Sunday, December 07th, 2008 | Author:

So here’s the next installment of our deep dive into the nitty gritty of shampoo bars:

What do you find are the pros and cons of different oils when making a shampoo bar? What about olive vs. coconut oil? Also, do you think it likely that castor oil would cause build-up?

It depends on what all of the oils are that are going into the soap and what percentages they are in and thus how they will interact to make the soap. (I’m using the term soap interchangably with shampoo here.) Darn near every single soap that I make has both olive and coconut oil in it so I think that they are both good oils. The issue is the percentage that you use. Olive oil is the only oil in a pure castile soap. It’s the best soap for babies and those with sensitive skin. However, while it will clean you it’s not going to cut grease or suds up like a soap that is made from coconut oil. An all coconut oil soap would be great for washing clothes or dishes etc. but you wouldn’t want to use it on your body because it is way to harsh by it’s self. A soap that has both (so long as there wasn’t too much coconut) and maybe some other oils however would make a great general use soap. So you have to know the purpose of the soap and how the oils will interact with each other when putting together a recipe.

I am not aware of castor oil being more likly to cause build-up. Usually castor oil is added to add a little bubble power to a bar of soap above and beyond what the coconut oil will give you. Castor oil is great as an added oil and is in almost all of my soaps. It is great for conditioning and yet creates a nice bubbly lather without drying the skin.

Different oils have different properties for sure. Coconut oil will make a wonderful lather, but too much may be drying. Olive oil in my opinion is natures greatest creation, a plain castile bar will leave a protective layer on your skin, yet allow it to breathe as well. Castor oil alone may cause a build up, but used in a shampoo bar castor oil is a fabulous humectrant and will rinse away. I’ve also read somewhere that castor oil promotes new hair growth and prevents hair loss.

HeatherRai, Beautiful Soaps
Well Olive and Castor are wonderful for attracting that moisture so many of us need.
Olive oil also does not inhibit any of the normal skin processes we need to accomplish , such as shedding dead skin cells or even sweating, so this is why it is the largest percent of my soap blends.
However by itself, the lather is pretty low and also the soap is pretty soft.

Coconut oil can be pretty drying if too much is used, but it sure helps with lather and hardness so I love using it.
Sweet Almond oil is mild and is emollient and a little goes a long way in soap.
Avocado contains vitamins A, D, E, protein, and so much more nutritionally, and it remains pretty intact throughout the soapmaking process. A little goes a long way with this oil as well.
Shea Butter is the same. It makes it through the rugged change of cold process soapmaking, and come through taking good care of our skin and hair. It is such a wonderful moisturizer for all skin types and also mild.
I use an organic fair trade butter that is not refined, so it can smell a bit strong, but worth it. All the nutrients are still there using this shea.
Palm oil is often used to help a bar harden. Since using too much coconut oil in a formula will by too drying for the skin, palm oil compliments by supplying the hardness and cleaning ability to keep the soap mild.
There are many other oils that are wonderful to work with for conditioning, cleaning, or nutrition, however most do not have a long shelf life, such as hemp or flax.

Some oils have an extremely strong smell, such as that fair trade shea I was discussing earlier. Castor can be strong as well.

So, I think each soapmaker finds what they love and works with it.
For me, I love the oils I use for my work because they all have positive benefits for the skin or hair and scalp. I buy 35 pounds of organic extra virgin olive oil every month or so because it is so worth it to have that in my formulas.
It is harder to work with in soapmaking, but I want the first and finest pressing in my soap, instead of the chemically extracted third pressing.

Following your heart and finding what you love to work with I think is what each of us goes through as soapmakers, and choosing the oils is part of that for us all.
A local soapmaker in my region uses Neem oil in her soap. I thought ‘Neem Oil, how cool’. She is the first one I know that uses that.

So many oils are beneficial, and each of us are unique in our product and choose what we are drawn to.
I dont think there is so much a right or wrong oil, but just like art, what we create with what we love.

When making a shampoo bar I look at creating a hard, long-lasting, soap that lathers well but is not drying. I also look at oils that are known to be good for hair. For example hemp oil and castor oil are known to be good for your hair. I’ve stopped using coconut oil because I personally found it drying. I replaced it with Palm Kernel oil. It gives the same benefits of coconut oil (hard bar with lots of lather) but I find it less drying. Also, olive oil is always a great choice in soaps and shampoo bars. However it doesn’t create a high lather soap on its own. So it’s all about balance in creating the best bar possible. I’ve found castor oil to be a wonderful addition. I use a fairly high percentage of castor oil because of it’s lather-boosting properties. I have not found it to cause build up (at least in my shampoo bar).

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses

  1. Hello! What a thread!

    Yes, using only coconut oil for soap can prove to be too strong. That’s because coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, etc.

    In my opinion, a good rule of thumb to follow is at least 50% of your oil should be coconut oil. Coconut oil makes the best and richest lathering soaps and as mentioned above, naturally antimicrobial. Many soap manufacturers, especially home-made, use coconut oil as their base oil predominantly.

    The other 50% can be for palm oil and/or olive oil or other safe and natural oil. Just remember to use at least 50% coconut oil for the rich lather and antimicrobial benefits.

    Just my two cents.

    Your Drugstore in a Bottle

  2. 2

    Wow, great information, great article idea! Thanks for the write-up.