Film-Forming Agent

No known benefits

Polyacrylamide at a glance

  • Acts as a film-former, suspending/binding agent and emollient in skin care formulas
  • Other reported uses include foam building agent in cleansing products
  • Available in different forms as a solid, aqueous solution, or emulsion
  • Found in all kinds of beauty products including shampoos, lotions, and self-tanners

Polyacrylamide description

Polyacrylamide is a synthetic polymer that works as a film-former and suspending/binding agent in skin care formulas. Other reported uses include foam-building agent and lubricant/emollient. This ingredient can be found in all kinds of beauty products including shampoos, cleansers, body lotions, and self-tanning products. Polyacrylamide is available in different forms such as a solid (powder or microbeads), aqueous solution, or what’s known as an inverse emulsion (polyacrylamide in water droplets coated with surfactant molecules and suspended in mineral oil). In 2005, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded polyacrylamide is safe as a cosmetic ingredient in the practises of use and concentrations described in their safety assessment (they looked at products containing 0.05–2.8%). Their one caveat is that the level of acrylamide monomer (a byproduct of the formation of polyacrylamide) in formulation should not be greater than 5 parts per million (ppm). Note: The level of acrylamide as a percentage of polyacrylamide varies depending on how and in what form the ingredient is supplied. Reputable suppliers will screen for residual monomers to ensure any detected fall within the safe range. Also good to know: these byproducts do not penetrate skin.

Polyacrylamide references

  • Polymer Bulletin, March 2020, pages 1,275–1,291
  • International Journal of Toxicology, 2005, pages 21–50
  • Polymer International, November 2004, pages 1,821–1,830

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

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.