Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Choose the Best Oils for Cold Process, Handcrafted Soap: Teach Me Thursday

A batch of soap, not quite ready to pour
First of all, I hope you are buying cold process soaps for your skin rather than the melt 'n pour or typical store bought soap. That could be a whole different blog post! Then, once you are completely hooked on the superior goodness of cold process soap, what ingredients should you look for? And yes, all soap should be labeled with ingredients, beginning with the oil name that has the highest percentage in the recipe.

I prefer to use the common names for all of my oils on the ingredient labels, which makes the label reading much easier for the soap customer. For example, I will use "olive oil" rather than the Latin, species name Olea europaea. I'm guessing that not that many people will recognize Olea europaea as plain old olive oil. It gets even more complicated with the other oil names.

A good place to start for the first two ingredients in any handcrafted soap are olive oil and/or palm oil. Olive oil, especially, is very high in oleic fatty acids which produces a soap that has excellent conditioning properties for the skin. Palm oil is also high in palmitic fatty acids which helps produce a hard bar with lather that is stable.

Then, you might look for some ingredients that add a little "bubbliness" to the lather. Castor, coconut, and palm kernel oils do this job very well.

Keeping warm in the oven to start the curing process
While soap can be made with only olive oil (known as castile soap), you will probably want to find a soap that has at least 3-4 ingredients to give the bar some interesting and dimensional properties. But, be mindful of any skin sensitivities that you may have.

To take the soap "over the top," look for these additional oils toward the end of the ingredient list: sweet almond, avocado, cocoa, jojoba, sesame, shea, and evening primrose. These oils add additional conditioning properties to the soap - the "oh, so good for you skin" component! I often superfat my soaps with these oils so some of the oil molecules are left behind after the soap cures - going straight to your skin when the soap is used!

So there you have it - soap oils 101. If you have any questions, please ask!

~Dana @ SoapSense

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