Polysorbate 80 in bath bombs – a complete guide

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Polysorbate 80 and bath bombs

I would like to start by saying that I am completely in love with Polysorbate 80 (Poly 80).  I have been making homemade bath bombs for quite a while now. My handmade fizzies were nice. I mean they looked nice, they had lovely color and they smelled good. But compared to LUSH bath bombs my bath fizzies were quite boring, especially when placed in water. All has changed when I discovered Polysorbate 80. And I’ll tell you guys that POLYSORBATE 80 IN BATH BOMBS IS A GAME CHANGER.

Poly80 has been on a market for a while and most experienced bath bomb makers are using it. If you want to learn how this ingredient can improve your bath bombs continue reading. I promise you will love it.

Things I will discuss in this article:

- What is Polysorbate 80?

- Polysorbate 80 in bath bombs. Why use it?

- How much polysorbate 80 to use in bath bombs

- Polysorbate 80 vs Polysorbate 20

- Polysorbate 80 substitutes

- Where to buy polysorbate 80

- Bath bomb recipe with polysorbate

What is Polysorbate 80?

Polysorbate 80 is a synthetic compound derived from polyethoxylated sorbitan and oleic acid. It is a surfactant, emulsifier, and solubilizer often used in foods and cosmetics (skin care products, skin cleansing products, makeup bases and foundations, shampoos and bath bombs). Its main function is to help other ingredients dissolve in a solvent in which they normally would not be able to dissolve, for example, oil in water.

Appearance: viscous, amber liquid.

Solubility: Poly 80 is soluble in water and alcohol and insoluble in oils.

Safety: Polysorbate 80 is CIR and FDA approved (cosmeticsinfo.org)

Tip: Cosmetic grade Polysorbate 80 may have more impurities than the food grade one.

Polysorbate 80 in bath bombs. Why use it?

Poly80 is a very common ingredient in bath bombs. And it's no surprise because it's not expensive, easy to use and improves the quality of the bath bomb in so many ways.

- One of the main functions why bath bomb makers use polysorbate 80 in bath bombs is its ability to disperse color well. By color, I mean both liquid dyes and mica powder. Usually, you can get really pretty vibrant bath bombs using mica color but this color will not disperse well in the water. By not disperse well I mean it will not color the water well, it might clump together and it might stick to the bathtub and your skin. Not pretty and really messy. Same goes for liquid colorants. It's all nice and pretty until you drain that bathtub and see color residue all over it. No one wants to spend time scrubbing the bathtub after what was supposed to be a relaxing bath bomb experience. Poly80 can solve this problem. It will disperse your mica powder (or other colorants) into the water creating a more vibrant color and it will prevent color from sticking to your bathtub and skin.

- Helps glitter to disperse in the water better and prevents it from sticking to a bathtub and your skin.

- Helps oils to dissolve into water. Yass yass yass!! No more unaesthetic oil floating on top of your water. Did you ever try making a nourishing bath bomb with naturals oils just to find later that all this oil does not dissolve into water and just floats on top instead? Add some Polysorbate 80 and the problem is gone. This will not only solve the aesthetical problem but will improve the feel of the water (since oils will actually mix with the water) and how the skin feels after.

oil in water without Polysorbate 820 vs oil in water with polysorbate 80

- Helps essential oils to mix with water and other oils better. Same as with carrier oils it helps essential oils to mix with water and this way the smell gets distributed better as well.

- Bath bombs with Polysorbate 80 create foam. And I mean beautiful colorful foam. Depending on how much Poly 80 you put it may interfere with fizzing a little bit. Which means you will get more foam and less fizzing. I personally prefer that. If you don’t want your bath bomb to foam its ok too – I will mention some Polysorbate 80 substitutes you can use later in this post.

- Great wetting agent for bath bombs. Since it is a liquid it works well as a wetting agent. Adding more of Poly80 and less of water or witch hazel will decrease a risk of your bath bomb mix activating too early.

Want to see bath bombs with Poly 80 in action?

This video will show you a comparison of how bath bombs behave in water with added Poly and without.

How much polysorbate 80 to use in bath bombs

Anyone who tried making bath bombs knows how unstable the bath bomb mix can be. Adding a little bit too much or not enough of one or other ingredient could potentially destroy the entire mix. Same goes when introducing a new ingredient to a bath bomb mix.

