Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Question: How to use polysorbates in our products?

Shana writes to me: I was reading one of your old blogs about water soluble oils and you stated this: "There are two ways to make water soluble oils - you can mix an oil with an emulsifier (usually polysorbate 80) to make an oil water soluble" You did not explain how to do this exactly. Could you elaborate more on how you would do this, please?

We can use polysorbate 20 or polysorbate 80 to help solubilize oil soluble ingredients in water based products. Each has their own reason for being - polysorbate 20 is good for essential or fragrance oils and polysorbate 80 is good for carrier oils.

Here's how I use them. I mix equal parts of the polysorbate with the oil in question and mix it well. Then I add it to my product. So let's say I'm making a d-Limonene based cleanser for my hands and I want to incorporate the oil soluble d-Limonene into my product. I mix equal parts d-Limonene and polysorbate 20 in a plastic shot glass or small container - mix it very well - then pour that into my product and mix well. That's pretty much it. The hard part is figuring out how much you need to keep the oils solubilized in the product.

As a general rule, you'll want to use 1 part polysorbate 20 with 1 part of the fragrance oil, but this can lead to cloudy mixtures. If you want it to be clear, you'll have to play with the amount of the polysorbate 20 you use. Since I'm really not that picky about a product being clear, I just use the 1:1 ratio.

The same process is used for polysorbate 80. Again, you might get a cloudy product with a 1:1 ratio, so you'll have to play with the amounts if you want something clear. I'm that worried about it as long as it remains solubilized.

As a note, you can use polysorbate 80 in place of polysorbate 20 but the opposite doesn't work!

Click here for more ideas on using polysorbates in your products.

41 comments:

Gina Roberts said...

I am reading your information on the polysorbates. I have an oil based dye and I would like to turn it into a liquid dye. I tried using poly 20 but grittiness still remained and when i mixed it into CP soap the colour became a frosted/pastel. Would glycerine be better?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Gina. Is your oil based dye in a powder form? Can you give me more information on it and I might be able to help further!

Shell D said...

Hi, I add some oils & shea butter to my bath bombs - I'm looking for a way to have them mix into the water instead of them floating on top. Is using a polysorbate the way to go or do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks so much!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Any of the solubilizers will work - look at the label "solubilizers for more information - or try using a bit of emulsifying wax.

Deborah Malloy said...

How much would I use to keep the oils from separating in a salt or sugar scrub?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Deborah. To be honest, I've never developed a recipe using polysorbates in a body scrub because I think they feel sticky on my skin when I rinse it off. Have you looked up any recipes for emulsified scrubs on this blog? I encourage you to do so immediately. Once you go emulsified scrub, you'll never want to use another kind!

Marsha said...

Hi Susan. I'm trying out Poly 80 in my liquid soap that I dropped ph on. It now how free fats but there's no way to tell how much free fats. So far in the sample of soap I'm trying this on, I'm at 12%, or 8oz soap to 1oz polysorbate and it's still not clearing up, like still milky. Though when I let it settle, I get a sort of clear layer and my milky layer, which I assume is my fats. My supplier said poly 80 was the best to use to get the clearest emulsion possible. And as you said, it's best for carrier oils. When is it considered too much when using a solubilizer?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marsha. I don't make soap, so I can't speak to that specific issue, but polysorbate 80 is a solubilizer, not an emulsifier, so you may never get the result you want. As well, polysorbate 80 can make milky mixtures, so it isn't a guarantee it'll be clear. Why not try to get the pH back up? It sounds like the product has separated.

Marsha said...

I know it's a solubilizer. It'd what I want it for. And I'm experimenting with pH in my soap and desire to have it lower in this. Basically my aim it to see if the soap can be superfatted, via ph drop, or by using extra oils, which will also inherently lower ph, while maintaining a clear soap and not have the oils separate out. Everything I've read says polysorbates all provide clear solutions. But your work seems to say otherwise. I don't get it...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Polysorbates aren't considered great for clear mixtures. It depends on the oils and the fragrance or essential oils used. This is why people turn to PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil and other solubilizers - because the clarity isn't great.

I saw NDA's write up and was, to be honest, shocked at what they wrote. That it would be a 1:1 ratio with fragrance and would be clear as glass? So false!

I'd love to see some links that aren't from suppliers as I haven't found anything in my research showing solutions with polysorbate 80 always produces clear products. Could you send along what you have as it sounds like there's more to be learned? Thanks!

