oils & butters

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fixed oils do not evaporate like essential oil and are often called carrier oils. non volitle (non-essential) oils have many applications including soapmaking, massage oils, and lotions ...just to name a few. this is a list of some of the more available oils [and butters] with their properties and benefits.
note (re: stability and shelf life of unrefined oils) - carrier oils high in saturated fatty acids will be more stable than those high in unsaturated fatty acids. oils high in vitamin e also should have a longer shelf life, as well ...adding vitamin e to a carrier oil will retard rancidity and significantly extend its shelf life.
note (re: soapmaking) - the soapmaking usage recommendations refer to cold process / hot process bar soap and may not be relevant to other soapmaking processes (i.e. cream soap, liquid soap, transparent soap, whipped soap).
-- see "lye table" for a chart listing the oils with their sap, ins, and iodine values
-- see "oil properties" for a chart listing the oils with their component fatty acids.
-- see the "soap calculator" for determining lye and water requirements and analyzing soap formulas.

almond oil, sweet (prunus amygdalus, prunus. dulcis)
sweet almond oil comes from the edible almond and is known for its extra skin conditioning qualities. use this for making lip balms, salt scrubs, lotions, massage oils, or for adding extra lathering qualities to hand-milled and cold-process soaps. sweet almond oil is obtained from the nut of the tree, which is native to asia and the mediterranean. the oil has very little or no scent and is a great nutrient for softening and conditioning the skin.
it's been known to be especially suitable for eczema, itchy, dry and inflamed skin. it's very lubricating, but not penetrating, which makes it a good massage oil, and protectant. contains glucosides, minerals, vitamins a, b1, b2, b6 and e. rich in protein. it will turn rancid quickly if not refrigerated.
note: as with peanut oil, safety dictates including this in your ingredients list for those with allergies to almonds
soapmaking: sweet almond oil is used for superfatting and makes a wonderful moisturizing bar when mixed with other oils. it saponifies easily and yields a mild soap with good lather. use no more than 6% -- (1 ounce per pound of oils).

apricot kernel oil (armeniaca vulgaris, prunis armeniaca)
apricot kernel is a light but rich oil which is particularly helpful for dehydrated, delicate, mature or sensitive skin, as well as for skin that is inflamed or dry; it has great skin softening properties. it has a high vitamin a content. it can be used alone or in lotions, creams, soap, lip balm, massage oils, and salt scrubs. it's light in color and has a faint nutty odor that is extremely pleasant.
soapmaking: apricot kernel oil is used for superfatting; it's a good moisturizer and skin conditioner. use 6% - 12% -- (1 to 2 ounces per pound of oils).

avocado oil (persea americana, persea gratissima)
avocado oil is light in color and fragrance and nourishes and restores dry, dehydrated, and mature skin; it improves elasticity it is a rich, heavy oil that is best blended with other carrier oils. skin problems, especially eczema and psoriasis, respond to its high content of vitamins a and e. avocado oil is added to carrier oils, in a 10% to 20% dilution, as an aid to skin moisturizing.
this is a highly therapeutic oil which is rich in vitamins a, b1, b2, vitamins d and e, protein, pantothenic acid, lecithin, and fatty acids. may be used as a massage oil at approximately 10% dilution. should be kept in a cool place or refrigerated; has an excellent shelf life. this can also be found in butter form.
soapmaking: avocado oil makes a soft bar with stable lather. as with almond oil, a minor amount will impart its benefits; it needn't be a predominant oil in a soap formula. however, when used in higher proportions (up to 30% of the total oils), it produces a bar appropriate for extremely sensitive skin. because of its high percentage of unsaponifiables, it's a great superfatting oil; use 3% to 12% (.5 to 2 ounces per pound of oils).

beeswaxbeeswax has the sweet smell of honey. it adds many wonderful properties to various bodycare products. beeswax makes a harder bar of soap and is also used in creams, lotions, lip balms and candle making.
soapmaking: beeswax contains a high percentage of unsaponifiables. at best, half of these substances participate in the normal soapmaking reaction. you should limit the use of beeswax in the soapmaking process to about 6% (1 ounce per pound of oils).

borage oil (borago officinalis)
borage seed oil is clear and slightly thick with very little odor. it contains an abundance of gamma linoleic acid (gla), an essential fatty acid that the body uses to manufacture prostaglandins - hormone like substances that balance and regulate cellular activity. it reduces the aging process of the skin and reverses damage from ultraviolet rays. it's good for regenerating and stimulating skin cell activity as well as for treating psoriasis and eczema. this oil is also used to treat pms, endometriosis, and menopausal discomforts. it may be used at a 10% to 15% dilution rate. it's very penetrating. it goes rancid very quickly.
soapmaking: a little goes a long way! use as a superfatting agent; add 1 tsp. per pound of oils after trace and just before adding fragrance.