So here are 3 things you need to know when adding Polysorbate 80 to your mix:

1. The first thing to have in mind is that Polysorbate 80 is a wetting ingredient. This means that if you add Poly80, you need to add less of your other wetting ingredients (water, witch hazel, alcohol). If you add Polysorbate 80 to your standard recipe without making adjustments you will get a mix that is way too wet.

2. Second, you need to know how much exactly of Polysorbate 80 to use in bath bombs. Many suppliers will tell you that you should add 1-3% of Poly 80 to your bath fizzies but I found that 2% makes them expand or they stay soft forever. The best rule that works for me is to use 1 part Polysorbate 80 to 2 parts of carrier oil or butter. So if you use 1 tablespoon of oil – add half tablespoon of Poly 80.  Do not include fragrance oil or any dyes and micas in this calculation. 1:2 Poly to carrier oil ratio will work well to emulsify oil into water and will be enough to do the same for any additional fragrances, micas or glitter. Adding too much of Polysorbate may come with its own sets of problems so just keep it around 1:2 ratio.

3. And lastly, Polysorbate 80 should not be added straight to your bath bomb mix. It should first be mixed with your other wet ingredients: colors, oils, butter, fragrance oils, essential oils, etc.

Polysorbate 80 vs Polysorbate 20

Both, Polysorbates 80 and Polysorbate 20, are emulsifiers and solubilizers that are used to emulsify small amounts of oils (or butter, fragrance) into water. Both are safe and can be used in bath bombs and other skin care products.

So what is the difference?

I don’t want to bore you with all the chemistry so I will just say that Polysorbate 20 is like a weaker version of Polysorbate 80. Poly 20 is often used to emulsify lighter oils, such as fragrance or essential oils, into water. While Poly 80 is used for heavier oils (carrier oils). Most bath bomb makers add carrier oils to their bath bombs, therefore, they use Polysorbate 80. If you only want to add some essential oils to your bath bomb then you are ok to go with Polysorbate 20.

Polysorbate 80 substitutes

Polysorbate 20 – as discussed earlier, Poly 20 does the same as Poly 80 but is weaker. So depending on your recipe and results you want to achieve, you could use this ingredient instead.

Red turkey oil (sulfated castor oil) – this oil is water soluble and helps to emulsify other oils into water. It is one of the most natural emulsifiers. However, it comes in a deep red color, thick texture and a strong smell.

Do you know more alternatives to Polysorbate 80? Let me know in the comments below.

Bath bomb recipe with Polysorbate 80

Bubblegum bath bomb recipe

  • 1 cup of Baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of Citric acid
  • 3 tbsp of cornstarch
  • 1  tbsp Almond oil (or any light oil)
  • 1/2 tbsp Polysorbate 80
  • 1 tsp Fragrance oil
  • color (water-soluble dye would be best)
  • wetting ingredient if needed (alcohol or Witch Hazel)

How to make this bath bomb recipe

For more bath bomb recipes press here.

25 thoughts on “Polysorbate 80 in bath bombs – a complete guide

  • January 16, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Hi! While waiting for my Polysorbate 80 order I pulled out some BTMS 50 that I had some shampoo bars. I melted the BTMS – 50 in warm water and it emulsified the mica beautifully! I haven’t used it in a bath bomb yet but make experiment!
    Has anyone else tried this? Necessity is the Mother of Invention ? Colleen

  • March 12, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    If I wanted to use essential oils instead of fragrance oil to scent this recipe, would I just dilute to the amount of carrier oil? It’s not a direct substitution is it?

    • August 10, 2019 at 10:45 am

      When we added polysorbate 80 / oil 1:2 ratio to the essential oil + water it formed this goo that couldnt be mixed into the dry ingredients. Any ideas??

      • August 14, 2019 at 6:12 am

        This happened to me, too. If I use isopropyl alcohol 91% instead of water it doesn’t do this.

      • November 13, 2019 at 10:23 am

        I add it to the bath bomb mixture after the wet ingredients because I found the same thing happened and it created a goo. It works perfectly fine for me!

        • January 31, 2021 at 11:12 am

          How do you add to the bath bomb mixture after the wet ingredients? Do you spray it? I’ve had this happen twice and can’t get past it using witch hazel, isopropyl alcohol 91%, and water.

