This is the second article in this series that will offer insight into the solid or semi-solid oils used in skin care products. You may be wondering, what do these oils have in common? Oils that are solid or semi-solid at room temperature are used in varying amounts in cold-process soaps, salves, lotions, and lip sticks products. Hard oils can be used in amounts from 40 percent to 60 percent in soap recipes to provide a natural thickening agent while incorporating additional nutrients and shortening the time needed to dry and cure homemade soap.
Castile soap and Bastille soaps are the only exceptions. Castile soap is one of the oldest soaps known in Spain as “Francisca’s Castilla-La Mancha.” The original soap recipe used 100 percent Olive oil and was based on the tradition of waste-not, want-not during the country’s
civil war when supplies were scarce. Families needed to get the most use out of this precious oil. It was the custom to reuse the olive oil in daily meal preparations to dip their bread, for cooking and frying family meals until the oil attained a golden yellow color. The oil was retired but not discarded as we have the custom today, but rather the oil was recycled | repurposed and used to make soap.
Thankfully, the process to make Castile soap has changed in modern times. Castile soap continues to be made with 100 percent olive oil, less the breadcrumbs, the recycling stage, and the traditions of our grandparents. This soap takes an exceptionally long time to set and even longer to fully dry and cure, making it impractical for today’s homemade soaper. The modified Castile
soap is labelled as Bastille soap if its olive oil content is greater than 70 percent of the oils used when making soap. Bastille soap is a softer bar that also requires additional drying time, but not the 6 months or more that Castile soap needs to achieve a hard bar of soap.
There are different classifications of hard oils, those that contribute to a hearty lather or oils that provide conditioning properties to soap. Lathering hard oils include Babassu oil, Coconut oil, Murumuru butter and Palm oil. These hard oils can be used in higher concentrations of 25 percent to 45 percent in cold process soap making. The conditioning oils include Cocoa butter, Illipe butter, Kokum butter, Lard, Mango butter, Palm oil, Shea butter, and Tallow. Conditioning hard oils are used in smaller amounts between 15 percent to 30 percent based on the artisan’s design. To help organize the oils in this article, I will follow the same pattern as the first article and list oils alphabetically. This should make your review easier when you refer to articles in this series.
Let us start with tropical Babassu oil which comes from seeds of the babassu palm tree, grown in the rain forest of South America. Some soap makers use this oil in higher volumes,
as a carrier oil, to replace palm or coconut oil. Babassu is like coconut oil as it readily melts when it touches your skin. This oil moisturizes your hair and skin and is easily absorbed. It is a lightweight oil and will not make your skin feel greasy. This oil is usually pale yellow in color and blends well with other oils to create a clean white bar.
Anecdotal reports from countries of Brazil, Suriname, and Bolivia where this oil is used in cooking, tout the nutrient dense composition of high myristic and lauric acid content claiming use of this oil boost’s cognitive function and increase energy levels. Much of the research of the benefits of this oil has been conducted on animals or in test tubes. Others report that parts of the plant are used for stomach problems to reduce inflammation or other skin conditions.’ Although there are a few articles suggesting the health benefits for incorporating this oil in skin care products, a cautionary statement is necessary. Topical use can irritate those with sensitive skin. Babassu oil is not recommended during pregnancy because it can affect hormone levels which can be dangerous for the unborn child. Additionally, those with thyroid problems may experience hormonal side effects. Human studies are needed to clarify these reports of adverse reactions.
Cocoa butter comes from the Cacao tree which grows in tropical climates such as South America, the Hawaiian Islands, Asia, and other tropical regions around the world. Cocoa butter is harvested from Theobroma Cacao beans and is packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E and K, dopamine, tryptophan, zinc, and omega 6 and omega 9.’ Wow, so now we know why chocolate has such an appeal! Cocoa butter is full of antioxidants that help reduce
wrinkles as it protects your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Cocoa butter consists of Oleic, Palmitic, and stearic acid, all beneficial fatty acids that provide a protective barrier, keeping the skin healthy and hydrated. Cocoa butters’ conditioning power can be attained with small amounts in cold-process soap making. If you want to keep the cocoa sensation, try this hard oil in the raw state as you make your next bar of soap, lip balm or hand salve.