calendula infused oil (calendula officinalis)
a fixed oil is not obtained from this plant but extracts are produced, although not by distillation. the flowers are macerated in virgin olive oil to produce calendula oil which contains the lipid soluble constituents of the calendula flowers, (also known as pot marigold or marybud). the infused oil contains salicilyic acid, carotenoids, phytosterols and is an antiseptic, regenerating, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic.
it has been used to reduce swelling, aid wound and burn healing, helpful for acne, impetigo, eczema, bed sores, bruises, cuts, scratches, varicose or broken veins, gum inflammation, hemorrhoids, and persistent ulcers. it's also effective on rashes, dry, chapped or cracked skin. a common mix is 15% or 25% infused calendula oil, blended with a fixed oil, although some authorities and herbalists use it undiluted or "neat" ...beneficial when used alone on small areas such as facial broken veins or a baby's bottom.
soapmaking: to use for superfatting, add 1 tsp. per pound of oils after trace and just before adding the fragrance. for a greater benefit, use 10% to 20% (of the total oils) at the start of the process.

camelina oil (camelina sativa)
(not to be confused with camellia oil), this oil is also known as false flax or gold-of-pleasure and is high in omega-3 linolenic acid. records of plant cultivation date back as far as the iron age as the oil was used as a source of fuel as well as a skin moisturizer. research shows that camelina oil has good skin softening properties. it's emollient, has good spreading properties, provides lubricity in both hair and skin preparations, and improves skin elasticity. camelina oil can be used as a replacement for sperm whale oil in lipsticks and other solid products.

canola oil (brassica napus, brassica campestris)
canola oil (also known as rapeseed oil), contains vitamins, minerals, is high in gamma linolenic acid (gla). it's odorless and is good for all skin types. it's very light and penetrates skin very quickly. useful for massage. it's very stable and resists rancidity.
note: all canola oil is rapeseed oil, but not all rapeseed oil is canola. rapeseed oil normally has an "erucic acid" content of up to fifty percent. in order for an oil to be called canola, it may have an erucic acid content of no more than two percent. in other words, canola is low erucic acid rapeseed oil. in canola, this higher level of erucic acid is largely replaced by oleic and linoleic acids which increases the sap value over that which would apply to the other rapeseed oils (e.g. ramic, rape, rapeseed). most saponification charts don't account for this and treat rapeseed and canola as one and the same. be aware that canola takes a slightly higher sap (192) than the other rapeseed oils (173.7). [for the average north american consumer], this doesn't present too great a problem since canola is the only type of rapeseed oil readily available.
soapmaking: Canola oil creates a conditioning soap with stable lather. without saturated fatty acids, high-oleic acid canola oil can be slower to saponify ...so it needs to be (should be) mixed with other oils (up to 50%) to speed up saponification. its benefits include a low cost and a rancidity-resisting stability, as well as a contribution of protein and moisturizing qualities.

castor oil (ricinus communis l.)
this oil, derived from the castor bean and obtained by cold pressure, is rich in fatty acids, (contains glyceride of ricinoleac, iso-ricinoleac, and lesser amounts of stearic, linoleic and dehydroxysteric acids),and is very moisturizing and lubricating to the skin in general, especially helpful to dry, chapped skin. it's said to soften corns and callouses, prevent scars. helpful to dry, chapped skin. it acts as a humectant, attracting moisture to the skin. castor oil packs applied with warm flannel are believed effective for pain relief and to "draw out" cysts, boils and warts.
ayurvedic medicine has long used castor oil for lumbago, sciatica and rheumatism. in the canary islands the oil is used to prevent sore nipples in nursing mothers and is also rubbed onto their scalps to prevent post natal hair loss. traditionally used in shampoo bars and other soaps this oil has been used in salves, body balms, and liquid lip products. it's often used in making transparent soaps. use at 10% dilution; avoid use during pregnancy.
turkey-red oil (sulfated castor oil) is water dispersible and may be used as a base for essential oil baths - it will disperse (itself and the essential oils) in the water and not float on top. this oil is not recommended for soapmaking
soapmaking: castor oil is rarely used as the sole oil in a soap formula; without other oils, it produces a transparent, soft sticky soap with sparse lather. in combination with other oils (i.e. coconut, palm), it produces a wonderfully emollient, rich, conditioning, hard bar. it is quick to trace. castor oil is great for superfatting; the recommended limit is 6% (1 ounce per pound of oils), but it can be used at a higher rate with the base oils (no more than 30%). it's great when making a shampoo bar because it moisturizes and makes a creamy, frothy, stable lather.

