|What is it?||Polyglyceryl-4 oleate is a natural water-in-oil (low HLB) emulsifier made from sunflower seed oil and vegetable glycerin.|
|Appearance||Cloudy viscous liquid.|
|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).|