Coconut oil is obtained from the fruit of the coconut tree. The coconut tree is a member of the Palm family which graces the landscapes in warm climates. Coconut oil has been used for centuries in skin care products due to its moisturizing and conditioning properties. The
fatty acid composition of coconut oil is: Lauric acid (49 percent), Myristic acid (18 percent), Palmitic acid (8 percent), Caprylic acid (8 percent), Capric acid (7 percent), Oleic acid (6 percent), and Linoleic acid (2 percent). Each fatty acid found in coconut oil offers different benefits. Several studies found that Lauric acid was most effective at blocking bacterial growth.'’ Other fatty acids, capric and caprylic acid provide antimicrobial and antifungal properties which help reduce the spread of bacteria. Supportive evidence shows that coconut oil incorporated in skin care products is a natural approach to treat psoriasis, cellulitis, folliculitis, athletes’ foot, and acne.
Internet sources show that linoleic acid (vitamin F) helps to promote moisture retention in skin and hair, nourishing hair follicles and promoting healthy hair growth.’ Even in such small amounts as found in coconut oil, Linoleic acid promotes the health of your skin. This fatty acid provides a barrier to your skin, to help protect against free radical damage caused by smoke, UV rays, and air pollution. Linoleic acid helps reduce wrinkles and signs of skin aging that we affectionately call sunspots. Even the basic bar of homemade soap contains coconut oil to moisturize your skin while providing a natural thickening agent that helps harden the bar of soap and extent the self-life of your hand made creation.
Illipe butter is harvested from the seeds of the Madhuca longifolia tree also known as the Indian butter tree. The Mahua illipe tree grows in central India, East Asia, Nepal, and Sri
Lanka. Illipe nut butter contains oleic, palmitic, stearic, and linoleic fatty acids, as well as vitamins A and E. This butter helps to protect our skin from the detrimental effects of UV rays, smoke and air pollution that cause premature wrinkles and age lines. It is touted to help relieve dry, itchy skin, scalp and heal dry, brittle hair with its natural moisturizing ability. This oil is like cocoa butter in its chemical composition and can be used in homemade soaps, shampoo bars, lip balms, lip sticks, salves, and lotions.
Kokum butter is made from the seeds of the kokum tree also known as wild mangosteen and grows in tropical areas of India. The fruit is heavily laden by the weight of the seeds. The kernel accounts for 60 percent of the fruit weight, and this is where the oil is pressed from. Fatty acid composition is as follows: Stearic acid 55-65 percent, oleic acid 30-44 percent,
Palmitic acid 2-8 percent and linoleic acid 0-8 percent. The non-greasy composition of this oil makes this another substitute for cocoa butter in soap making recipes, lipsticks, skin lotions, and salves.’ Kokum butter contains vitamins A, E and F. The anti-inflammatory properties and non-pore-clogging properties makes it a suitable oil for acne, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. The oil has an extremely hard texture like cocoa butter which makes it a challenge to work with in making skin care products. This plant-based oil is not widely available and a bit more expensive than other plant butters.
Lard is rendered pig fat. There are several products available in the local supermarkets. If you choose to use animal fats in homemade soap products, consider reading the ingredient label to determine whether preservatives or hydrogenation is used in processing the lard.
I started reading the food labels to see what may also be in the rendered pig fat. Name brands of lard lists as ingredients: hydrogenated lard, BHA, propyl gallate and citric acid. What does all that mean? Some organic pork lard contains rosemary extract “to meet USDA requirements for freshness.” Another lard uses BHT “to improve stability.” Let us shed some light on the ingredients.
Hydrogenated oils are processed oils “in which hydrogen gas is bubbled through a liquid oil in the presence of a catalyst, often a reactive metal such as platinum or nickel. The resulting reaction forces unsaturated fatty acids to accept additional hydrogen atoms and become at least partially saturated.” Another word for partially saturated fats is trans fats which has been replaced in modern cooking for healthier options.
What are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) was my next question? These are synthetic antioxidants used in food that act as preservatives and are considered human carcinogens in studies conducted in Europe. Both synthetic preservatives can cause allergic skin reactions and interfere with liver, thyroid, lung, and kidney function. Would it surprise you to find that BHA and BHT are still used in several skin care products available today?
Next is Propyl gallate also known as propyl 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoate a synthetic ingredient added to foods to extend shelf life and prevent oxidation. According to Wikipedia, this substance has known health hazards that include potential respiratory problems, convulsions, and aspiration pneumonia.’This chemical can be found in at least 167 cosmetic products available at the time of this publication in 2007 by the National Institute of Health. Again, a cautionary statement is necessary.
Mango butter comes from the seed of the mango fruit tree. The Mango tree originated in India and travelers carried the fruit with them as they migrated, spreading this tropical fruit bearing tree throughout Asia and the tropics. The large mango pits are the source of a
natural fat used to make mango butter. This fruit butter is semi-solid and melts when it touches your skin.