cocoa butter (theobroma cacao)
pressed cocoa butter is the fat which is obtained by hydraulic pressing of cocoa nib or cocoa mass (cocoa liquor) obtained from cocoa beans. it could be filtered or centrifuged. if deodorized, it's by steam and/or vacuum. depending on the refining process, the deodorized variety may be yellow or white.
all types are fabulous for balms, lotions, creams, and soaps because of cocoa butter's softening and skin-healing properties. if you need to make a harder bar of soap, cocoa butter may be the answer for you. most lip balms and massage butters require cocoa butter for feel and firmness. it's the perfect massage oil to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
soapmaking: cocoa butter makes a creamy, hard, conditioning bar with stable lather. a formula with an excessive amount of cocoa butter produces a bar that's [overly] hard and prone to cracking. limit cocoa butter to around 15% of your total oils. cocoa butter can be used to counterbalance the stickiness of certain fats such as shea butter and lanolin.

coconut oil (cocos nucifera)
coconut oil is obtained from copra, the dried "meat" of coconut. distillers separate the copra from the hull of the coconut. it is dried, crushed, and then expressed to remove the oil. its saturated nature resists rancidity; it has a virtually unlimited shelf life.
76° f coconut oil: this form of the oil becomes a liquid at 76° f and, depending on the source, can be semi-liquid or solid at room temperature. a percentage of coconut oil in cosmetics is moisturizing; too much of it can be drying.
soapmaking: coconut oil is a gift! it has changed soapmaking more dramatically than any other vegetable oil, and its discovery has led to higher grade soaps. it has wonderful lathering and moisturizing qualities, without which any soap recipe would be lacking. it makes a very hard, cleansing bar and is quick to trace. its low molecular weight allows for high solubility and a quick, creamy, bubbly, fluffy lather, even in cold seawater. limit usage to 25% - 30% of the total oils or the resulting soap will be too drying ...for normal skin.
fractionated (refined) coconut oil: this oil is produced by heat, rather than cold pressing (using hydrolysis or high pressure), and is usually deodorized since it's natural odor is rather intense. this liquid, clear, odorless coconut oil will not solidify. this is a favorite of skin care professionals and of massage therapists as it will not stain sheets and clothing. it's quickly absorbed by the skin, glides easily and never leaves a greasy feeling. fantastic for overall body oil. according to some authorities, this oil is the closest substance to human sub-cutaneous fat and more compatible with skin than vegetable oils. it can't clog pores, making it an ideal carrier for oily or troubled skin. it is used for dryness, itching, and sensitive skin.
virgin coconut oil: this oil, with the true and full smell of coconut oil, is processed using a centrifuge and gravity. the coconut is harvested and the milk is extracted by centrifuge with a density separator. it has the most intoxicating coconut fragrance one could ask for. its texture is a soft-solid with a creamy texture while at room temperature. use straight on the skin, as lip balm, to blend with other fixed and/or essential oils, and in creams and lotions. it's used as a tanning aid for those who like to tan without any protection. use as a sexual lubricant or all over body oil. massage into hair for a truly moisturizing treatment prior to shampooing.

corn oil (zea mays)
corn oil is soothing on all skin types. it contains proteins, vitamins, minerals and can be used at 100%.

cottonseed oil (gossypium)
cottonseed oil has good emollient properties and produces thick and lasting lather in soap. it can be vulnerable to spoilage, (the degree to which is dependant on the season), so use in minimal quanties. maximum recommended usage is 25% of the total oils.

emu oil (dromiceius novaehol-landiae)
an emu is a flightless, grey-feathered ratite bird of australia, closely related to the ostrich. the oil comes from a thick pad of fat on the back of the bird that was initially provided by nature to protect the animal from the extreme temperatures of its australian homeland. the color of the yellow therapeutic grade emu oil is due to the natural diet of the animal; the flocks are raised specifically for the purposes of providing food and oil. the lighter colored soapmaking grade emu oil comes from flocks on a different diet. the yellow oil is rendered at a slightly higher temperature compared to the white or soapmaking grade oil.
emu oil is found in muscle pain relievers, skin care products, and natural soaps. it's also a great addition to balms, creams and lotions. some of its properties are: anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, skin regenerative, moisturizing. it's high in oleic acid (oleic acid has better skin-penetrating qualities than vegetable oils), and it doesn't clog pores; it penetrates through several layers of skin.
when first applied to the skin, it feels greasy; however, within 5 to 10 minutes one notices that the oil is slowly being absorbed by the skin leaving a great feeling of overall smoothness on the skin. you can use it straight or you can add essential oils of your choice. the bottle of emu oil should be shaken ever so lightly to mix the contents prior to each use.
soapmaking: when used in soap at 10% to 20%, emu oil will make a hard bar with stable moisturizing lather. however, because of its high cost, it's usually used at [up to] 6% (1 ounce per pound of oils) as a superfatting oil.