      • February 1, 2021 at 10:02 am

        You only consider the carrier oil/ butter when figuring out the amount of poly 80 you need. If you are only using essential oil you would just need a drop of poly 80, or the same 1:2 ratio of poly 20. You do not consider the amount of water in the recipe when making your calculation. Hope this helps.

  • November 14, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    great article.
    if I want to add CBD distillate to the bathbomb. say1 tbsp, do I add 1/2 tbsp poly 80 or 20? or should the proportion of CBD distillate to poly change?
    thanks a lot!

  • January 13, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    I used 1/2 tbsp of poly to my FO. Do I
    Need to use more if I’m using Micas? The color did not disperse well and it stained my tub!

  • January 29, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Has anyone used Poly 80 in a DIY lotion containing oils & water soluble aloe gel? I ordered an “emulsifying wax” for this purpose, but I already have the Poly 80… just wondering if it will work just as well.

  • June 6, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    HI. I have begun to make Shower Steamers and they are working quite well, but someone suggested I used Polysorbate 80 which would improve them. What do you think and if so, how much should I use and should I use it instead of the witch hazel spritz? Thanks

    • February 1, 2021 at 10:11 am

      Are you using a carrier oil in your shower steamers? Poly 80 disperses carrier oils/butters. Which I don’t use in my shower steamers. If your using enough essential oils to leave an oily feel in shower you could use Poly 20 or possibly a tiny amount of Poly 80. I don’t find that there is enough essential oil to leave the shower oily, so I don’t worry about adding poly, but certainly if that is your concern you could use it.

  • June 24, 2020 at 11:17 am

    This is an extremely helpful article. No one else explains this the way you do. If there is any way I can rate your blog or pay it forward for the help you have given me, please feel free to email me.

  • June 27, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    someone suggested me to use sunflower lecithin as substitute of Poly 80….?????

  • August 6, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    OMG! THANK YOU SO MUCH. THIS POST HAVE BEEN SO HELPFUL!! I was reading everywhere. And you clarify all my doubts. I definitely want to try with the Poly, well here at Chile I only could find Poly 20. But I am going to give it a chance! Thanks 🙂

    • December 13, 2020 at 11:18 am

      POLY SUGA Mulse
      Sunflower solubilizer

      Apparently both can be substitutes

    • March 2, 2022 at 8:42 pm

      Oh my goodness!!! All these positive things being said about polysorbate 80 but not one single mention of the negative side effects it can have on humans. I strongly urge everyone to look it up so you don’t expose yourself or others due to not knowing, especially exposing your whole body in a bath!!!

      • January 18, 2024 at 11:23 pm

        What would you use?

  • December 17, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Is it safe to use more polysorbate 80 than oils in bathbombs? My mixture mixes perfectly with the amounts of wet ingredients I’m using now w 2.5 oz of butter & oil mixed w 3.15 oz of ps80. Is there any reason that wouldn’t be okay?

  • January 4, 2021 at 7:23 am

    Thanks for this info! I will try this! My bombs end up being too greasy, I think I add too much witch hazel?

  • February 1, 2021 at 10:15 am

    One thing to try is hydrogenated castor oil, it is a dispersant, foam booster and wetting agent. It’s affordable and an emollient so a good choice all around. I don’t find it works quite as well as Poly 80 in products with a lot of oils or butters but definitely for ones w a smaller amount or lighter oils.

  • February 9, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    This is a great article. Along with your instructions for making shower steamers, I am learning more than I have by reading other articles. I have two questions:
    1. How much should be used of polysorbate 80, or the weaker polysorbate 20, in a shower steamer? My purpose would be to disburse the mica color.
    2. You mentioned menthol crystals in another very interesting article. How might one measure 10 grams? What measure might be an equivalent?

  • February 15, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    I am making shower steamers and would leave out the oil since I don’t need any ingredient for skin care Does that make sense, or is the oil in the recipe for the bath bomb an essential ingredient that should also be used for a shower steamer? If I don’t use the oil, is there something else I should use for a liquid ingredient, or any other adjustment I should make?

  • February 15, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    I am making shower steamers, so I don’t need any skin care ingredient. Do I need to use the oil? If not, is there another “wetting” ingredient I should use?

  • December 14, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    Hey ive tried this recipe couple times but i found the bathbombs dont set very well they dont go hard and stil left soft for few days.
    How long are they ment to take to go hard? Am i doin something wrong for them to stil be soft after few days?


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