Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate: What Is It, Cosmetic Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: March 27, 2024
Table of Contents

Understanding the world of cosmetics can often feel like you’re trying to decode a complex scientific formula, especially when you’re faced with a long list of ingredients with names that seem more suited to a chemistry lab than a beauty product.

One such ingredient that you might have come across in your favorite cosmetic products is Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate – sounds like something straight out of a chemistry textbook, doesn’t it? Well, thankfully it’s a lot more interesting than the name suggests.

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into the world of Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, exploring what it is, why it’s used in cosmetics, and what you need to know about its benefits and potential side effects.

What is Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate?

Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, also known as 9-(Z)-Octadecanoic Acid, 12-Hydroxy- (9Z, 12R)-, Homopolymer, Ester With Triglycerol, is a common ingredient found in many cosmetic products. It’s a type of emulsifier, which means it helps to mix oil and water together, preventing them from separating. This ingredient also plays a role in controlling the viscosity, or thickness, of the product, making it easier to apply.

This ingredient is typically produced through a process of esterification, where glycerol and ricinoleic acid are combined. The result is a substance that’s highly effective at creating a smooth, even texture in cosmetic products.

While you might find Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate sold on its own, it’s more commonly found as part of a wider formulation of ingredients within a product. It’s a key player in the background, helping to enhance the overall performance and feel of the product.

Who Can Use Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate?

Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is a versatile ingredient that’s suitable for all skin types. Whether you have dry, oily, or combination skin, this ingredient can help to improve the texture and consistency of your skincare products.

Good news for vegans and vegetarians – Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is a plant-based ingredient, derived from glycerol and ricinoleic acid, which is sourced from castor oil. This means it’s completely free from animal products and is suitable for those following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

As for pregnant or breastfeeding women, there’s no specific information suggesting that Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is unsafe to use. However, as with any new product or ingredient, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate’s Cosmetic Benefits/Uses

The benefits and uses discussed in this section pertain exclusively to the cosmetic applications of Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate. This ingredient may have other uses in various industries, but those are beyond the scope of this article. The benefits listed here are based solely on the ingredient’s official functions as an emulsifying and viscosity controlling agent.

  • Emulsifying Agent: Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate acts as an effective emulsifying agent in cosmetic products. Emulsifiers are crucial in cosmetics as they help mix oil and water-based ingredients that would otherwise separate. Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, due to its unique molecular structure, can bind both water and oil molecules together, creating a stable and homogeneous mixture. This results in a smoother application of the product and enhances the overall user experience. Furthermore, it ensures that the active ingredients in the product are evenly distributed, thereby maximizing their effectiveness.
  • Viscosity Controlling: Another significant benefit of Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is its ability to control the viscosity of cosmetic products. Viscosity refers to a fluid’s resistance to flow. In cosmetics, controlling the viscosity is essential to achieve the desired consistency and texture of the product. Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, when added to a formulation, can increase or decrease its thickness as needed. This allows for the creation of a wide range of products, from light lotions to thick creams. Moreover, by controlling the viscosity, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate ensures that the product is easy to apply and absorbs well into the skin, providing an optimal cosmetic experience.

Potential Side Effects/Adverse Reactions

Side effects and reactions to the topical application of Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate can vary significantly from person to person. It’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is unique, and what works well for one person may not work as well for another.

While Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is generally considered safe for topical use, some potential side effects could include:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation
  • Skin irritation

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product containing Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, it’s recommended to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare provider or dermatologist. They can provide guidance on whether to continue using the product or suggest an alternative.

Adverse reactions to Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate are relatively rare, but they can occur. It’s always important to monitor your skin’s reaction when introducing a new product into your skincare routine.

One of the best ways to minimize the risk of adverse reactions is to perform a patch test before fully incorporating a new product into your routine. You can learn more about this process in our patch testing guide. Patch testing can help you identify potential sensitivities or reactions before applying a product to a larger area of skin.

Comedogenic Rating

Comedogenicity refers to the potential of a substance to cause comedones, which are skin blemishes or acne. In the context of cosmetic ingredients, a comedogenic rating is used to indicate how likely an ingredient is to clog pores, which can lead to acne breakouts.

Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate has a comedogenic rating of 1. This means it has a very low likelihood of clogging pores and causing acne breakouts. The rating is based on the molecular structure of the ingredient, its oil content, and its ability to penetrate the skin.

Given its low comedogenic rating, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is generally suitable for individuals who are prone to acne or breakouts. However, everyone’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, it is always recommended to patch test new products and ingredients.


Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is primarily used in cosmetics for its emulsifying and viscosity controlling properties – making it a non-active ingredient (i.e. it has no immediate benefit on the skin). As an emulsifier, it helps to mix oil and water-based ingredients, while its viscosity controlling properties help to adjust the thickness of cosmetic products.

While not as popular or well-known as some other cosmetic ingredients, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is similar to other polyglycerol esters, which are also used as emulsifiers and viscosity controllers. It is often found in products like sunscreens, lotions, and makeup.

In terms of safety, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate is generally considered safe for use in cosmetics. Its low comedogenic rating means it is unlikely to cause acne or skin irritation. However, as with all ingredients, it is important to use it in moderation and discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur.

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