General · INGREDIENTS · Surfactancts

Scratching the Surface with Surfactants: Polysorbates 20, 60, 80

I get questions about Polysorbate 80 (Tween 80) all the time! So I decided to write a short post and answer the most common questions about this ingredient.

Tween™ 80 is an oil-in-water co-emulsifier for use in skincare, haircare, and decorative cosmetics. It is based on Oleic Acid. This grade is ideal for emulsions whose oil phase contains unsaturated lipid components, such as oleyl alcohol or vegetable oils. It is often used in combination with one or more of the Tween™ products to obtain the desired HLB. Tween™ 80 can also be used as a solubilizing agent.

SOURCE – Ulprospector

Let’s translate it into the human language. Polysorbate 80 is an emulsifier and a solubilizer. We can use it to emulsify and disperce oils and so oil-soluble ingredients (like oil-soluble extracts, essential oils, fragrance oils, butters) into water.

Polysorbate 60 – is used as co-emulsifier, solubilizer, dispersing agent.

Polysorbate 20 – is an excellent solubilizer for fragrance and essential oils in aqueous (a fancy word for water-based) formulations (toners, serums, body sprays, room sprays).

Is Polysorbate 80 natural?

Polysorbate 80 is a synthetic ingredient approved for leave-on and rinse-off cosmetic and it’s even considered to be safe for human consumption.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Where can I buy Polysorbate 80?

Many soap and candles suppliers carry it and you can even buy it on amazon!

Do I have to use Polysorbates in bath bombs/bath truffles?

Only you can decide to use or not to use polysorbates in your bath products. I am simply going to tell you why and when I recommend using this ingredient in bath formulations.

  • if your bath bomb (bath truffle, bath melt) has oils and fragrance oil in it and it doesn’t contain any solubilizer then oils, butters, fragrance oils, and essential oils won’t disperse into the water. It means you run a risk for a slippery bath situation.
  • if you use oil-soluble colorants or insoluble colorants in your bath bombs (bath truffles, bath melts) such as lakes and micas and you don’t use a dispersing agent then you will be left with a stained bath and even skin and a huge mess to clean up.
  • Polysorbate 80 slows down the fizz of your bath bombs.
  • Polysorbate 80 adds a little bit of foam to bath bombs and bath truffles.
  • it’s inexpensive and easy to source.

NOTE: SLSA, SCS, SCI, Cocamidopropyl Betaine are all surfactants and it means that they can emulsify a small amount of oil. However, I don’t recommend relying on them as your only solubilizing and dispersing agent but feel free to experiment!

Photo by Elizaveta Dushechkina on

What can I use instead of Polysorbate 80?

Olivem 300 is a naturally-derived solubilizer for essential oils and fragrance oils, it boosts and supports foaming properties of surfactants and provides emolliency in bath and body products. Olivem 300 is soluble in water and can be dispersed in oil. It is more expensive than Polysorbate 80 and I am not sure how good it works for dispersing colorants. Lotioncrafter has a bath bomb formulation with Olivem 300 here.

You can also use Turkey Red Castor Oil or any other water-soluble oil or butter in your bath bombs such as water-soluble shea (PEG-50 Shea Butter), water-soluble olive oil (PEG-10 Olive Glycerides). Again, I can’t find any information about their ability to disperse micas and lakes but these oils will emulsify into the water and you don’t need to use Polysorbate 80 when you choose to add these ingredients to your bath bomb formualtions.

If you want to learn more about other bath bomb ingredients and find recipes for bath bombs, bath truffles, sugar scrubs and more then check out the posts linked down below.

I also have a Youtube channel where I try to post at least once per week. I would be very glad and thankful if you could subscribe to the channel, like my videos, or leave me a comment.

Bath Bomb Ingredients: Functions and Usage Rates

The Simple Guide to Coloring Your Bath Bombs

Festive Bath Truffles. Formulation #1: Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey

Festive Bath Truffles. Formula #2: Strawberry Delight

Bath Bomb Adventures Part II. Making Embeds.

Using Airtable to Track Your Supplies and Sales. My Organizing System
Using Spreadsheets to Calculate Your Recipes

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