What Is Polysorbate? – Polysorbate 20 vs. 60 vs. 80 Uses

Posted On: June 12, 2018

What Is Polysorbate and What Is Polysorbate Derived from?

Oxiteno’s ALKEST® TW line of polysorbates are mild, non-ionic surfactants comprised of polyethoxylated esters of 3,6-sorbitan. Being derived mainly from natural materials, many of these versatile surfactants are water-soluble products that are used as emulsifiers, solubilizers, wetting agents, and dispersants throughout the food, cosmetics, and personal care industries.

These surfactants consist primarily of partial fatty acid esters (oleate, stearate or laurate) of sorbitol-derived cyclic ethers (sorbitans and sorbides) polymerized with approximately 20 molecules of ethylene oxide per molecule of polysorbate.

The estimated bio-based carbon content of these products ranges from 31-38%, making them a renewable option for the environment.c Oxiteno offers a variety of options to meet your polysorbate needs, many of which are Kosher/Halal, meet the NF and FCC requirements, and are made from non-GMO/RSPO certified materials.

Polysorbate 20 vs. 60 vs. 80

As the only US Gulf polysorbate manufacturer, Oxiteno offers an array of options that can be sourced from non-GMO and RSPO certified materials, including oleic acid (Polysorbate-80), lauric acid (Polysorbate-20), and stearic acid (Polysorbate-60).

The assortment of options offered by Oxiteno allows formulators to choose from a unique set of properties to achieve stable, well-dispersed products. The physical state of these various polysorbates range from semi-solid (Polysorbate-60) to viscous liquids (Polysorbate-80 and -20), which allows the chemist variability during the formulation process.

Other distinctions between these products include their unique hydrophilic-lipophilic balances (HLB) which range from 14.9-to-16.7 (Polysorbate 60 and 20, respectively).  This HLB value can be a critical tool to begin preliminary assessments for an oil-in-water emulsification.  However, when used in combination with Oxiteno’s line of compatible and low-HLB sorbitan esters (ALKEST® SP series), a vast assortment of formulation possibilities is now achievable, ranging from water-in-oil to oil-in-water emulsifications.

What is Polysorbate 80?

Polysorbate 80 is an oleic acid with an approximate hydrophilic-lipophilic balance of 15.

Polysorbate 80 uses

polysorbate 80 uses

Due to the unique properties and safety of Polysorbate-80, this product (ALKEST® TW 80) is commonly used in the food industry to emulsify salad dressings and chocolates, as well as the pharmacological industry to disperse active ingredients in pharmaceuticals.

In addition, ALKEST® TW 80 is used alongside other personal care chemicals throughout the cosmetics industry to help prepare facial cleansers, skin and hair care products.

Furthermore, ALKEST® TW 80 is listed on the US EPA’s Inert Ingredients List under 40.CFR.180.910 and 40.CFR.180.930.  ALKEST® TW 80 is offered in a variety of options, including Kosher/Halal (K), free of genetically modification (FMG K), vegetable-based (VG), and non-vegetable based (NV).

What is Polysorbate 60?

Polysorbate 60 is a stearic acid with an approximate hydrophilic-lipophilic balance of 14.9.

Polysorbate 60 uses

polysorbate 60 in cosmetics

Because Oxiteno’s ALKEST® TW 60 (Polysorbate-60) is currently listed on the CleanGredients database (cleangredients.org), it has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in Safer Choice products.

ALKEST® TW 60 is commonly used in a variety of industries, including cosmetics and food.  Polysorbate-60 can be used as an emulsifier and thickening agent in personal care formulations and finds itself as a dispersant in oral care.  This product is also commonly used as an indirect food additive by agrochemical companies to solubilize flavors and emulsify fats.

In addition, ALKEST® TW 60 is listed on the US EPA’s Inert Ingredients List under 40.CFR.180.910 and 40.CFR.180.930.  ALKEST® TW 60 is offered in a variety of options, including Kosher/Halal (K) and free of genetically modification (FMG K).

What is Polysorbate 20?

Polysorbate 20 is a lauric acid with an approximate hydrophilic-lipophilic balance of 16.7.

Polysorbate 20 uses

polysorbate 20 uses

Similar to Polysorbate-60, Oxiteno’s ALKEST®TW 20 (Polysorbate-20) is also listed on the CleanGredients database (cleangredients.org). ALKEST® TW 20 is currently used in the cosmetic and personal care industries.  This product can be used as a solubilizing agent in oil-in-water emulsifications as well as a humectant in skin care products. In addition, polysorbate-20 is frequently used as an indirect additive for food emulsification.

ALKEST® TW 20 is listed on the US EPA’s Inert Ingredients List under 40.CFR.180.910 and 40.CFR.180.930.  ALKEST® TW 20 is offered in a variety of options, including Kosher/Halal (K), free of genetically modification (FMG K) and low color (LC).

Is Polysorbate safe?

Since Oxiteno’s ALKEST® TW series is derived mainly from natural materials, they are inherently biodegradable products that exhibit a minimal impact to the environment.  In addition, they are considered safe for human consumption, as thorough studies have shown no carcinogenicity and genotoxicity related to polysorbates.a

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows polysorbates to be directly added to food as adjuvants and emulsifiers for flavoring agents.  The FDA also includes Oxiteno’s line of polysorbates on its list of indirect food additives as surface active agents and these products are also safe for use in over-the-counter ophthalmic drug products. In addition, the safety of polysorbates has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR expert panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that polysorbates 20, 21, 40, 60, 61, 65, 80, 81 and 85 were safe as cosmetic ingredients.b

Contact Oxiteno today for your inquiries and needs for Polysorbates.

 

  • Food Safety Commission of Japan, 2007. Evaluation report of food additives. Polysorbates (polysorbates 20, 60, 65 and 80).
  • CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review), 1984. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Polysorbates 20, 21, 40, 60, 61, 65, 80, 81, and 85. International Journal of Toxicology3, 1–82.
  • Visit https://www.biopreferred.gov/BioPreferred/ for more information on the calculation of Bio-Based content.