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Polysorbate: Production, Types, and Applications

Polysorbate is a popular ingredient used in many different products including foods, cosmetics, and medications. It is a non-ionic surfactant that can work as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and dispersant. In this blog, we will talk about the common types and uses of polysorbate series.

What is Polysorbate?

Polysorbate is a class of nonionic surfactants that are commonly used as emulsifiers in various industries, including food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. These compounds are derived from the reaction of sorbitol (a sugar alcohol) with fatty acids, usually derived from vegetable sources. The resulting product is a group of surfactants with different properties and applications, and they are often identified by specific numbers such as Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 40, Polysorbate 60, and Polysorbate 80.

How is Polysorbate Made?

The production of polysorbate involves a series of chemical processes. Here is a simplified overview of how polysorbate is made:

Esterification: The process begins with the esterification of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, with fatty acids derived from vegetable sources, such as palm or coconut oil. This chemical reaction results in the formation of sorbitan esters.

Ethoxylation: The sorbitan esters then undergo ethoxylation, where ethylene oxide is introduced. This step leads to the creation of polyoxyethylene sorbitan esters, collectively known as polysorbates. Ethoxylation imparts water-soluble properties to the compound, making it an effective emulsifier.

Neutralization: The product is then subjected to neutralization to eliminate any remaining catalyst from the reaction. Neutralization helps ensure the safety and stability of the final polysorbate product.

Purification: To remove impurities and unreacted raw materials, the polysorbate product undergoes a purification process. This step is crucial for maintaining the quality and purity of the final product.

Final Product: The resulting polysorbate, available in liquid form, is now ready for use as an emulsifier in various industries. The specific type of polysorbate (e.g., Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 80) depends on the fatty acid used during esterification and the intended applications.
polysorbate 20 emulsifier in skin care


What Are Examples of Polysorbates?

Polysorbates are a class of emulsifiers commonly identified by specific numbers, such as Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 40, Polysorbate 60, and Polysorbate 80. Each of these compounds has distinct properties and applications. Here are examples of some commonly used polysorbates:

Polysorbate 20 (E432):

►Commonly used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
►Found in personal care products like lotions, creams, and shampoos.
►Used in some food products, such as baked goods.


Polysorbate 40 (E434):

►Used in the food industry, particularly in ice cream, as an emulsifier and stabilizer.
►Found in certain pharmaceutical formulations.


Polysorbate 60 (E435):

►Used in food applications, including baked goods and margarine.
►Found in some cosmetic and personal care products.


Polysorbate 80 (E433):

►Widely used in the pharmaceutical industry as a solubilizing agent.
►Found in various food products, such as salad dressings and ice cream.
►Used in cosmetics, particularly in creams and lotions.

polysorbate80 emulsifier

What is the Difference Between Polysorbate 60 and Polysorbate 80?

Both polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80 are widely used in the food industry as emulsifiers, to help ingredients mix together evenly and smoothly. They are also used as surfactants, helping to reduce surface tension in liquids and promote even spreading.

Chemical Composition:

The main difference between polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80 comes down to their molecular structure. Polysorbate 60 is made up of sorbitol and lauric acid, while polysorbate 80 is made up of sorbitol and oleic acid. The different chemical structures give them slightly different properties and uses.


Polysorbate 60 is often used in baked goods, such as cakes and muffins, as well as in icings and fillings. It is also used in some dairy products, like ice cream, to help prevent the formation of ice crystals and improve texture. Polysorbate 60 is also sometimes used as a thickener or stabilizer in sauces and dressings. It is also used as a solubilizer for flavors and fragrances.

Polysorbate 80, on the other hand, is often used in processed and packaged foods to help prolong shelf life. It is used in a wide range of products, including mayonnaise, salad dressings, margarine, and peanut butter. Polysorbate 80 can also be found in some personal care products, like lotions and shampoos, due to its ability to help ingredients dissolve evenly and improve texture.
polysorbate80 in food


Scope of Application and Functions of Polysorbate Series Products

Product Name Application Scope and Functions Dosage/%
Polysorbate20 Creamy vegetable oil emulsified <0.4
pastry emulsification <0.46
Candy and cocoa coating <0.5
pastry icing <0.4
Defoaming coffee and beverages <0.4
Bread fermentation modifier, emulsifier, strengthener <0.5
Polysorbate60 Mixed snack dispersants <0.5
chocolate emulsifier <0.05
semi-fluid beverage humectant <4.5
Sugar-based snack dispersant <0.5
Synthetic sweet pastry colloid <2.6
Polysorbate80 Emulsifiers for cream, ice cream, frozen custard, iced milk, etc. <0.1
Western snack defoamer <4
Preparation of casein calcium, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients
Special medicinal oil emulsifier
canned seasoning dispersant
Butter-type ordinary oil emulsifier <1
Cream edible oil emulsifier <0.4

Are Polysorbates Safe?

The safety of polysorbates has also been evaluated by other regulatory agencies around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). These agencies have also concluded that polysorbates are safe for use in food and cosmetic products. In fact, they have been used for decades without any reported adverse effects.

In Conclusion

Polysorbates are an important and beneficial class of compounds that have a wide range of applications in various industries. Their unique properties make them an essential component in many food products that we rely on in our daily lives.

CHEMSINO firm is an outstanding food emulsifier supplier and maker in China. We are dedicated to producing top-quality emulsifiers to cater to customer’s needs. Therefore, get in touch with us now for free samples and detailed quotes.
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