Marsha said...

Hi, Susan! i had to do a bit of digging, as most resources are from suppliers in regards to clarity of polysorbate's clarity. A lot of the following links are in regards to medicine, but I guess, for the most part, a clear solution is a clear sollution, right? I did manage to find 1 source from a soap maker as well, albeit her information on it wasn't detailed. And in my case, i had to use around 22% poly 80 in my 8 ounce sample, then just let it sit out before it became crystal clear! I'm actually excited about this and I'm wondering if my impatience caused me to use too much. So I'll be on this again tomorrow. But for the most part, i'm amking progress.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2435105/

http://www.google.com/patents/EP0839029A1?cl=en

I hope this last one is viewable..

http://books.google.com/books?id=rrtGKQxcoWIC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=does+polysorbate+create+clear+solutions&source=bl&ots=-rv7z7SCOp&sig=42O_fR9EUAL7SHLEMZj-ugUCuSw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=hSOqU-23HcKkyASpvYGgCA&ved=0CG4Q6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q=does%20polysorbate%20create%20clear%20solutions&f=false

http://www.addictedtosoap.com/understanding-liquid-soapmaking/

Marsha said...

Ah, here's one more..

It says that when heated, polysorbates cause solutions to cloud, which is quite interesting because I heated my soap to help disperse well. Whihc definitely explains my impatience in not seeing immediate results, since it was cloudly until it cooled.

http://books.google.com/books?id=_6ywZPX7DHwC&pg=PA237&lpg=PA237&dq=does+polysorbate+create+clear+solutions&source=bl&ots=ymJSwQhdIe&sig=VPauN_bzRN36nvaLxXhwJXTXSAc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kSWqU-imEdOMyASXjYHIDQ&ved=0CBwQ6AEwADgU#v=onepage&q=does%20polysorbate%20create%20clear%20solutions&f=false

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

HI Marsha. Thanks for the links. What I should clarify - pun intended! - is that polysorbates can produce clear solutions, but they don't always produce clear solutions. Unfortunately, none of the links you've sent show that polysorbates create clear solutions every time. (See my notes below for each link...)

Reviewing your links...
This book that you linked to discusses quite a few different solubilizers, but it says nothing about the clarity of solutions with polysorbates. (The other Google Books result you post is for the same book.)

This link notes that Tween 80 made a clear solution. This is only one situation in which it made a clear solution. Again, it is possible to make a clear solution with polysorbates, but is isn't a guarantee you'll make a clear solution every time.

This patent is about creating a clear solution and polysorbate is involved, but they're using other solubilizing ingredients, like PEG ingredients that can create a clear solution.

Addicted to Soap is only sharing her personal experiences with polysorbates. In her case, it worked to make the solution clear. This doesn't mean that it will make clear solutions every single time for every single batch.

Thanks for sending along these links.

Marsha said...

Aah well I tried. Thanks though. Your work is a marvelous help. I may try the hydrogenated Castor oil next, since you seem to have much better luck with it than others. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hi – Hope you can help me…. What I am trying to do is mix 500ml of Oil with 500ml of water, how much POLYSORBATE 80 should I use?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. Please leave your name next time as I don't like anonymous posts.

Why are you doing this? Are you trying to make some kind of lotion? I'm curious now.

Lisa Brown said...

Hi Susan My name is Lisa. I am looking to make my own hair oil using almond oil peppermint essential oil and water. I'm using 1 Litre oil and water but as the previous person I'm not sure how much Polysorbate 80 I'm to use. Help.....

Rachel said...

It seems to be quite random as to whether polysorbates give clear solutions. I have been working on a lavender room/linen spray for over a week now and am now up to a ratio of 8:1 polysorbate 20 and lavender essential oil. IT IS STILL MEGA cloudy. Now, for me I don't care if it's cloudy or not but I have clients that want clear solutions so this is the only reason I'm persevering (and out of interest I want to see how much it will eventually take to make a clear spray!) I have never had this much of a problem with other essential oils but they all seem to want varying percentages of polysorbate 20 in order to make the solution clear. I'm starting to think lavender is not my friend. :(

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rachel. Check out this post in which I take a look at the various experiments I've done with various solubilizers. Lavender can be a serious pain in the bum! I found that PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil made much clearer solutions than polysorbates.

Chris Carney said...

