Sodium polyacrylate is a super-absorbent white powder, which transforms into a gel by locking in water. It keeps the texture of a product soft and supple and conditions the skin.
Sodium polyacrylate is a polymer, a substance that has a molecular structure built up generally from a large number of similar units bonded together. So functionally, they are strong and flexible, helping to create solid products with a supple texture. It is a large compound unable to penetrate the skin’s barrier and has been proven to be safe for cosmetic use.
Sodium polyacrylate is not considered to be a plastic. Not all polymers are plastics. The family of polymers is a large one and includes materials other than plastics and resins. It is more often categorised as a superabsorbent material, it can absorb many times its own weight of water and hold it in creating a soft stable gel. It is also a film-former: it creates a thin flexible film that gives a smooth feeling on the skin after it has been washed and can also be used in exfoliating products to make strong scrubbing materials more gentle.
So far this ingredient has matched Lush standards: it is safe for use in cosmetics and the supplier we are working with does not test on animals. However, some concerns about this material's biodegradability arose in recent years. Sodium polyacrylate will degrade, but the process can be very slow if the landfill doesn’t contain enough water or is not properly aerated. Because it is not only used in a few cosmetics but in a wide range of products like baby nappies, household cleaners and as a water-retaining gel in gardening, its impact on the environment has been questioned lately. At Lush, it does help to create solid, unpackaged products and therefore significantly reduces our impact on the environment. We will be looking at further research and testing to explore the action of this material on the environment. Lush is working on finding a suitable substitute in case the information is not favourable.