What Is Polysorbate 80 And Why Should You Avoid It?


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Our daily lives see us exposed to toxins in many forms. We breathe them in thanks to polluted air, we unwittingly apply them to our skin, serve them up disguised in our foods, not to mention inhaling cigarette smoke, even as a by product of someone else’s life choices.

Our modern lifestyle is largely toxic, so much so that ‘detoxing’ is a term that we are used to seeing.

Unfortunately allergies and disease are also things we are used to seeing, and medical studies are beginning to make connections between some of these toxins and damage to our bodies.

But what of polysorbate 80?

What is it?

This is a lesser known synthetic compound, also known as Tween 80.

It is an amber/golden-colored viscous liquid. It is made from polyethoxylated sorbitan (chemical compounds derived from the dehydration of sugar alcohol) and oleic acid, a fatty acid found in animal and vegetable fats.

What does it do?

Polysorbate 80 is used as an emulsifier or defoamer in foods, vitamins, medicines, and vaccines.

Why is it used in food?

It is used as a defoamer for the fermenting process of some wines, and also to bind some ice-creams and other ‘puddings’, to keep their creamy texture without separating. It is also used to bulk foods up and keep sauces smooth.

Why is it used in cosmetics?

It can also act as a surfactant in soaps and cosmetics, as well as a solubilizer – helping to dissolve ingredients so that they can more easily blend together. It is used as a solubilizer. It makes products look creamier and more attractive.

Polysorbate 80
Polysorbate 80

Why is it used in medicine?

It is used as an ingredient in some vaccines, as well as in some vitamins and supplements. Polysorbate 80 is used to improve the consistency of gel capsules and to make pills disperse in the stomach.

What products is it used in?

Polysorbate 80 is a versatile and useful ingredient, so it is present in quite a few products. Here is a short, generalized list of where it is most often found:

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  1. I have been having allergic reactions to random things. I am wondering if is part of it. I am going to be paying much closer attention. Thank you.

    1. If you have no idea what you are even having reactions to, how could you even begin to just “guess” this might be one of them?

  2. My kids just had extensive allergy testing through a specialized lab at my Integrative Pediatricians orders. They are off the chart allergic to Poloysorbate 80! Poloysorbate 80 is all new to me. Argh!!! How do we keep our kids safe when so many products are embedded with toxins?.

    1. You just stated yourself your kids tested positive for ALLERGIES. Not everyone is allergic to the same things. Just because it may be a “toxin” to your kids doesn’t mean it’s not completely harmless to the majority of the population.

  3. I would like to know what it is made from. I am allergic to corn, corn pollen and all corn derivatives. I have a 5 page list of derivatives and polysorbate 80 is on that list. Can polysorbate 80 be made from other things? For example, sorbitol is made from corn, but it can also be made from birch. So, does anybody know if polysorbate 80 can be made from another source?

    1. That isn’t at all how chemistry works. Sorbitol is just hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. It could be made from simple hydro-carbons, alcohols, etc… just because it can be made from corn (hydrocarbons, sugars, etc that are IN corn oils) doesn’t mean you would be allergic to the corn version, but not the birch version… sorbitol is sorbitol regardless of what its is “made from”.

        1. I have seen that polysorbate 80 is nothing more than sorbitol and polyoxyethylene also known as polyethylene glycol; back in 2008 when the FDA tested 8 lots of miralax(polyethylene glycol 3350) they found diethylene and ethylene glycol in all 8 lots they tested. Both of these chemicals can be toxic. I’m assuming if you have any sort of allergy you’re probably dealing with a leaky gut. These chemicals break down the tight junctions of the gut and allow these proteins to cross the blood brain barrier.

          1. So so so many people are dealing with leaky gut. If you have a fat belly, chances are you have a gut imbalance, may be leaky gut! I won’t say what causes it, because I do not know 100%. I do know that a diet rich in vegetables and healthy protein sources helps, but only if you cut out processed foods and starches. Starches feed the bad buggers in your belly. You cannot heal unless you get rid of the buggers, and get rid of the starches that feed the buggers. That being said, once in optimal health slowly reintroducing organic rice, organic quinoa, etc; could be very good for you. If you have any type of psoriasis, eczema, or other skin condition I am talking to you. Your skin is a direct sign of what is going on inside your gut. If you have red cheeks throughout the day/night , your body is inflammatory. If you have chicken skin on your arms or such, I am talking to you. If you have acne, I am talking to you. If you have lots of burping or gas from the nether regions, that is a sign you are stressing your digestive system. I won’t have any gas at all, but put a few slices of pizza in me and I am singing butt opera. If you have acid reflux, I am talking to you! I had it for years all my adult life until I got rid of starches. Now again, put a couple pieces of pizza in me and I wake up feeling like I “need food” in me to get rid of the icky tummy bile feeling. I choose to stay away from corn and things derived from corn, but that really isn’t the whole story. This information came from years of medical problems, tests, emergency surgery, hypertension, obesity, PCOS, psoriasis, etc. etc. Accidentally started getting cured by following a low carb diet without the processed low carb propaganda diet bars and treats and crap. Too many ingredients! Pinterest yourselves some whole food recipes!


    I WAS TAKING 1 CAPSULE 100 MGS.,QUNOL, MEGA COQ10, DAILY. I bought these vits. from COSTCOS WAREHOUSE. I did not know it
    contained POLYSORBAT 80.

    I noticed after taking this vitamin it stopped me from sleeping
    and my entire insides seem to be beating faster even my heart.