Hi Susan- I am making a hair treatment to treat hair loss. I'm using Ayurvedic herbal decoction and oils. Typically, I add the decoction to the oil and simmer out the water. CanI use polysorbate 80 to combine? If so, would I use equal parts of all? Thanks! Chris

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Chris. So are you trying to mix oil and water? What is your recipe in percentages? I'm afraid it's hard to be able to help if I don't know the recipe.

Billy Golbourn said...

Hi Susan, i am creating a mens aftershave splash and am having a problem with the solution being cloudy.
The ingredients i am using are...
Water, alcahol, propylene glycol, fragrance, vitamin e oil, polysorbate 20 (not in any particular order).
After reading through the comments, i am thinking of using polysorbate 80 also for the vit e oil.
Currently its cloudy, not milky, but not clear.
The wuestions i am trying to find answers to are, if i use high ratios of polysorbate 20/80 how will that react with freshly shaven skin, and what will it feel like on the skin? Currently its a little sticky but i havent played with the other ingredients too much yet so it could well be that.
I very new to doing this so any advice will be greatfully received :)
Many thanks,
Billy

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Billy. I think you have to try these formulations and see what you think of each one. I've done a bunch of experiments with different solubilizers and the reality is that you need to test every single fragrance oil with your solubilizers because they all behave differently. This is definitely the kind of thing you need to get into your workshop and make.

Just wondering - where's your preservative? Which one are you using?

Heather said...

Hi Susan!

I´m trying to mix Phenova (an oil based preservative) in water with glycerin and a propylene glycol extract (witch hazel). Would Polysorbate 20 or 80 work? in what percentage? I´m not too concerned about the clarity, as long as I can get the preservative to work safely.
Thanks!

Heather

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Heather! Take a look at the Phenonip post in the preservatives section for more advice on this preservative. You can't mix this with a polysorbate as it will be inactivated. Are you sure you can't just mix this into water? Just wondering why you aren't using a more water soluble preservative if you're using it in water?

Anonymous said...

Love, love, love your blog! I am a pharmacist and recent essential oil addict! On the topic of cloudy solutions, does it matter (functionally) if it is cloudy? I am making an essential oil insect repellent for my kids, and putting it in an aluminum bottle with mister. No one will notice if it is cloudy, but I obviously need to ensure that it is properly emulsified so that the oils come out of each spray, rather than just floating on top.

Many thanks,
Anne

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anne! Thank you for your kind words! No, it doesn't matter. Just shake it up every time you use it. Just curious - what are you using as a solubilizer? I've done a few experiments on the blog about using different solubilizers, and it could be you're not using the right one at the right amount if you're seeing cloudiness.

Anne said...

Hi Susan,

I haven't done organic chemistry or pharmaceutics in about 20 years… so I'm still in research mode. I can't bring myself to mix anything up until I've perused a number of books and blogs. In my mind there needs to be an equation or rationale for everything... I'm looking at using polysorbate 20 in an equivalent volume to the volume of essential oils. I'm surprised how many sources suggest to put oils into water or witch hazel, and then shake and spray. I just can't seem to make sense of it.

Unknown said...

Anne: I wonder about that too. I could not find any recipe that said to use something to dissolve the essential oils into water, until I came across this blog.

Susan, thanks for putting so much information together for us. This is truly the best blog for making skincare that I have found.

I just bought a small bottle of polysorbate 20 to make toners. I used equal parts essential oil with ps20 - 2% essential oil and 2% ps20. The water seems solubilized well enough but its almost milky in appearance. I also use this preservative called Linatural that is composed of propanediol, ethylhexyl glycerin, and potassium sorbate. I was wondering if the polysorbate 20 will make this preservative ineffective?

Thanks,

Aparna

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anne. I'm sorry I missed your comment. We definitely need an emulsifier or solubilizer, so people making the suggestion just to put it into water and shake are missing the point. (I think the witch hazel might be the type full of alcohol, so I wonder if that's why the essential oils mix in?)

Hi Aparna! The water will be milky as you've made an emulsion and those are white! You'd have to ask your supplier if they know of any incompatibilities with that preservative.

I found this data sheet on it, but it doesn't have much information.

shafika aina said...

Hi susan. I have read all the comments above. I want to do a first reasearch on pomade hair. The ingredients list are: water:65.6%, ceteareth-25:15%, glycerin:3%, peg-7 glyceryl cocoate:3.5%, peg 40hydrogenated castor oil:2%, pvp k90-7%, propylene glycol:2%, simethicone:0.5%, dmdm hydantoin:0.4%, essential oil-0.6%, peg 8 beeswax:0.2%, polysorbate 20:0.2%. Im very curious about this percentage. How i want to know the actual quantity of each ingredients? Is this the complete ingredients or i should reduce one of each the listed ingredients? Help me susan.. thankss :)

shafika aina said...

