What it does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing
Polysorbates are a group of emulsifiers used in food preparation and pharmaceuticals. In cosmetics, polysorbates are used to solubilize essential oils into products with a water base. Derived from sorbitan and esterified with fatty acids, polysorbates are oily liquids. The number 60 following polysorbate refers to the fatty acid chemically associated with the polyoxyethylene sorbitan component of the molecule, in this case monostearate.
Members of the polysorbate family aid in the combination of ingredients that are usually insoluble. Due to the prevalence of water and oil in cosmetic products, polysorbates are extensively used. They also reduce the surface tension of creams and liquids, which aids in the process of emulsifying. Polysorbate 60 is used in numerous cosmetic products, including shampoos, skin softeners, scented powders, makeup bases and foundations, exfoliants, sunless tanners and anti-aging creams.
Polysorbate 60 is a common little helper ingredient that helps water and oil to mix together, aka emulsifier.