evening primrose oil (oenothera biennis)
this is a pale yellow oil with a pleasant, light and nutty taste. it's extremely helpful in treating menstrual, pre-menstrual and menopausal problems. also helpful in treating eczema and psoriasis. helps to prevent prematurely aged skin, aids wound healing. it's useful in treating allergic skin problems and any sort of dermatitis. its healing action results from its high content of gamma linolenic acid (gla), an essential fatty acid that is vital to cell and body functions and not produced by the body itself.
add to any creams, lotions, and balms. use at 10% for massage. it goes rancid quickly so it should be stored in a cool place or refrigerated.
soapmaking: a little goes a long way! use as a superfatting agent; add 1 tsp. per pound of oils after trace and just before adding fragrance.

flaxseed oil (linum usitatissimum)
this oil (also known as linseed oil), smells like melted butter, is high in efa, and contains gla, linolenic acid, oleic acid (omega 3 and omega 9), vitamins, minerals. internally, is said to reduce cholesterol. externally, it's useful for oily skin, acne, psoriasis, and eczema. it's high vitamin e content makes it useful for preventing scarring and stretch marks. use at 10% - 50%. despite being high in vitamin e, it goes rancid quickly.

foraha oil (calophyllum inophyllum)
foraha is also know as tamanu, kamanu, and alexandrian laurel. this beautiful opalescent green, cold-pressed, slightly waxy oil is rich and thick, with a delicate nutty or spicy smell. it contains vitamin f, lipids, glycerides and saturated fatty acids. it stimulates cell regeneration and is good for fragile or broken capillaries. used as a traditional medicine [in the south pacific] for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and cicatrizant properties. useful for sciatica.
formerly, foraha was used to treat leprosy. it helps wounds to heal and is soothing for eczema and skin irritations such as burns, rashes, and insect bites. it's used as an aid for relieving pain, herpes lesions, skin ulcers, post-surgical scars, and physical and chemical burns. a combination of foraha and ravensara aromatica essential oil has been used successfully as a treatment for shingles.
rarely used as a carrier oil due to its quite thick consistency, but may be part of a blend with other carrier oils. it's highly recommended as a facial oil, either alone or with essential oils added. use with caution on sensitive skin; it may be irritating.

grapeseed oil (vitis vinifera)
this darker green oil is an ecologically sound product that is made from the seeds of grapes after the wine is pressed. this oil is nearly impossible to extract through cold pressure due to its very low oil yield.
grapeseed oil is very rich in vitamins and minerals (high in vitamin e), protein, and is 76% essential fatty acid (linoleic acid, aka omega 6). it is low in saturated fat, contains natural chlorophyll and valuable antioxidants (known as proanthocyninidins), and has a good shelf life.
it's a light and penetrating oil; the skin absorbs it easily. it's used for massage and in lotions, balms, creams, and soap. also makes great salt and sugar scrubs. it is widely used for hair conditioning and styling, imparting a rich silky luster and enhancing hair growth. it has no perceptible odor. since it is slightly astringent, it tightens and tones the skin. will not aggravate acne. good for all skin types. use at 100%.
soapmaking: use 3% to 6% (1 to 2 tbsp. per pound of oils) as superfat added at trace.

hazelnut oil (corylus avellana)
hazelnuts yield a pale amber oil with a pleasant aroma. it contains vitamins, minerals, proteins, oleic and linoleic acid; its composition is similar to almond oil for which it's often substituted.
this is the only fixed nut oil with an astringent quality, making it beneficial for use on oily skin. it tones and tightens and helps maintain firmness and elasticity. it absorbs quickly and is useful as a base for oily or acne-prone skins. it helps to strengthen capillaries so it may be useful against thread veins. it encourages cell regeneration, stimulates circulation. it has been used internally in cases of urinary stones, kidney colic and tapeworms. may be used full strength or in 10% to 15% dilution.
soapmaking: because of its low percentage (7%) of saturated fats, this oil is very slow to saponify, so use no more than 20%, counterbalanced with oils containing saturated fats.

