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Polysorbate 20 in Skin Care: A Comprehensive Guide

Polysorbate 20 in skin care is an important ingredient that enhances product efficacy and user experience. Polysorbate 20 is a versatile emulsifier that quietly transforms the landscape of skincare formulations. This comprehensive guide aims to discover the mysteries behind Polysorbate 20, including the benefits of polysorbate 20 in skin care, the differences between polysorbate 20 and polysorbate 80, etc.

What is Polysorbate 20?

Polysorbate 20 is a water-soluble liquid surfactant that belongs to the polysorbate family. It is derived from sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, and stearic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid. Polysorbate 20 is known for its emulsifying and solubilizing properties, making it a common ingredient in a variety of products, including skincare, pharmaceuticals, food, and cosmetics.

As an emulsifier, Polysorbate 20 helps stabilize mixtures of oil and water that would otherwise separate, creating a homogeneous and well-dispersed product. This makes it particularly useful in formulations where oil and water need to be combined, such as creams, lotions, and certain pharmaceutical preparations.

polysorbate 20

Is Polysorbate 20 Toxic to Your Skin?

Actually, Polysorbate 20 is generally considered safe for use in skincare products and is not known to be toxic to the skin when used in recommended concentrations. It is widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries due to its mild and non-irritating nature.

However, individual skin reactions can vary, and some people may be more sensitive to certain ingredients. It's always advisable to perform a patch test before using a product containing Polysorbate 20, especially if you have a history of skin allergies or sensitivities.

Benefits of Polysorbate 20 in Skin Care

  • # Emulsification Mastery: Emulsions, the heart of many skincare products, benefit immensely from Polysorbate 20. Its primary function lies in creating stable emulsions, ensuring a harmonious blend of water and oil-based ingredients. Lotions, creams, and serums owe their smooth textures and enhanced absorption to the emulsification mastery of Polysorbate 20.
  • # Gentleness and Non-Irritating Nature: Not just a powerhouse emulsifier, Polysorbate 20 is celebrated for its mild and non-irritating nature. This makes it an ideal choice for formulations targeting sensitive skin. From cleansers to moisturizers, Polysorbate 20 contributes to the creation of products that cater to individuals with delicate or reactive skin.
  • # Solubilizing Agent Abilities: As a solubilizer, Polysorbate 20 excels in enhancing the dispersal of fragrance oils and other hydrophobic substances in water-based products. This functionality is particularly valuable in facial cleansers, body washes, and other skincare items where even distribution of fragrances is essential for a pleasing user experience.
  • # Stabilizing Essential Oils: The volatile nature of essential oils poses a challenge in skincare formulations. Polysorbate 20 steps in as a stabilizing agent, ensuring that essential oils are evenly dispersed. This stabilizing quality is crucial in maintaining the efficacy of essential oil-infused products.
  • # Improving Sensory Experience: Beyond its technical functions, Polysorbate 20 contributes to the overall sensory experience of skincare products. From silky lotions to luxurious sunscreens, the addition of Polysorbate 20 enhances the texture, making skincare routines a more enjoyable and indulgent experience.

Polysorbate 20 in Skin Care

What are the Differences Between Polysorbate 20 and Polysorbate 80?

Polysorbate 20 and Polysorbate 80 are both members of the polysorbate family, and while they share some similarities, there are key differences between them:

1. Molecular Structure:
  1. Polysorbate 20: It is derived from sorbitol and stearic acid and has a smaller molecular weight.
  2. Polysorbate 80: Similar to Polysorbate 20, it is derived from sorbitol and stearic acid but has a larger molecular weight.

2. Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Balance (HLB):
  1. Polysorbate 20: Generally has a lower HLB value compared to Polysorbate 80. HLB values influence the solubility of the surfactant in water and oil.
  2. Polysorbate 80: Typically has a higher HLB value compared to Polysorbate 20.

3. Solubility:
  1. Polysorbate 20: While both are water-soluble, Polysorbate 20 is often considered more soluble in water.
  2. Polysorbate 80: Has a slightly higher lipophilic (oil-attracting) character compared to Polysorbate 20.

4. Applications:
  1. Polysorbate 20: Commonly used in formulations where a smaller molecular size and lower lipophilicity are desirable, such as in products for sensitive skin or where a lighter texture is needed.
  2. Polysorbate 80: Often preferred in formulations that require a larger molecule and a higher degree of lipophilicity. It is frequently used in products like creams, lotions, and certain pharmaceuticals.

5. Emulsification Power:
  1. Polysorbate 20: Known for its effective emulsification of water and oil in formulations.
  2. Polysorbate 80: Generally has a higher emulsification power, making it suitable for more complex formulations and those with higher oil content.

6. Stability:
  1. Polysorbate 20: While stable, it may not be as robust in stabilizing certain formulations as Polysorbate 80.
  2. Polysorbate 80: Offers enhanced stability, particularly in formulations with a higher oil phase.

In summary, the choice between Polysorbate 20 and Polysorbate 80 depends on the specific requirements of the formulation. Polysorbate 20 is often favored for lighter formulations and products targeting sensitive skin, while Polysorbate 80 is chosen for products with higher oil content or where increased stability is crucial.


Polysorbate 20, the silent force in skincare formulations, deserves recognition for its multifaceted contributions. From ensuring stability in emulsions to enhancing the sensory appeal of products, Polysorbate 20 plays a vital role in elevating the skincare experience. As consumers become more discerning in their choices, the transparency, versatility, and efficacy of ingredients like Polysorbate 20 will continue to shape the future of skincare. 

Chemsino provides excellent polysorbate 20 and polysorbate 80 for your business. Want to get free samples? Get in touch with us today for the best prices.
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