As skincare buffs, we like to stay on top of all new ingredients and buzzwords. However, there’s one ingredient that’s been peeking into skincare products for quite some time but hasn’t been given much attention: borax. Borax, also known as sodium tetraborate decahydrate, sodium borate and sodium borate decahydrate, is a naturally occurring mineral that is used as an ingredient in lotions, scrubs and bath bombs. It’s also a common ingredient used in dishwashing liquids, detergents and even bathroom cleaners! It is usually used as a buffering agent, emulsifier, or preservative in cosmetic products. (you may confuse borax with boric acid; however boric acid is just a refined and more processed version of this mineral compound.)
01. What are the uses of Borax?
Borax has multifaceted uses, especially around the household. It can soften hard water, which is why it is used in swimming pools to maintain pH levels. It can also kill insects such as ants and gets rid of stains, mould and mildew in the house. It also aids in whitening and removing dirt from laundry, which is why it is an essential ingredient in detergents.
In skincare, Borax is used to exterminate skin bacteria and remove dead skin cells and excess oil. As it doesn’t penetrate deep into your skin, it is considered safe if used in minimal quantities.
It also prevents or slows down bacterial growth in products like bath bombs, bath salts, shower gels, body lotions and shampoos, which is why it is used as a preservative or buffering agent in these products.
02. Is it safe?
Borax has been deemed a ‘green’ ingredient as its main component is sodium tetraborate, a naturally occurring mineral. Although it is derived from natural sources, this ingredient often causes irritation or discomfort to the skin. Even though it's sparsely used in all skincare products, people have still complained about the side effects of borax-infused products. The pH level of borax is around 9 to 11, which means it's highly alkaline and can sensitise or irritate the skin very easily if used without being diluted. Even though it's non-carcinogenic, it still poses some risks such as eye, skin or respiratory irritation. It can also cause digestive issues, kidney failure or sometimes even death. Oh wow, not everything natural is always good, right?!