Polysorbate 80


Cleansing Agent

No known benefits

Polysorbate 80 at a glance

  • Surfactant composed of fatty acids (primarily oleic acid)
  • Often included in skin care formulations as an emulsifying or solubilizing agent
  • Can contribute to a more aesthetically pleasing texture
  • Enhances the penetration of other key ingredients
  • Deemed safe as used in cosmetics

Polysorbate 80 description

Polysorbate 80 is a surfactant (cleansing agent) composed of fatty acids—primarily oleic acid, but others such as palmitic or linoleic acid may also be present. It is often included in skin care formulations as an emulsifying or solubilizing agent and can help create a more aesthetically pleasing texture. Research shows it also enhances the penetration of other key ingredients such as antioxidants. In its raw material form, polysorbate 80 has a viscous oily liquid appearance and can vary in colour from yellow to amber. In the 2015 Cosmetic Ingredient Review safety assessment, polysorbate 80 was reported to be found in up to 18.1% concentration in rinse-off cosmetic products and 11.9% concentration in leave-on formulations. It was deemed safe in the current practices of use and concentrations. That same report noted that polysorbate 80 was found to be non-irritating to skin at a 100% concentration in a clinical test setting. The U.S. FDA also classifies polysorbate 80 as a safe food additive.

Polysorbate 80 references

  • U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Code of Federal Regulations, April 2020, ePublication
  • https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=172.840
  • Cosmetic Ingredient Review, July 2015, pages 1-48
  • https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/PSorba_062015_FR_0.pdf
  • Journal of Chromatographic Science, August 2012, pages 598–607
  • https://academic.oup.com/chromsci/article/50/7/598/298661?login=true
  • Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, July 2011, pages 281-288
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260210904_Penetration_Enhancing_Effect_of_Polysorbate_20_and_80_on_the_In_Vitro_Percutaneous_Absorption_of_LAscorbic_Acid

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated