Is Polysorbate a Hair Loss Treatment?

Is polysorbate an ingredient (in a cosmetic creme or lotion) which could temporarily increase the diameter of thin & regular size hairs? If so, how long would the effect persist after a single application? And assuming no commercial product is available could it be compounded by any pharmacist?

I am asking these questions because years back a commercial lotion, supposedly from Norway which (falsely) claimed to be the solution to baldness incorporated polysorbate (I can’t remember if it was polysorbate 20). An employee of a pharmacy who told me he was using the product stated that he had noticed an apparent increase in hair density over a short period of time which could not be from new hair growth. I did not try this product after reading critical comments. But I wonder if one could safely use polysorbate or for that matter other products to improve the apparent hair density.

Thanks in advance

I have no experience with this approach for using polysorbate (80 or 20 or any number) as a hair regeneration treatment. If it really worked, I would suspect I would know about it. I will, nevertheless, keep an open mind and probe it with some of my colleagues.

Tags: polysorbate, hairloss, hair loss, hair growth
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Reader Comments4

  1. Daniel Knepshield
    Daniel Knepshield says:

    I can comment knowledgably on this.

    First, to answer some of the poster’s questions:

    “Is polysorbate an ingredient which could temporarily increase the diameter of thin & regular size hairs? If so, how long would the effect persist after a single application?”

    Answer: Polysorbate 80 (along with polysorbate 60) has long been touted as a treatment for hair loss. It is alleged to help fight hair loss, and in many individuals, to even regrow hair. It is NOT a “cosmetic” solution that temporarily increases the diameter of your existing hair, but a substance that, in time, is claimed by its promoters to help regrow the hair that has been lost and to prevent further hair loss.

    If you’re looking for something to simply temporarily increase the thickness of your existing hair, then polysorbate would NOT be the product to consider. There is no proof that polysorbate does anything positive in regards to hair loss, but even if it did, it would be something that you would have to use long term before you saw any results. There wouldn’t be any effects, of any kind, after a single application. It simply does not work that way. No products that treat hair loss work that way.. There are, however, a number of products on the market that are designed to thicken your existing hair and to give you the appearance of having more hair. These products work very effectively, but they are only cosmetic solutions, and their results are only temporary. They do work, though, and they work very well. I can recommend a few, if you’d like. Just let me know.

    “And assuming no commercial product is available, could it be compounded by any pharmacist?”

    Answer: Polysorbate 80 (as well as polysorbate 60) are both common, widely-used, and very easily-obtained substances. If you want to try it, you won’t have any problem whatsoever getting it. And they are both very inexpensive as well. Commercial hair-loss preparations containing either polysorbate 80 or polysorbate 60 are available too, such as the one that you referenced in your post, but they are grossly overpriced, and they are nothing but the same polysorbate 80 (or 60) that you can buy yourself at a fraction of the price.

    “I am asking these questions because, years back, a commercial lotion, supposedly from Norway which (falsely) claimed to be the solution to baldness incorporated polysorbate (I can’t remember if it was polysorbate 20). An employee of a pharmacy, who told me he was using the product, stated that he had noticed an apparent increase in hair density over a short period of time which could not be from new hair growth. I did not try this product after reading critical comments, but I wonder if one could safely use polysorbate, or for that matter, other products to improve the apparent hair density.”

    Answer: The product that you’re referring to was called the Helsinki Formula, and it was from Finland actually, not Norway, but close enough. :-) And it originally contained polysorbate 60, not 20; however, the formula was later changed and polysorbate 80 was used instead.

    I would totally discount the claims made by the pharmacy employee. First of all, no topicals produce results in a “short time,” and there is no evidence, nor is there any reason to believe, that polysorbate 80 (or 60) has any effect whatsoever anyway. Sometimes people simply see what they want to see.

    Although there are many references to various studies (the studies themselves, though, are never actually shown), on the sites that promote polysorbate, claiming to show very positive results with the substance, these studies can all be traced back to one person, a Finnish doctor by the name of Ilona Schreck-Purola, MD. She appears to be the sole source of all the claims regarding the use of polysorbate in treating hair loss. (And good luck trying to track down the actual studies. I haven’t been able to do so — and neither has anyone else that I know of who has attempted to do so).

    It is a perfectly safe substance to use topically, though. Safety should not be any kind of concern.

