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What is "Polysorbate-60" and what is its purpose?

What is "Polysorbate-60" and what is its purpose?

Produced by the ethoxylation of sorbitan, Polysorbate 60 is commonly used in skincare. This synthetic ingredient is a surfactant, solubilising and emulsifying agent. In addition to being present in many skincare products, it is also used in the pharmaceutical and food industries. The question that arises is: what is the utility of Polysorbate 60? Here's what you need to know about this ingredient.

Everything you need to know about Polysorbate 60

Polysorbate 60 is produced from:

  • Regarding sorbitol: this is a natural polyol. Compared to sucrose, its sweetness is half as potent;

  • Ethylene oxide: this colourless gas dissolves easily in water;

  • Stearic Acid: This fatty acid is naturally found in butters and vegetable oils (cocoa, palm, and shea). It is used to stabilise emulsions, thicken skincare products, and harden soaps, balms, and candles.

Polysorbate 60 is derived from a reaction between stearic acid and sorbitol, resulting in the production of sorbitan monostearate which is then condensed with ethylene oxide. The hydrophilic-lipophilic balance of this stearic acid is approximately 14.9.

Polysorbate 60 is not permitted in organic products due to its environmentally harmful manufacturing process. It is found in:

  • Facial creams;

  • Self-tanning skincare;

  • Lip lacquers and inks.

Used as a food additive under the designation E435, Polysorbate 60 is derived from fats (of animal or plant origin). It presents itself in the form of a semi-gel or oily liquid. The number 60 following polysorbate corresponds to the type of fatty acid (monostearate).

Polysorbate 60: What is its purpose?

Polysorbate 60 is an agent:

  • Solubilising Agent;

  • Dispersant: it promotes the uniform distribution of ingredients within a liquid;

  • Emulsifier (in food);

  • Surfactant: Used in body washes and shampoos, it reduces the surface tension of the skin and bodily residues. It allows for an even distribution of dyes, fragrances, and essential oils in water.

It facilitates the blending of oil-based and water-based ingredients. Polysorbates are found in various skincare products such as:

  • Skin cleansing care;

  • Perfume powders;

  • Makeup Foundations;

  • Foundation.

Polysorbate 60 facilitates the dissolution of other ingredients in a solvent. In food terms, it is present in:

  • Flavoured dairy products;

  • The ice creams ;

  • Coconut milk;

  • The pastries;

  • The sauces ;

  • The broths and the soups.

The European Association of Emulsifier Manufacturers (EFEMA) categorises this ingredient as follows:

  • Skin care;

  • Pet food;

  • Pharmaceutical skincare;

  • The plastic industry.

Polysorbate 60: What are the risks?

Ingredients produced through ethoxylation, such as Polysorbate 60, may pose a risk of contamination. However, these skincare products undergo rigorous testing before they are used.

Polysorbate 60 is contraindicated for individuals with reactive skin.


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