What is it? Polysorbate 20 is a solubilizer; we use it to disperse oils into otherwise watery concoctions. Compared to Polysorbate 80 it is better suited to solubilizing essential oils and fragrance oils. It is sometimes referred to as “Tween 20”.
INCI Polysorbate 20
Appearance Pale yellow liquid
Usage rate 1–20%
Texture Smooth semi-viscous liquid
Scent Nothing strong; a bit “chemically”
pH 5–7 (1% aqueous solution)
Charge Non-ionic
Solubility Water & oil
Why do we use it in recipes? In watery concoctions like room sprays, body sprays, and hand washes polysorbate 20 is used to disperse essential and fragrance oils evenly so they don’t separate out.
Do you need it? It isn’t essential, but it is the most cost effective solubilizer option.
Strengths Inexpensive and effective.
Weaknesses It can have a tacky/sticky skin feel that comes through in finished products.
Alternatives & Substitutions Check out this page to learn more about making solubilizer substitutions.

You cannot Polysorbate 20 instead of a complete emulsifying wax, and you cannot use a complete emulsifying wax in place of Polysorbate 20.

You cannot use a liquid surfactant in place of Polysorbate 20, and Polysorbate 20 is not a good alternative for a liquid surfactant.

How to Work with It Mix the Polysorbate 20 with any essential oil fragrance oils before gently whisking it into the water phase. You will generally need at least 2–3x as much Polysorbate 20 as essential oils.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Polysorbate 20 should last at least 2 years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks It can cause some foaming in your products but it isn’t a surfactant and cannot be used in place of surfactants in recipes.
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Recipes that Use Polysorbate 20

Thank you to Zack for helping with this entry!

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