What is polysorbate 80?
Out of all the ingredients I use, I get asked about polysorbate 80 the most. I'm hoping to shed some light on why I use it. This might get a little scientific but hopefully still easy enough to understand! As always, I'll be happy to answer any questions!
So, what is it?
Polysorbate 80 is an emulsifier which is what provides stability to an emulsion - a mixture of 2 or more liquids that are normally unmixable. In cosmetics, we primarily want to mix oil and water. They usually separate fairly quickly, but adding an emulsifier will stabilize this mixture and prevent that from happening. Whether it's sweet almond oil, fragrance, or an essential oil, they all need to be properly emulsified or you'll end up with an oil slick on top of the water, on your skin, or in the bottom of your bathtub. This is fine if you don't mind the extra cleanup involved or the fall risk in a slippery tub, but when you work with essential oils it can be dangerous. If your essential oil floats on top of the water, the oil is no longer diluted and you could be going over the safe maximum for topical application. This also applies to fragrance oils, however their skin-safe percentage tends to be higher than essential oils.