    My own personal experience in using ploysorbate 80:

    Last year, I decided to try polysorbate 80 to treat my hair loss. I knew ahead of time that there would be very little, if any, chance of it working, but I was curious nevertheless. (I am researcher, and I suffer from hair loss as well.)

    The stuff is very inexpensive (at least compared to other hair-loss remedies, all of which are usually extremely overpriced), so I didn’t really have much to lose by giving it a go. (You can purchase eight ounce bottles of polysorbate 80 through Puritan’s Pride for approximately five dollars per bottle, and the Puritan’s Pride version also contains biotin and niacin which have benefits of their own in treating hair loss. As far as buying polysorbate 80 goes, they are a good source to acquire it from.)

    One of the problems with hair-loss treatments is that people who use them simply do not have enough patience and do not give them enough time to work. They expect “overnight” results, and if they do not see results after a few weeks, they give up. For example, I’ve spent countless hours on various hair-loss forums reading user reviews regarding various hair-loss remedies, and I noticed that people would commonly dismiss various treatments as being non-effective — even though they admitted to only using the product for a weeks or for a couple of months. Chances are that the products would NOT have worked anyway, but if you are going to use a product, you must give it time to work and give it a fair trial — before dismissing it, otherwise, you’ll never really know if it was, indeed, a sham product or one that may have eventually produced results had more time been given. (As a general rule, any hair-loss product should be used for a minimum of at least 12 months before any appreciable will be seen.)

    I did not want to fall into this trap myself, so I made a commitment to use the product for at least a year and then went ahead and ordered 30 bottles of the stuff, all at once, so that I would have it on hand for my planned use. (I ordered 30 bottles because I didn’t want to run out during the course of my treatment, and plus, I figured that I would be more committed to use it having already bought and paid for it all.)

    I used it every day for over a year without missing one single day. I applied it each morning and left it on for at least 30 minutes before washing it out. On many days, though, I would leave it on for an hour or more. The stuff is very viscous and messy to apply, very similar to honey. In other words, it’s an ordeal to use, and one can easily lose their motivation to apply it if they’re not fully committed.

    My results:

    After using the product every single day for approximately 14 months, I did not see any results of any kind whatsoever. It simply did not work for me, and I would not expect that it would work for anyone else either. I would not recommend it.

    If anyone would like more info on polysorbate 80 in spite of my negative outcome, here is a link for more information:

    The above article on polysorbate 80 is written by Dr. Ralph Cinque, a chiropractor with an interest in natural and alternative remedies. The article is factual, for the most part, and will be interesting to anyone interested in reading more about polysorbate 80; however, a major flaw with the article is that the author unjustifiably recommends and promotes it as a remedy for hair loss, and it should also be noted that he, in fact, has a link at the end of the article where he offers it for sale. So, as it is often said, buyer beware.

  2. Jack Moore
    Jack Moore says:

    Many years ago I saw an infomercial for a product called “New Generation”, which contained polysorbate. I ordered the shampoo and lotion and used it without expecting any results. After a number of months, I was getting my hair cut (used the same stylist for years) and the stylist said, “This is strange. You have new hair growth.” She was correct – there was some growth in an area where my hair was receding. Soon after, a pharmaceutical company with a hair growth product used the FDA to shut down the company. For me, at least, there was some hair growth.

  3. Robin
    Robin says:

    I’ve had ploysorbate 80 with biotin and niacin in my cabinet for a year or so (I’d forgotten about it) and pulled it out last week. As Daniel said, it is very messy but I rubbed it in and would work in my yard, do laundry etc. to let it sit. It says to leave in for 5-10 min. but I have been leaving it in longer. So far, my experience is much like the pharmacy employee in that my hair can appear to be thicker although if I really look I’m not sure why. I know that it is too early for hair growth. I’m thinking perhaps it’s helping with the health of the hair and it’s … fluffier? I’m don’t know the reason. I’m sad that Daniel didn’t have good results after a year and that could easily deter me but since I’ve started I will continue until my 2 bottles are done. If anything positive occurs I’ll let you know. Blessings …

  4. polysorbate
    polysorbate says:

    As a professional Polysorbate /Tween supplier, . Polysorbate 80 is a nonionic surfactant and emulsifier often used in foods and cosmetics. I just heard that Polysorbate used as a emulsifier not helpful to hair gross


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