Mangifera indica butter contains mangiferin, a polyphenol that helps reduce joint inflammation. Vitamin A, C and E, folate, copper is also available which stimulates the production of collagen, reduce dark age spots and to block free radical damage from environmental pollutants.’ The oleic, palmitic, and stearic acid help your skin retain moisture, giving your skin a healthy glow.
Murumuru butter Astrocaryum murumuru is a native palm tree of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The fruit is edible. Murumuru butter extracted from the seeds is odorless and
tasteless so it blends well in small amounts used in shampoos, conditioners, creams, soaps, lipsticks, as well as in deodorants. This is another seed butter rich in Vitamin A, which holds natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral and antiseptic properties to promote our skins integrity and acts as an effective healing ingredient in skin care products.
Palm oil and Palm kernel oil are harvested from the palm fleshy mesocarp and from the palm seed, respectively. Palm oil, Elaeis guineensis, is the world’s largest edible oil and belongs to the Palmaceae family. The oil is
naturally semi-solid at room temperature and is a source of Vitamin E, vitamin K and Pro-vitamin A. The tocopherol and carotenoids provide stability for longer shelf life of the oil. Most of the palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, providing over 85 percent of the global supply although there are more than forty other countries that produce palm oil. So, you do not have to worry about depleting the Palm oil from the Amazon forest.
Sal seed butter comes from Shorea robusta, a tree grown in India. It is a species of tree in the Dipterocarpaceae family, an evergreen. The extracted oil is used in soaps and lotion bars but is not used widely here in the United States. The unrefined oil is greenish brown in color
and has a “characteristic odor.” When Sal butter is fractionated, Sal Oleine is obtained which is liquid at room temperature. Sal oil is used to rehydrate the skin as it provides soothing relief from conditions of dermatitis, eczema, rashes, sunburn, and itchy skin. Sal butter contains oleic, linoleic, and stearic acid which are beneficial to nourish your hair, promote hair growth and helps prevent breakage and split ends. ’ Sal oil is considered a luxury oil and is used in smaller amounts in soap, balm, lotion bars and conditioners.
Shea butter is an extracted plant oil that comes from the nuts of the shea tree. There are two main types of shea butter – West African and East African shea butter. Depending on
your source of shea butter will determine the melting point, texture, and vitamin content. Unrefined shea butter maintains the nutrient content of the oil and is chemical and
Sheanut butter has high concentrations of beneficial fatty acids (linoleic acid, oleic acid) as well as vitamins A, E and D that help soften your skin. According to healthline.com shea butter’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce redness and
swelling caused by eczema, and it helps tone and condition your skin. The emollient properties of shea butter trap moisture in the skin. Shea is also beneficial in hair products such as shampoo bars because these bioactive ingredients in combination with the antibacterial properties reduce dry scalp and skin irritations. And for those with nut allergies, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and immunology, reports that Shea butter does not appear to trigger nut allergies. A cautionary statement is necessary for those with latex allergy, the American Shea Butter Institute (ASBI) states that unrefined shea butter contains latex.
Tallow is rendered beef fat that is solid at room temperature. Commercially produced tallow commonly includes fats from other animals and plant sources. Tallow can be stored at room temperature with a shelf life between 12-18 months if it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation. Fat content is 51.5 percent saturated fat, 44.7 percent
monounsaturated fat, 3.9 percent polyunsaturated fat and 6.7 percent trans-fat. Cholesterol content is about 20 percent. This fat composition contains vitamin A, D, E and vitamin K, niacin, selenium, conjugated linoleic acid and palmitoleic acid.’ Linoleic acid provides anti-inflammatory benefits while palmitoleic acid provides antimicrobial properties. The texture of tallow is like coconut oil. Tallow hardens and can be used to replace palm oil when used in soap making.
When considering whether to include Tallow in your skin care products, remember the health of the animal will determine how many nutrients are in the tallow. Some organic farmers supplement their cow feed with vitamins, so carefully consider your source and manufacturing processes as to whether any additional stabilizers are included in the finished product. The one downside for use in skin care may be the costs of all natural or organic tallow.
With each research project, I gain valuable insight into the source of ingredients, oil extraction processes and discover whether the integrity of the natural oil remains unadulterated and whole. The challenge to maintain clean ingredients directs or redirects my purchases to ensure I am adhering to a healthy and holistic approach in my homemade skin care products.
Stay tuned as we continue our research with our review of luxury oils that are starting to make a presence into mainstream markets of high-end skin care products. Many less known oils such as Primrose, Chia seed, Sal seed, Castor, and Rosehip oils to mention just a few, are used in limited amounts to nourish our skin will be the topic of the third post in this series.
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