- Categories: Cleansing Agents
Polysorbate 20 at a Glance
- Used as a mild cleansing agent
- Derived from lauric acid, the primary fatty acid in coconuts
- Also used as a food additive
- Can be used to keep oral medications stable
Polysorbate 20 Description
In skin care, polysorbate 20 belongs to a group of cleansing agents most often derived from lauric acid, which is a medium-chain triglyceride (a type of fatty acid) found in coconuts.
Polysorbates for skin function as emulsifiers and have mild surfactant properties; some polysorbates are derived from the food ingredient sorbitol, which occurs naturally in many fruits, while others have a fatty acid component.
In addition to its use in both leave-on and rinse-off skin care products, polysorbate 20 is also used as a food additive to create a “spreading” feel (such as in cooling mint drops). Because of its stability, it is also used in drug delivery systems for oral medications to help keep them stable in the presence of digestive enzymes.
Though there have been some concerns raised about the safety of polysorbate 20, but the independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has ruled it safe as used in cosmetics. The highest concentration of polysorbate 20 as used in cosmetics is in spray deodorants, where it is used in a concentration of 4%.
Polysorbate 20 References
Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, January 2021, epublication
Children, December 2019, epublication
Cosmetic Ingredient Review, July 2015, pages 1-48
Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, April 2013, Volume 104, pages 200-206
Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, July 2011, Volume 10, Issue 3, pages 281-288
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About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!