People might claim a small amount of chemicals here and there in food or skincare will not harm you. But in today’s society chemicals and chemical by products are found everywhere in food, skin care, hair care, sanitary products and the list goes on.

A so called acceptable amount of chemical ingredients in a single product can mount up very quickly over a cross section of products.  At what point does this become harmful to our well being?

Being natural requires us to actively eliminate as many chemicals as possible from our diet and what we place on our skin.  When you purchase a product claiming to be 100% natural it is only reasonable to expect that you get what you pay for.

Polysorbates can be found in a number of skin care products currently labelled as “Natural”.  We believe if you are going to label your product as a natural product, every ingredient not only needs to be natural, it also needs to be manufactured naturally without the use of any chemicals.

Why do people use Polysorbates in Natural products?

Many “Natural” skincare, haircare, makeup and cleaning products contain polysorbates.  Polysorbates alter surface tension and their inclusion in formulations is usually to help dissolve oils into water.

For example, Polysorbate 85 is added to massage oils to assist with cleaning used towels once the massage is finished. 

What do the different numbers mean after Polysorbate?

Polysorbate is treated with ethylene oxide (when it’s “ethoxylated”), then the substance is combined with fatty acids. The number following it represents the number of parts of ethylene oxide it was treated with.

What is ethylene oxide?

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is produced in large volumes and is primarily used as an intermediate in the production of several industrial chemicals, the most notable of which is ethylene glycol.

Unfortunately, EtO possesses several physical and health hazards that merit special attention. EtO is both flammable and highly reactive. Acute exposures to EtO gas may result in respiratory irritation and lung injury, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and cyanosis. Chronic exposure has been associated with the occurrence of cancer, reproductive effects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization.

Are polysorbates natural?

Polysorbate 20 is derived from sorbitol, a natural ingredient. However, polysorbate 20 is not a natural ingredient. In fact, it is a carcinogen due to the fact that it is treated with 20 parts of ethylene oxide.

Some experts will claim that Polysorbates are considered non-toxic and safe when used in the concentrations found in cosmetics and food products.

It is subjective based on who you talk to, some people claim they are synthetic and others claim they are natural.  Either way the manufacturing process eliminates them from being natural.

Are polysorbates made without chemicals?


The way polysorbates are manufactured means they can introduce impurities of chemicals that are of great concern:

1 – Ethylene Oxide – Ethylene Oxide scores 10 on a scale of 1-to-10 of hazardous chemicals. It is carcinogenic, shown to induce tumours in mammary glands.  It’s also linked with developmental and reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity and allergies.

2 – 1,4-dioxane – 1,4-dioxane is included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects.  Readily penetrating the skin it is a known carcinogen with evidence suggesting a possible link to breast cancer.  

While pregnant women, infants and teenagers are considered to be most vulnerable, it is reasonable to suggest this is a chemical best avoided more widely.

You will not see the name of either of these chemicals on a products ingredient list, by law only the ingredients are required to be on the label, not how the ingredients are extracted.

What are the Health Risks Associated with Polysorbates?

Health concerns related to the presence of polysorbates and impurities related to this ingredient include cancer (due to ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane), skin allergies, developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity. [1, 3, 5, 6, 7].  

One of the biggest concerns regarding polysorbates is the presence of carcinogens including ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane. When polysorbate is “ethoxylated”, it can become contaminated with these dangerous carcinogens.

A well known brand in Australia uses Polysorbate 85 to make their massage oil water dispersible.

Quote: Brand X was first in Australia, and maybe the world, to develop the water dispersible concept that has become the most popular massage oil type. Water dispersible oils are popular because they not only increase the life of towels considerably, but also reduce the possibility of towels catching fire in the dryer.

You can test the dispersibility of Brand X by adding a few drops to a glass of warm water and shake – it will turn white – it emulsifies the oil. Adding normal washing powder to the wash removes the massage oil from the towel.

Brand X works well on 100% cotton towels and sheets provided you do not skimp on the wash detergent – you can use cold water but a warm wash is always best. Sometimes therapists leave their unwashed towels for several days and eventually when they run out of clean towels put them in the wash – you must have sufficient detergent.

Brand X adds compromised materials (Polysorbate 85) to their massage oil to make the oil water dispersible.

Towels or Well being?

Is it right to design a massage oil where it’s main feature is to increases the life of towels by adding compromised ingredients?

Or should the primary objective be to provide an all natural massage using 100% natural ingredients that contain no harmful substances?

Not using harmful chemicals on your skin is more important that the benefits of your towels lasting longer.  A small amount of education will reduce the amount of oil wasted during a massage which will reduce the amount of soiled towels.   

In general you need approximately 50 ml of oil for a whole body massage.  Most people tend to use too much oil, which often means you soil your towels unnecessarily or the oil is not able to fully absorb into your skin. 

Your aim is to use a thin layer of oil which will be absorbed into the skin during the treatment.  If you use the right massage oil and the right amount of oil this will reduce the impact on your towels as the oil will absorb naturally into the skin of your patient leaving their skin feeling soft and sublime.

Using a 100% natural massage oil made with no chemicals benefits the environment, the therapist and the patient.  The  health and well being of the therapist using the oil and the massage patient is the primary concern when using any product on your skin.

We use no compromised ingredients in our products.