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Polysorbate 20 is a polysorbate-type nonionic surfactant formed by the ethoxylation of sorbitan before the addition of lauric acid. Its stability and relative nontoxicity allows it to be used as a detergent and emulsifier in a number of domestic, scientific, and pharmacological applications.

In skincare and cosmetics, polysorbates are a large group of ingredients (polysorbate 20 is the most common) most often derived from lauric acid, which is derived from coconuts. Polysorbates function as emulsifiers and also have mild surfactant properties; some polysorbates are derived from the food ingredient sorbitol, which occurs naturally in many fruits, while others have a fatty acid component. Polysorbates are considered non-toxic and safe as used in the concentrations found in cosmetics and food products (in food products, polysorbates function as stabilizers).

Polysorbates are a series of general purpose hydrophilic, nonionic surfactants. The Polysorbates are used in a variety of products including skin fresheners, skin care products, skin cleansing products, makeup bases and foundations, shampoos, permanent waves and fragrance powders.

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