake for Boric Acid.
Boric Acid is an inorganic acid and Sodium Borate is the sodium salt of Boric Acid. In cosmetics and personal care products, Sodium Borate and Boric Acid function as cosmetic biocides, pH adjusters, buffering agents, emulsion stabilizers and viscosity controlling agents. They are also used as antiseptics, water softeners, and neutralizers. Sodium Borate and Boric Acid have some antibacterial and antifungal activity. Both compounds affect a variety of enzymes from bacteria and animals.
Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration
The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products Intended for Consumers (SCCNFP) opinion concerning Boric Acid, Borates, and Tetraborates
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