Opss forget to ask. Once the chemicals in percentage, how i want to convert it into volume and weight formula?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Shafika! Check out the FAQ on the blog to see how to read a recipe and convert percentages into weight. We don't work with volume for bath & body product recipes as it's just too inaccurate.

I have no idea whether or not this is a complete list of ingredients for a product. Does it look like a complete list to you? Do the numbers add up to 100%? If so, it's a complete recipe.

Good luck formulating that recipe. Looks interesting!

shafika aina said...

Okeyyy. thanks susan for your feedback.. i like your respond. :)

Sly said...

Hi Susan, I making moisturing shampoo using shea butter, fractionated coconut oil and stearic acid. I am using polysorbate 80 to emulsify. I am using 6% polysorbate 80 to match my oils and butter (6%) but I have not factored in my stearic acid. After a few days the product has separated. Does stearic acid need to emulsify? I love what the shampoo does to my hair and would love to keep my oils and butter. Would appreciate your advice.
Sylvia

Unknown said...

hey, my name is Crystal and I just love your blog. I come here any time I have a question for something I am making, and ALWAYS find an answer! But this time I have read everything even the comments and I still have a question. I am making liquid soap, I want to use poly 80 to emulsify, but I don't know how much to use? At what percent to soap do I put the poly 80? 2%, 5%? This would really help me out if I could get an answer. I really don't care about clarity, I just want to mix it and I have figured out poly 80 would be the best to use. Any info you could offer would really help. Thanks in advance :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sly. Why are you using stearic acid, shea butter, FCO, and polysorbate in a shampoo? These ingredients are far more appropriate for a conditioner. This seems like overkill, and I'm a little surprised you're getting any foam or lather in it. Why stearic acid? What does it bring to your hair? Why shea butter and FCO? Why all these emollients in a shampoo? I'm very curious. And no, don't put an emulsifier into a shampoo. They don't belong in that kind of product.

Hi Crystal! I don't make liquid soap, so I'm not sure what to tell you. What are you solubilizing in your soap? And why isn't your soap solubilizing those things for you? Soap's a surfactant, and it can handle some oil soluble ingredients easily, so I'm really curious why you need something like polysorbate 80 in it.

Sly said...

Hi Susan, thanks for yours response. I use stearic acid because I can't find SCI with stearic acid. I have very kinky afro hair and I do find that including FCO and a bit of Shea butter makes my hair washing experience a bit less stressful as tangles are significantly reduced. Conditioning generally is therefore a breeze. I include 30-35% surfactants. Foaming hasn't been an issue so far - I get a decent amount.

Many thanks
Sly

Rob said...

Hi Susan - Really good blog - Thank you! I'm apparently trying the same thing as Anne back in April for an insect repellent. I do not care really about cloudiness and just want my essential oils to stay dissolved as long as possible and not require shaking. You say to use 1 part polysorbate 20 with 1 part of the essential oil and then mix into water (deionized I presume) for whatever concentration. I am trying for 12-14% oil. This all seems to separate quickly. Can you give me guidance on how and how long to "mix thoroughly" on the polysorbate 20 and the oils? And you mentioned an emulsifying wax in another post. What do you suggest for longest possible emulsion/suspension? Other chemicals, better process?

FunnyTubeHD said...

Hello, im interested in making my own air freshners in mist spray bottles....could you tell me what i would use with my fragrance oils ? I would like to make 4 or 8 ounce bottles....hoping you have a recipe of some sort.....Thank you.....

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rob. If you're using that amount of oil, you're making a lotion and need to use a proper emulsifier, like Polawax or Incroquat BTMS-50. Polysorbate 20 can only handle that kind of oil phase in conjunction with a low HLB emulsifier. You can either check out how to make your own emulsifier using the HLB system, or pay a visit to the Newbie Tuesday posts on how to make lotions to get more information.

Hi FunnyTube HD! Have you tried doing a search on making fragrance sprays on the blog? I have many recipes for them using all kinds of lovely ingredients, including polysorbate 20. Or, as I mention in the post, use polysorbate 20 at 1:1 with your fragrance oil.