Oils used in Soap Making
Choosing the right combination of oils for your soap creates different moisturising properties, different sizes of suds and a different feel on your skin. Each oil has unique properties that can by used by you to create spa quality soaps in your own kitchen! The more you experiment with different oils, the more confident you will become in creating your soaps. Eventually you will come across your favourite 'go to' oils and these will form a staple in your soaps.
I love Extra Virgin Olive Oil, coconut oil, Soy Bean Oil and Sunflower Oil. Other soapers will prefer different oils. You will discover yours as well. Find as many resources as you can to help you on your soap making journey. There are many useful books and videos which can help you have fun and be creative in your kitchen. One such video resource is "How to Make Soap Course" from Soap Making Fun, which will give you all the skills you will need. This video is a soap making course and you will have all the resources you need to make beautiful soaps. Have a look at it and see for yourself!
The Different Properties of Oils in Soap
- Coconut Oil : coconut oil is a hard oil. It gives large bubbles and lathers well in soap. It is usually used at rates of 15-30% of the oil ratio. Too high a content of Coconut Oil can be drying on the skin. If a high concentration of coconut oil is used then it is possible to super fat by increasing the un-saponified oils in the bar of soap. There is a lot of hype surrounding coconut oil at the moment and sometimes it is hard to sort out the truth from the fiction! My Mother in Law has used Coconut Oil on her skin and in her hair all her life, and she has lovely skin and hair. In fact, I had never heard of using coconut oil as a body moisturiser or hair oil until meeting my Mother in Law! There are numerous articles on the web regarding coconut oil for you to research if you wish. All I can say is it helps to make a fantastic bar of soap if used judiciously.
- Avocado Oil: Avocado Oil is a soft oil. It is usually a deep green in colour. This oil makes a gentle and mild bar of soap and is suitable for babies and sensitive skin. It is usually included at rates of 5-15% of the oil ratio. Some soapers sub avocado oil for some of the olive oil in a recipe. Others like to add for super fatting. Avocado Oil has many health benefits and is very good for the skin. It is used as a moisturiser and when applied topically can help to reduce itchiness and dryness. I can testify to that, especially on my arm where I sometimes use it for my Nodular Pruritis and Brachioradial Pruritis. In addition, this oil can help to relieve an itchy scalp. Some beauty pages say that Avocado Oil can boost the production of collagen when applied topically, but I am sceptical about this claim. It is often used to treat eczema and psoriasis as well as in wound healing. All in all, a good oil to have in your soap!
- Sunflower Oil: Sunflower Oil is a soft oil. It lathers well and helps to sustain the lather of a bar of soap. It is mildly cleansing and gives a creamy lather. It can be used in a ratio of 10-20% or even higher. I like to use it at around 40% in some of my recipes. It can be used to replace some of the olive oil in a recipe or quite a lot of the olive oil! Sunflower is used for wound healing when applied to the skin. It is often used to prevent skin infections, reduce acne, protect the skin from sun damage and help with the signs of premature ageing. It is an effective emollient. I really like Sunflower Oil and when I'm making soap, if any of the oil spills on my bench, I simply rub directly onto my skin for a quick moisturise! It has a high amount of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.
- Olive Oil: Olive Oil is a hard and soft oil. It makes a very mild and gentle soap. It has a low, lotion like lather without large sudsy bubbles. It can feel slippery, but I rather like the feel of an Olive Oil soap. It can be used up to 100% in your soap recipe. Castile soap is traditionally a 100% Olive Oil soap. An Olive Oil soap hardens with time and many do not use if for 12 months. Soaps with 50%-100% Olive Oil need a long curing time. Olive Oil has a long history for use in skin care and medicine, and it has been found that Squalene may be helpful in relieving the symptoms of dermatitis, acne, psoriasis. Olive Oil will keep up to two years if kept in a cool, dark place. Olive Oil soap recipe. If you are really interested in Olive Oil, then an informative site about Olive Oil can be found here. I have written a review of the scientific evidence of the benefits of Olive Oil Castile soap. You can read how amazing this soap is for wound healing and use in the hospital setting. Click here.
- Soybean Oil: Soybean Oil is a soft oil. In soap it helps to maintain lather and is gently cleansing. It is usually used between 10-25%. It can be used to substitute some of the Olive Oil in your recipe. Soybean Oil has a small molecular structure and so is able to penetrate the skin. Dr Cheryl Burgess M.D. says that, "Clinical and scientific studies both show that soy works to reduce blotchiness and discolouration...[it] can also moisturise skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines...a simple beauty routine", (cited from www.soyoflife.com). I have not used soybean oil in any of my soaps so I can't give any personal opinion on this oil. Soybean Oil has a short shelf-life of around 3 months.
- Palm Oil: This is a hard oil. It makes a long lasting bar with a stable lather. Can be used at rates of 25%-50%. I DO NOT use palm oil and I never will. This is my personal, ethical choice. However, it is a good oil for soap making.
- Castor Oil: Soft oil. Castor oil helps to hold lather and adds creaminess. Can be used at the lower end of the percentage ratio. Usually between 5-10%. Too much can cause a bar of soap to be sticky.
- Apricot Kernel Oil: I love this oil! I have not used it in my soaps but I have used it on my skin. It is a soft oil and can be used to replace some of the Olive Oil in a recipe. It has similar soaping properties to Olive Oil. It is a light oil and feels fantastic on the skin. Apricot Kernel Oil has antioxidant properties, is an emollient moisturiser and helps to support the skin. It is anti-bacterial and has been used to aid in wound healing.
- Rice Bran Oil: This Oil comes from the husk of rice grains and is rich in Vitamin E. It can be used to substitute some of the Olive oil in your recipe and gives small bubbles. Rice Bran Oil can be used up to 100% in your cold process recipe and has a shelf life of 1-2 years.
- Tamanu Oil: Can be used in soap up to 5%. It has been traditionally used by the people in Tahiti to treat burns and insect bites, and many skin conditions. Read more about the benefits of Tamanu Oil. It is truly an amazing oil for skin health and appearance! An excellent supplier for Tamanu Oil can be found here.
- Mango Butter: Mango Butter is extracted from the kernels of the mango fruit. It is an hard oil as it is solid at room temperature. It is used at less than 15% of the recipe.
- Shea Butter: this comes from the seed of the African Shea Tree. It is an hard oil as it is solid at room temperature. It is known for its moisturising and softening properties. It is used at 15% or less in your recipe.