hemp seed oil (cannabis sativa)
this is one of the more effective skin-care oils with a wonderful nutty smell. hemp seed oil is derived from the seed of the plant cannabis sativa, (aka marijuana), and least known for its many productive uses. hemp seed oil has none of the intoxicating properties of the leaves. since hemp cannot be legally grown in the u.s., the supply of its oil is low and the price high. hemp seeds produce a vegetable oil that is high in protein and can be used within a variety of foods and cosmetics. it's used in lotions and creams; it's darker green color give a warm and earthy look to body butters.
its high linoleic and linolenic acid contents make it vulnerable to spoilage. alpha linolenic, linoleic and oleic acids-the essential fatty acids known as the omegas-make up 88% of the total fatty-acid content. this oil requires cool, dark, oxygen-free storage conditions. an unopened container can be stored in the deep freezer indefinitely, in the refrigerator for a year, and 4 to 6 weeks at room temperature. an opened container will last for 10 to 12 weeks in the refrigerator; and, at room temperature, should be used within two weeks.
soapmaking: this oil is highly unsaturated; limit use to 25% of the total oils, (which should include oils with saturated fatty acids). hemp seed oil imparts silkiness to soap ...even in small amounts. use around 6% (1 oz. per pound of oils) as a superfat at trace, or as much as (but no more than) 25% of your base oils.

illipe butter (shorea stenoptera)
this is a solid fat that is light yellow in color and has a mild nutty scent. it's great in creams and lotions and in body butters. closely resembles cocoa butter but with a higher melting point. use up to 25% in lotions and creams and up to 100% in body butters.

jojoba (simmondsia chinensis, simmondsia californica)
jojoba is very similar in composition to human natural skin oils. it can be decolored (clear) and/or deodorized. it can be pasteurized and then filtered to prevent bacteria growth. pure jojoba is a beautiful golden amber with its own aroma, which will vary slightly from one crop to the next. it contains protein, minerals, plant wax, and myristic acid. it also contains the seed's own anti-oxidants, is non-allergenic and won't stain linens or clothing. since it has antioxidant properties, it can keep other oils from going rancid. jojoba oil is similar to, and has replaced, sperm whale oil.
pure jojoba is the extract of seeds produced by the jojoba plant and is expeller pressed, once. no solvents are used during this process. although referred to as an oil, it is actually an extract, a wax ester that's liquid at room temperature.
jojoba oil penetrates the skin rapidly to nourish it; also softens and moisturizes mature and dry skin and restores elasticity to any dry skin area.. jojoba helps to heal inflamed skin conditions such as psoriasi, eczema, or any form of dermatitis. it helps control acne, oily skin and scalps since excess sebum is actually dissolves in jojoba. because of the anti-inflammatory properties (myristic acid), this could be a good base oil for treating rheumatism and arthritis. because it penetrates skin so rapidly, it's not a good massage oil.
it is highly concentrated, don't apply it like a lotion. put a small drop on the back of your hand and massage it in until you learn how much works for you. it's good for all skin types and gentle enough for newborn babies. it can clog pores. may be used full strength or in 10% dilution.
soapmaking: jojoba makes a conditioning bar with stable lather, adding luxury to any soap formula. it will accelerate trace. because of its expense, it's usually used as a superfatting agent. use from 6% to 12% (1 to 2 ounces per pound of oils).

kukui nut oil (aleurites moluccana)
this oil was first brought to hawaii by early polynesian settlers. kukui nut oil is high in linoleic, linolenic, and oleic acid essential fatty acids. it offers good protection for outdoor sports and is excellent for skin conditioning after sun exposure. it helpful for treating acne, eczema, psoriasis, hemorrhoids, and dry/wrinkled skin. it's excellent for chapped skin and may prevent scarring. it's quickly absorbed into the skin. it offers just the right amount of lubrication without leaving a greasy feeling. use in a 10% to 15% dilution. works well in lotions and creams.
soapmaking: kukui nut oil is expensive, but a little goes a long way. superfat with 1 tsp. per pound of oils added after trace and before fragrance. a higher percentage (10% to 20%) of the total oils added at the beginning of the process produces an outstanding bar.

lanolin lanolin exists as a natural oil on the skin and in the fibre of sheep's wool; it acts as a waterproof raincoat to the animal. it is separated from the shorn sheep's wool after each spring clipping and is the only [human compatible] animal oil that's obtainable without having to kill or dissect the animal. it's a wonderful emollient that resembles the sebaceous secretions of our own skin.
pure natural lanolin is too thick and too greasy for the skin. ultrafine (read processed), anhydrous lanolin is light in color and has very little odor and is excellent for luxury soaps and lip balm. lanolin is temperature sensitive, keep temperatures around 110° f when adding to soap, lotions and creams. lanolin soaps are often described as dreamy. lanolin is used as an emulsifier for lotions and creams because it can hold 2 times its own weight in water.
soapmaking: 3% to 6% (1 to 2 tbs. per pound of oils) can be added to the melting fats at the beginning of the process or at trace as a superfat.

