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Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose

Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose

What is it?

Hypromellose, also commonly known as hydroxypropyl methycellulose (HPMC) is a coating agent and film-former used as an inactive ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry.[1] It has also been used as a rate-controlling polymer for sustained-release dose forms.

As a powder, hypromellose is off-white to beige and may be in granules. Hypromellose is considered an inert ingredient. It has a high viscosity and is often used in ophthalmic preparations as artificial tears for dry eyes.[2] In the US, it is available over-the-counter (OTC) in such products as Isopto Tears and Nature’s Tears.

What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Change in eyesight, eye pain, or very bad eye irritation.


  • Tile adhesives
  • Cement renders
  • Gypsum products
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Paints & coatings
  • Food
  • Cosmetics
  • Detergents & cleaners
  • Eye drops
  • Contact lenses

Ophthalmic applications

Hypromellose solutions were patented as a semisynthetic substitute for tear-film.[8] Its molecular structure is predicated upon a base celluloid compound that is highly water-soluble. Post-application, celluloid attributes of good water solubility reportedly aid in visual clarity. When applied, a hypromellose solution acts to swell and absorb water, thereby expanding the thickness of the tear-film. Hypromellose augmentation therefore results in extended lubricant time presence on the cornea, which theoretically results in decreased eye irritation, especially in dry climates, home, or work environments.[9] On a molecular level, this polymer contains beta-linked D-glucose units that remain metabolically intact for days to weeks. On a manufacturing note, since hypromellose is a vegetarian substitute for gelatin, it is slightly more expensive to produce due to semisynthetic manufacturing processes. Aside from its widespread commercial and retail availability over the counter in a variety of products, Hypromellose 2% solution has been documented to be used during surgery to aid in corneal protection and during orbital surgery.


HPMC can be dissolved in water to create a solution. Because HPMC is a polymer it forms a film upon drying. It also exhibits ‘thermogelling properties,’ meaning that while it is a liquid form at room temperature, but upon warming the substances it’s viscosity increases, eventually congealing to form a gel type consistency at 50-55 degrees Celsius. This property makes this ingredient very useful as a binding agent, emulsifier, surfactant, stabilizer, adhesive and in the general control of the viscosity of the product. HPMC is mostly used in bath soaps, sunscreen, shampoos and cleansers in low concentrations (typically  <5%), but has been found being used at levels as high as 36% in moisturizers and night creams (Cosmetic Ingredient Review).

Consumer information use

If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.

Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else's drugs.

Keep a list of all your drugs (prescription, natural products, vitamins, OTC) with you. Give this list to your doctor.

Talk with the doctor before starting any new drug, including prescription or OTC, natural products, or vitamins.

Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.

If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.