Polyglyceryl-4 oleate

What is it? Polyglyceryl-4 oleate is a natural water-in-oil (low HLB) emulsifier made from sunflower seed oil and vegetable glycerin.
INCI Polyglyceryl-4 oleate
Appearance Cloudy viscous liquid.
Usage rate 5–15%
Scent Mild
Solubility Oil-soluble, dispersible in water.
Why do we use it in formulations? Polyglyceryl-4 oleate is an emulsifier; it brings oil and water together. It can be used to emulsify water-in-oil creams and lotions (here’s a sample formulation from Making Cosmetics) and can be included in anhydrous formulations to create products that will self-emulsify when mixed with water.
Do you need it? No, but it is a very useful ingredient to have if you prefer to formulate with natural ingredients and/or if you’re interested in making water-in-oil emulsions.
Refined or unrefined? Polyglyceryl-4 oleate only exists as a refined product.
Strengths Polyglyceryl-4 oleate is a versatile natural ingredient and a good option for making natural and mild balm-to-milk products.
Weaknesses I find that oil-based cleansing formulations with Polyglyceryl-4 oleate don’t rinse off as cleanly/thoroughly as ones made with ingredients like Polysorbate 80, Cromollient SCE, and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil. This is because Polyglyceryl-4 oleate creates water-in-oil emulsions, which resist rinse-off with water (you can find more discussion on this here). This means anhydrous cleansing formulations using Polyglyceryl-4 oleate are typically very mild, so it’s not necessarily a weakness, just a thing to be aware of.
Alternatives & Substitutions If you’re making a cleansing oil or cleansing balm, Polysorbate 80, Cromollient SCE, and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil will all work. As they create oil-in-water emulsions I find they provide stronger rinse-off than Polyglyceryl-4 oleate, so you’ll want to use less. I would start with 1/3 the amount and adjust from there. You could also try Polyglyceryl-3 oleate, though it has a lower usage rate (1–4%). This document from Formulator Sample Shop includes a sample formulation for an oil-to-milk cleanser that uses Polyglyceryl-3 oleate at 2.5%.

If you’re using Polyglyceryl-4 oleate to emulsify a cream or lotion, you’ll need a different water-in-oil (W/O) emulsifier at a bare minimum; W/O emulsions have a very different feel than O/W emulsions. Polyglyceryl-4 oleate is still a new ingredient to me so I don’t have a ton of suggestions; it looks like Polyglyceryl-3 oleate may work though some re-formulating would likely be required. Skin Chakra’s “Neocare P3R” also looks promising.

How to Work with It Include Polyglyceryl-4 oleate in your oil phase; it can be hot or cold processed.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Polyglyceryl-4 oleate should last 18 months.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Water-in-oil emulsifiers are relatively rare in the world of ingredients available to handcrafters, and this is one we can get that’s somewhat widely available!
Recommended starter amount 250mL (8fl oz) or less
Where to Buy it Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier. I’ve found it at Skin Chakra (EU), Les Âmes Fleurs (Canada), Soapmakers Store (UK), and Making Cosmetics (USA).

Some Formulations that Use Polyglyceryl-4 oleate


Posted on

June 30, 2021