Plant extracts

Agar at a glance

  • Natural ingredient that serves as a thickener in skin care
  • Composed of polysaccharides taken from the cell walls of some algae
  • Also used in food as a vegan substitute for gelatin
  • Ruled safe as used in cosmetics

Agar description

Agar is a natural ingredient that serves as a thickener in cosmetics. It has a jelly-like texture and is composed of polysaccharides taken from the cell walls of some types of red algae. In cooking, agar is used as a gelling agent, most often as a vegan substitute for gelatin. In scientific settings it is used as a base to grow bacteria and mold cultures for research. The United States Food and Drug Administration has ruled agar safe in its use as a food additive, and the independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review board also deems agar safe as used in cosmetics applications.

Agar references

  • IOP Conference Series Earth and Environmental Science, February 2020
  • Marine Drugs, November 2018, pages 1-41
  • International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology, February 2018, ePublication
  • Carbohydrate Polymers, July 2013, Volume 96, Issue 1, pages 71-81
  • Biomedical Materials, November 2008, Volume 3, Number 4

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated