In cosmetics and personal care products, polysorbate 80 can be used as a surfactant, emulsifier, and solubilizer.
As a surfactant, polysorbate 80 is a substance that can reduce the surface tension between two substances, such as two liquids or a liquid and a solid, so that they can be mixed. Surfactants are commonly used in skincare products to mix water and oil-based ingredients. The molecule of a surfactant has two parts, one is attracted to oil and the other to water. Its working principle is to bind both and bring them together. Surfactants are especially important in cleansers and body washes because they help to remove dirt and oil buildup on the skin and allow them to be rinsed off. Due to its ability as a surfactant, polysorbate 80 often appears in many different cleansers and body washes.
As an emulsifier, polysorbate 80 is used as an emulsifier in formulas that contain both water and oil components. Mixing water and oil leads to the formation of droplets of oil dispersed in water. However, if the product is left to settle, the oil and water will separate. To address this issue, an emulsifier such as polysorbate 80 can be added to help keep the droplets dispersed, thereby keeping the product mixed and preventing separation. Emulsifiers improve the consistency of the product, allowing the benefits of key ingredients to be evenly distributed.
As a solubilizer, polysorbate 80 can be used as a solubilizer, either alone or in combination with various other emulsifiers, to produce many different types of oil-in-water and water-in-oil emulsion systems. When used alone, polysorbate 80 performs well in dissolving essential oils into formulas and has good thickening, stabilizing, and antistatic properties. polysorbate 80 can also enhance the ability of scrubbing cream and makeup remover to remove residue.
The difference between polysorbate 80 and polysorbate 20 is small. They have similar chemical structures, with the only difference being the type of fatty acid they are connected to. When used as a food or cosmetic additive, this difference hardly affects performance. It makes Polysorbate esters slightly weaker emulsifiers than polysorbate 80. This means that polysorbate 80 is better at emulsifying heavier oils. This makes Polysorbate 80 more suitable as a food additive while making polysorbate suitable for cosmetic formulations using light oils.