macadamia nut oil (macadamia integrifolia, macadamia tetraphylla, macadamia ternifolia )
the macadamia tree is native to australia and is also known as queensland nut oil. this cold pressed oil, which contains about 80% monounsaturated fatty acids (including 60% oleic acid), is high in palmitoleic acid, higher than other vegetable oils. palmitoleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid that acts as an antioxidant, preventing deterioration of cell membranes.
it softens, hydrates and tones dry and/or mature skin, and is gentle. it's a skin lubricant and is so easily absorbed, it's sometimes described as a "vanishing oil". it's helpful in cases of sunburn and wound healing. it also has a mild laxative action.
because of the oil's high monounsaturation, macadamia nut oil has a long shelf life and good resistance to rancidity. it's good for all skin types; it's a great massage oil and also works well in lotions and creams.
soapmaking: although this oils produces a wonderfully emollient soap, it is expensive and, just like the nut, you will undoubtedly save it for special ocassions. it is, however, very stable and has a long shelf life. because of the expense, it's usually used as a superfat: 1 ounce (per pound of oils) at trace.

mango butter (mangifera indica)
mango butter is taken from the seed kernels of the fruit of the mango tree. it is similar in texture to shea butter and is much softer than cocoa butter. it has a buttery feel at body temperature. it has a very light yellow/mango color and is great in lotions, creams, and soap.
soapmaking: mango butter is slightly more solid than shea butter but gives the same characteristics to soap. the recommended usage is up to 15% of your base oils or 5% added at trace for superfatting.

olive oil (olea europaea)
olive oil is slightly green owing to the retention of trace amounts of chlorophyll and contains protein, minerals, vitamins. like avocado oil, olive oil is prone to solidify when cold. olive oil is a very good moisturizer because it attracts external moisture, holds the moisture close to the skin, and forms a breathable film to prevent loss of internal moisture. unlike so many other moisturizing substance, olive oil, (and this is also true of shea butter), does not inhibit the skin's natural and necessary functions, the ability to continue sweating, release sebum and shed dead skin. olive oil has the properties of being calming, demulcent and emollient and can be used pure or in blends for burns, sprains, bruises, insect bites, to relieve itchy skin, and to massage the gums of people suffering from pyorrhoea. it's also used for rheumatic conditions, hair care, cosmetics; nail & hair care, and helpful for inflamed or acne skin. works well in soaps, lotions, creams; it's strong odor will affect how it's used. traditionally it was used to produce macerated oils.
soapmaking: olive oil produces a soap that is extremely mild and gentle (enough for very sensitive skin and even babies), however the lather is slow and stingy. it is slow to trace. formulas containing small percentages of other oils (i.e. coconut and palm) for lather and hardness are still referred to as "castille", although, technically speaking, the term refers to soap made with 100% olive oil. soap made of 100% pomace tends to be somewhat softer than that made from virgin or midgrade olive oil.

palm oil (elaeis guinnesis)
palm oil (also known as vegetable tallow) is produced from the pulp or flesh of the fruit of the oil palm. palm oil contains equal portions of both saturated (44% palmitic -- a much higher proportion than most other fats and oils; 5% stearic) and unsaturated (39% [monounsaturated] oleic; 10% [polyunsaturated] linoleic) fatty acids ...the oleic acids being the major fatty acids produced by the body.
palm oil is a natural source of vitamin e, (the tocopherols and tocotrienols), is a rich source of beta-carotene, and an important source of vitamin a. palm oil is physically and chemically different from either palm kernel or coconut oil and should not be considered similar to these oils.
palm oil adds firmness to bar soaps and gives it a pale straw color; it's used in many expensive luxury soaps.
soapmaking: many, if not most, soap formulas contain palm oil. it produces a luxurious, hard bar with stable lather and quickens trace ...so much so that in formulas with very high percentages of palm, you have to incorporate your additions (after trace) rather swiftly before the soap begins to set up. it pulls other oils into saponification more quickly. if used alone, the resulting soap is brittle with sparse lather. typical usage is around 30% of the base oils, but more (or less) could be used without adverse effects.