    I was taking this product for about two months before I KNEW





    1. You should read the info on the label when you buy something …

      “CoQ10 is a vitamin-like nutrient that plays a vital role in the energy production in every cell in our body. Our body naturally produces CoQ10 and converts ubiquinone to ubiquinol. However, our body’s ability to produce CoQ10 and convert it into ubiquinol significantly decreases as we age. Ubiquinone CoQ10 is the active form of CoQ10 – approximately 95% of the CoQ10 circulating in our body is in the form of ubiquinol. As we age, our body’s ability to produce ubiquinone and convert it into its active form of ubiquinol diminishes significantly. Advanced ubiquinol is both water and fat soluble, unlike regular unsolubilized ubiquinone that dissolves in fats only and to a very limited degree.”

      You are taking something that is going to give you energy… of course you will experience symptoms similar to that of something like say caffeine (increased heart rate, wakefulness, etc)

  5. Strub’s pickles, here in Canada, seem to sell different dill pickles with different brines. You have to read every label. I have dill pickles with no preservatives (Strub’s brand) However, Costcos sells Strub’s with Polysorbate 80 in their brine. What going on here??
    I suggest we stop buying all cans, bottles, package goods from all the big Corporate groups to start with. Then go after the dairy industry which is a disgrace to all humans and the poor cows. FULL disclosure with no tricks added, Thanks

  6. You do not mention it in eye drops that are listed as preservative free and are accepted to heal surface eye problems.

    1. People don’t know how “dosage” works. The author of this paper would conclude that water was toxic if he/she read the MSDS…

  7. I’m looking for a multivitamin for my infant’s homemade formula and it’s in all of the liquid vitamins for babies…how sad and terrible :/

    1. That’s because it was determined to be completely harmless in the concentrations that it is used. This article contains literally no science what so ever to back any conclusion otherwise.

  8. It’s hilarious reading these comments. All of you went about your lives totally fine, using Polysorbate 80 in lotions/makeup, and eating it without any issue. Now you read that “it is toxic and should be avoided” suddenly you have a reaction to it. Talk about hypochondria. It’s like people who don’t have gluten disorders avoiding gluten because they’re “sensitive” to it. Unless you actually have celiac disease, gluten cannot possibly affect you in any way. There’s no such thing as gluten sensitivity, there’s only celiac disease. Polysorbate is present in animal and vegetable fats and oils. It’s not toxic or harmful.

    1. Wow – I have heard a lot of misinformed people make comments on gluten but yours – Absolutely Hilarious – is not funny at all!
      You obviously know nothing about food allergies, the levels and severities involved or what is currently being done to make food a shelf stable product instead of food. Do some research, talk to people in your community with food allergies and those that are classified as sensitive. ( Here is a hint – the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity is the level to which your body reacts to a substance) For example when doing a scratch test someone could react to a level 2 out of 5 – which means there body does not want that substance in it, but it won’t necessarily kill you instantly. Or someone could react 5 out of 5 – which means they are deathly allergic.
      I am extremely curious where you obtained the information to back your claim that ” Unless you actually have celiac disease, gluten cannot possibly affect you in any way.” Where did you get your medical degree from? Or are you not a Doctor or Scientist and probably not qualified in any sense to make such a claim of FACT?

  9. Thank you @Not Insane. This article is one of the least informative pieces on “danger” I’ve ever seen. It’s an emulsifier, people. Without it, your products would separate into two or more phases and your products wouldn’t mix together well. As for the idiot who posted (in all caps?) about taking the supplement Co-Q10…. Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally occurring substance in your body. It serves to help your cells generate “fuel” known as ATP. In other words, if you take additional amounts of this substance ON TOP OF the amount that your body naturally produces, it will make your body work harder to generate more ATP (which will probably manifest as not being able to sleep as well and having “restless energy.”) Maybe next time read the label of the product? Better still, maybe next time do a little independent research on what you are about to put into your body instead of impulse buying any old product that says “heart health” at Costco.

    1. None of the people replying to this post have the slightest idea of how chemistry works. It’s just all about the “toxins” to them… whatever that means.

  10. Okay Pat, Get a life. Obviously you have nothing better to do than commenting in a vicious manner about other people’s comments. If you are chemist then that’s great.
    Wouldn’t your time be better served helping people instead of attacting them with your words. Really, some of the comments you replied to are years old. Just make one comment on your thoughts on the article without singling people out. You were probably the neighborhood bully or someone who was bullied……I don’t know a lot of chemistry but I do know a lot about psychology.

    1. Russ – I completely agree, Probably a paid cyber bully. I took the time to reply to most of “Pat’s” comments because it angered me how they seemed to be able to throw “facts” around with out any documentation of those “facts” and yet only attacked the people here for not knowing the “facts”. Bottom line is this compound and many others do not belong in food. Food does not need to be shelve stabalized, colored or have fillers added to it, just to add to a company’s bottom line.

  11. Just found out this is in Apri, a birth control pill
    It’s also in the flu vax and others as mentioned.
    I had an allergy test because I have developed allergies and eczema and Polysorbate 80 was my highest allergen, so I started looking for what they are in.

  12. I have Celiac disease and have been taking a medication that contains polysorbate 80. The company directly states the polysorbate 80 they use is derived from wheat. Do you think this would add any negligible amount of gluten protein to my Med?

  13. Polysorbate 80 is FDA approved and widely used in ice cream to make it smoother. It is also approved in many tear free baby wash and shampoo products, hypoallergenic and one of the mildest skin products available. Tear free means minimal eye irritation unlike most other shampoos containing skin destructive SDS. As an 81 year geezer and retired chemist, I have used it for many years from head to toes. It is also claimed to restore hair growth or at least minimize hair losses from excessive shampooing and it works for me still having plenty of hair albeit graying.

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