Found in most cosmetic and household products, Polysorbate 20 is an ingredient that is commonly added for its emulsifying properties.
Emulsifiers are components that hold products together by preventing oil and water from separating. Polysorbate 20 is added to products like moisturizers, facial cleansers, body washes, toners and air fresheners, as well as many body and linen sprays.
Polysorbate 20 is derived from sorbitol, a natural ingredient, but it is then treated with 20 parts of ethylene oxide, which actually makes it a carcinogen! There are other, higher grades of polysorbate , such as polysorbate 40 and 80. The higher the number, the more parts of ethylene oxide it has been treated with.
Polysorbate is an ingredient in lots of processed foods soit is very important to become a label reader to successfully avoid this additive. Other names you may find this ingredient under are: Polyoxyethylene (80), sorbitan monooleate, (x)-sorbitan, mono-9-octadecenoate, Tween 80 POE (80), sorbitan, monooleate, and E433. This versatile substance can cause a host of terrible side effects ranging from mild to severe.
Side effects include, but are not limited to: allergic reaction, skin irritation, sneezing, coughing, swelling, wheezing, shortness of breath, skin rashes, itching, astro intestinal problems, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea heart/circulatory problems, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke and fertility problems.
The truth is you can still create rich, creamy products using other emulsifying components, in fact several effective emulsifiers are made from absolutely natural ingredients.
Coconut oil for example is a safe, all-natural alternative to polysorbate 20. It keeps oil and water from separating, and also has a pleasant scent.
Another oil that can be used as an emulsifier is Turkey-red oil which is available for purchase at pharmacies and health food stores. It is commonly used in bath oils, but rarely used in other cosmetic products because it gives the product a slight red tinge.
Beeswax, made by honeybees and the foundation for honeycombs, has been used in skin care products for centuries. Beeswax can be used as an emulsifiers and will help to thicken cosmetic products, in addition to working as an antiseptic, healing and softening agent. Beeswax works best when used in thinner, lighter oil in water emulsions, though it can make a base for creams when used alongside other emulsifiers. Beeswax is perfect for formulas designed to absorb quickly. Borax is a natural alkaline mineral, it is also known as sodium borate. When borax is combined with beeswax friction is created, with emulsification being the end result.
Beeswax is good for those who wish to use a wax emulsifier, but if you want a plant-based or allergy-free alternative, candelilla wax is a solid choice. It comes from the candelilla plant from Mexico, which forms the wax on the outside of its leaves to protect it from water loss and only grows in the wild. While most waxes are best suited for lighter formulations, candelilla wax works well in thicker, heavier, water-in-oil formulations. Lotions made with candelilla wax sit on the skin longer without breaking down, which lends them to formulas for drier or sensitive skin that need more protection.
Lecithin is a fatty phospholipid mixture and is a perennial favorite for those making natural skin care due to its versatility and ease of use. Lecithin is found in a wide variety of plants and animals, including soybeans, rapeseed, corn and egg whites. Lecithin typically combines best with the oil in an emulsion, but is highly effective in both water- and oil-based emulsions. Lecithin has natural humectant properties, drawing moisture from the air and depositing it on the skin, as well as the ability to help ingredients penetrate better. This makes it an ideal emulsifier for anti-aging products for drier, more mature skin.
Acacia Gum is a natural emulsifier and thickener, derived from the African acacia tree sap, it can be found in many forms, including thick gel, liquid and powder forms. It has its own soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. Acacia is added to the water in oil-in-water emulsions, making it ideal for the lightest lotion formulations and can be added to tonics and fresheners to provide body. Thicker lotion formulations require an additional emulsifier along with acacia.