palm kernel oil (elaeis guineensis)
this oil is obtained from the kernels, taken from the cracked nuts of the palm. this oil contains large proportions of lauric acid, its chemical composition is quite different from that of palm oil, and is used chiefly for soapmaking.
soapmaking: this oil is often used in place of (or in combination with) coconut oil to give the same incredible lather. it traces quickly and makes a smooth textured soap, producing a very hard, cleansing bar that is snow white in color. palm kernel oil is commonly used in expensive luxury soaps. like coconut, the usage quantity should not exceed 25% - 30%; a little is moisturizing, too much can be drying. also, the limitation of the quantity prevents the soap from developing a odor characteristic of the oil.

peanut oil (arachis hypogeae)
this heavy weight, emollient oil is used for arthritis and sunburn. it's slow penetrating quality makes it excellent as a massage oil. because of its strong odor, it's usually used as an additive.
note: as with peanuts, some people are extremely allergic to this oil; safety dictates including this in the list of ingredients.
soapmaking: this oil produces soap that is too soft with a lather, albeit stable, that is weak and slimy. like olive oil, peanut oil is highly unsaturated and, like olive oil, it works well when combined with other oils (i.e. coconut for lather, palm for hardness). the usage rate is 10% to 20%. however, (because of the large percentage of unsaturated fats), soap made with large proportions of peanut oil is vulnerable to rancidity. therefore the usage rate should not exceed 20% of your total oils.

pumpkin seed oil (cucurbita pepo)
this ultra refined oil is light in color and obtained by cold, expeller press method. it's great for lip balms, soaps, lotions, and exceptional in a cuticle cream.

rosehip seed oil (rosa mosqueta, rosa rubignosa, rosa rubirosa, rosa canina)
rosa mosqueta grows wild in the southern andes (chile) as well as other parts of the world. the oil is cold pressed from the amber seeds inside the hips and is oil high in essential fatty acids, gla (between 30% and 40% gamma linoleic acid, which has valuable uses in treating skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis), and vitamin c.
can be used neat, as a massage oil, as a carrier oil, or added to other vegetable/nut oils as part of a blend. this oil reduces scarring, is prophylactic after burns or trauma, softens scars and keloids, and is good for treating over pigmented skin (brown spots). it can help diminish broken capillaries and ulcerated veins. it produces rapid healing of the inflammation, darkening and dermatitis caused by radiation. it's excellent for very dry skin, scaly fissured skin, dull skin and is the best antiaging oil. however, it may aggravate acne or blemished skin. this oil turns rancid quickly and should be stored in a cool place or refrigerated.
soapmaking: a little goes a long way! use as a superfatting agent; add 1 tsp. per pound of oils after trace and just before adding fragrance.

safflower oil (carthamus tinctorius )
this very light, odorless oil contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, and is high in linoleic acid. it's good for all skin types and is helpful for painful sprains, bruises, and inflamed joints, although it's seldom used in aromatherapy. it turns rancid very quickly.
soapmaking: [unsaturated] safflower oil produces a bar that is very conditioning due to the high percentage of linoleic acid. usually used at 10% to 15% of your total oils, it should be limited to no more than 20%; using more produces a soap that is proportionately slower to trace and longer to harden [during curing].

sal butter (shorea robusta)
also known as shorea butter, this firm but pliant butter is rendered from the seed of the shorea robusta tree grown in india. due to its uniform triglyceride compositon, it exhibits high oxidative and emulsion stability, and good skin softening properties. it's solid at room temperature but melts readily at skin temperatures making it ideal for sticks and balms. this smooth butter has a low odor and is suitable for soaps, lotions, creams, and butters.
soapmaking: use 3% to 6% as a superfat.

sesame oil (sesamum indicum)
this oil is thick and has a strong odor. it's rich in vitamins and minerals, proteins, lecithin, and amino acids. its vitamin e content gives the oil excellent stability. some of its recommended uses are for psoriasis, eczema, arthritis, rheumatism, and as a skin softener. it's an oil which is gaining a lot of popularity as a tanning oil. it's recommended that this oil be used as a base or in a 10% to 15% dilution. sesame oil is used for its moisturizing qualities in soaps, lotions, and creams.
soapmaking: because of the high percentage of oleic and linoleic acids, a soap formula should only contain a limited amount of sesame oil (around 10%), balanced with [oils like] coconut oil and palm oil -- for lather, quicker saponification, and a harder bar. because of its skin softening properties, it's also a good superfatting oil -- 3% to 6% added at trace.

shea butter (butyrospermum parkii)
shea butter is also called african karité butter. this refined butter, expressed from the pits of the fruit of the african butter tree, is smooth, creamy, and white. shea is extremely gentle to all skin types, gentle enough for babies and people with sensitive skin. it soothes, softens, and nourishes as it moisturizes. shea butter can be used alone for massage or as a body butter, or added to soap, lip balm, lotions, and creams -- it gives a very luxurious feel to the finished product.
soapmaking: shea butter is high in unsaponifiables, so it's great for superfatting. it traces quickly and makes a hard, conditioning bar with stable lather. to incorporate shea butter into the soap formula (2% to 5% of your total oils), combine it with the other oils at the beginning of the process. to superfat with shea, (1 tsp. per pound of oils), add it after trace and just before adding the scent.

