You are correct! Sorbeth-30 tetraoleate is a water loving or hydrophilic emulsifier used in some cleansing oils. It has an HLB of 11.5.
Anthony O'Lenick wrote about this ingredient: If sorbitol is ethoxylated, the dehydration is minimized and sorbeth esters form. The empirical formula of sorbeth-30 is shown in Figure 4. These sorbeth esters are emulsifiers or oils depending upon the amount of EO present. For example, sorbeth-30 tetraoleate (liquid), sorbeth-40 tetraoleate (liquid) and sorbeth-60 tetraoleate (paste) are all excellent emulsifiers and solubilizers of high polar vegetable oils or esters. They provide stable emulsification in small quantities for various oils and esters.
You could try using a polysorbate in its place - I'd try polysorbate 80 - or you could try caprylyl/capryl glucoside, which is considered green and ECOcert. These may feel stickier than the original.
Some references about sorbeth-30-tetraoleate...
Fantastic post on this topic
Reference and some formulas that might be interesting...
A little more information from Cosmetics Info
Pentylene glycol is a relative of the other glycols like propylene glycol or butylene glycol. You could use either of them in its place. If you're seeking a more natural humectant, try glycerin - which can be sticky - or propanediol 1,3.
Propanediol 1,3 is naturally derived substitute for propylene glycol that can be used at up to 20% in your water phase. It's a humectant that draws water from the atmosphere to your skin to offer hydration. It has a 9 to 12 month shelf life once opened. But I find it's a little lighter and drier feeling than propylene glycol.
As pentylene glycol is water soluble, methinks the sorbeth-30 tetraoleate is used to combine this into the rest of the oil soluble product.
What the heck is stearyl glycyrrhetinate? It's an interesting ingredient derived from liquorice root! "The fatty acid form of the soothing ingredient glycyrrhetinic acid, which is derived from licorice." (Paula's Choice) It's an emollient "used to enhance the appearance of dry or damaged skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness."
From UL Prospector: "Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate is an ester of stearyl alcohol and Glycyrrhetinic Acid. It acts as a skin conditioning agent with soothing anti-inflammatory properties. This product appears as a white or pale yellowish powder and is used in cosmetics and personal care product formulations for makeup, fragrance, hair care, skin care, shaving, personal hygiene and suntan products."
So it's an oil soluble emollient used to soothe skin and moisturize. Sounds pretty awesome!
Reference for stearyl glycyrrhetinate:
To answer your question, I think there could be natural versions of these ingredients, but these are pretty specific things and I think you'd mess up what people love the most about it. You could use caprylyl/capryl glucoside for the sorbeth-30 tetraoleate, propanediol 1,3 for the pentylene glycol, and...I'm really not sure for the stearyl glycyrrhetinate. Maybe a nice light oil like squalane? There'll only be a titch in there as it's down in the 1% or less category in the ingredient list, so maybe that's the best choice?
If you want the benefits of liquorice root, consider using a bit of ethanol to dissolve some of the powdered extract and add it that way, or use a titch of liquid extract - 1% or less. It may not mix in perfectly, but it's a great ingredient to include in something like this.
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