Borax, also called sodium borate, is a naturally occurring colorless or white mineral, typically seen in powdered form.[1,2] It is often found in salt lakes and alkaline soils and is not the same thing as boric acid.
Borax is an enzyme stabilizer, emulsifier, and odor inhibitor.[4,5] It is also a type of antiseptic, fungicide, and component of producing glazes and enamels. In addition, it’s frequently found in dozens of personal care products, including sunscreen, facial moisturizer, hand cream, styling gel, and other items because it inhibits spoilage and prevents ingredients from separating. It dissolves in water.
The production of borax generally involves purifying and crystallizing processes to isolate it from brines or crude ore called tincal. Extracting borax from lake brines involves carbonating or evaporating the brine to create crystals. The products of the crystallization process are often turned to a powdered, dried product. Processing ore involves removing clay and shale contaminants to isolate the mineral.
We use borax to stabilize enzymes in laundry products in order to prolong the life of those products. It is an effective soil remover and a less harsh alternative to boric acid. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review has deemed the ingredient safe for use in cosmetics at concentrations below 5%, and Whole Foods has deemed the ingredient acceptable in its body care quality standards.[10,11,12,13] The FDA has deemed the ingredient generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in manufacturing paper and paperboard products used in food packaging. Studies show borax is generally not irritating or sensitizing to the skin.[15,16,17,18,19,20]