a note on fractionation: fractionation (also known as graining) occurs when shea butter has been heated and then cooled. graining does not make the shea butter bad or harmful, however it does effect the appearance and the texture (feeling gritty as opposed to smooth and creamy.
when shea butter is refined the prevention of graininess is achieved by quick cooling. consequently, when using shea butter, heat it with your other ingredients just until everything is melted and can be mixed thoroughly. then cool the [lip balm or body butter] quickly. quick cooling can be accomplished by pouring into cool containers, pouring shallowly, cool room temperatures, or refrigeration (do not use the freezer) to firm the product you've just made. graining of shea butter is not a problem in soaps and lotions.
caution: there are some vendors who suggest that you heat shea butter to 170° f for a period of 45 minutes to prevent graininess. this can be very damaging to the shea butter and will drastically reduce the shelf life as well. worst of all, it doesn't not work; the shea butter will still become grainy with the addition of heat ...body temperature alone will start this reaction.

shea oil: shea is also produced as an oil -- it's basically the butter with the stearic acid removed. it has the same properties as the butter but with the benefit that it won't fractionate or crystalize when used in balms and butters. for soapmaking, the usage rate is the same as for the butter.

soybean oil (glycine soja)
this oil, which is usually solvent extracted, contains protein, minerals, vitamin e, and lecithin. it's a light oil with a mild scent. if hydrogenated, it's solid at room temperature. it's good for all skin types; it does not aggravate acne or oily skin. however, it may be a sensitizer.
soapmaking: as a liquid, soybean oil produces a soft bar that is prone to rancidity; it should be used with other harder oils. usage rate should be no more than 10% to 20%. in its hydrogenated form, soybean oil produces a hard white bar. it's an excellant "filler" and can be used for as much as half of your total fats...to keep costs down. it's best used in combination with other oils like coconut (oil for a fluffy lather), and olive oil (for skin conditioning). although the sap value of both forms is the same, hydrogenation brings the iodine value down from 124-132 (for the liquid) to 70-95 (for the solid "vegetable shortening").

stearic acid stearic acid occurs naturally in butter acids, tallow, and other animal fats and oils. a white waxy natural fatty acid, it is a major ingredient used in making bar soap and lubricants. it gives pearliness to hand creams.

sunflower oil (helianthus annuus)
sunflower oil contains vitamins a, c, d, and e, minerals, lecithin, and inulin, a high linoleic acid content, and is high in unsaturated fatty acids with few saturated fatty acids. it has a light texture and is pleasant to use.
this oil is easily absorbed and can be used on all skin types. its high vitamin e content makes it especially helpful for delicate and dry skin. it has a protective effect on the skin and is healing when applied to leg ulcers, bruises and skin diseases. it's used to treat diaper rash and cradle cap. many soapmakers use sunflower oil as a less expensive alternative to olive oil. it's great for use in soaps, lotions, and creams.
the shelf live of this oil is very short -- 3 to 6 months, however if advertised as "high oleic", it will have all the benefits of sunflower oil but with a longer shelf life.
soapmaking: as with safflower oil, this is an unsaturated oil and is best used with other [saturated fat] oils for quicker tracing and faster hardening. limit use to 15% of your total base oils. the iodine value of the regular oil is 119-138, however the iodine of the "high oleic" variety is 85.

wheat germ oil (triticum spp)
this thick, sticky oil contains protein, minerals, and vitamins e, a and d. it's very rich in vitamin e, which is a natural antioxidant. based on this, it can be used as a preservative. some people do use it as a preservative, adding it to other carrier oils, soaps and toiletries. others totally disagree as to its preservative powers, believing that if it has been used successfully as an antioxidant, it is purely because the original oil contained synthetic antioxidants commonly added at the source of production. in any event, refrigeration is recommended.
wheat germ oil can be used to nourish dry or cracked skin and soothes skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis; also helps to prevent and reduce scarring and may prevent stretch marks. particularly beneficial to mature [and prematurely aged] skin. it's also known to be beneficial for tired muscles, making a good base for after sport massage. use at 10% dilution.
caution: people with wheat or gluten allergies or related diseases may have [potentially severe] reactions to wheat germ oil.
soapmaking: as a superfat, use 1 - 2 tbs. per pound of oils (3% - 6%), added at trace.