Oil Attributes Chart for Formulation by Deborah Dolen

Oil Attributes Chart for Formulation in Bath, Body and Soap Crafting Updated 2012 Copyright Deborah Dolen 1999-2012

by Deborah Dolen

The chart is down below this article, but perhaps I can save you some reading by telling you what I like out of all the oils available on the market and why I like them.  I have had experience with all oils.  After my infatuation with every oil known to man, I pared down over the years to a few top favorites.  First, Safflower oil is the easiest to secure, right on your grocery store shelf, is very high in vitamin E and my first choice when I do not have time to order special oils on the internet.   I will use Safflower oil for making lip balm, soap, or even body lotion and creme.   I use Olive oil primarily in cold process soap making.  I love Black Cumin oil for face cleaners.  Black cumin oil is not a carrier per se, and it is not an essential oil.  Even so I will list it here as an oil, I have written extensively about Black Cumin Oil over the years.  Safflower is actually a beautiful vibrant flower [right] whose petals can be used in culinary preparations.

For making lotion and lip balm, Red Raspberry seed oil (cold pressed) is my absolute favorite because the SPF is purported to be as high as 50 SPF and broad spectrum blocking both UVA and UVB the ultra-violet and infra-red rays that can impact skin.  This has never been established by FDA, but some universities and Canadian researchers have said it is. (Oomah et al. 2000).  Not only that but it is well accepted that Red Raspberry Seed Oil is potent in antioxidants.  Very cost prohibitive – because the demand for Red Raspberry seed oil as a supplement (oral) and by Chefs is incredible.  So, RRSO can run $100 a quart or $400 a gallon.   Still I feel Red Raspberry seed oil is the way to go when making lip products and not as expensive due to the amount needed in each formula beign very small.  Other oils purported to have SPF values include Avacado and Sesame Oil.  *Canadian researchers (Oomah et al. 2000).  Although not on this subject of oil, beeswax also posseses a degree of SPF, I think at least 5 but some say 15.

I love Emu Oil as an anti-inflammatory, there was a time I temp did not like it because I figured out it came from cute birds.  But  then I learned those cute birds do make excellent hormone free jerky and have a purpose in our food world.  It is an excellent anti inflammatory, right up there with MSM or DMSO.  [Look up MSM and DMSO because they are awesome natural sulfurs and  life changers for those who suffer from inflammation.]   

Shea Oil, a by product of Shea Butter is another favorite in all phases of my formulation and I really like the Argan oil, although that is another cost prohibitive material that also is limited in availability and competes with the Chef market.

For general dilution of expensive essential oils I like Fractionated Coconut Oil because it has an indefinite shelf life unlike any oil there is.  I get my Fractionated Coconut Oil from Columbus Foods, a division they have known as “Soaper’s Choice.”   I know this company moves a lot of product, so I also know it will be fresh.  This is also where I get my shea butter, shea oil and Vitamin E.

Recently, for hair preparations and some skin care I am loving Silcone oil.  I did not know Silcone oil came from the earth and for some reason thought it was not a natural product.  It is a natural product that is from stone say some, dervived from a chemical process but still organic say others.   

After my visit to London, I also adore Rose Hip oil and Borage oil in skin care preparations, but they go rancid fairly quickly and you must make sure your supplier has it as fresh as they come and stores them properly in cool conditions.

So, as you can see, oils I talked about for a decade are not really the final oils I like now.  Nothing makes the hair or skin softer than Silcone oil, or Emu oil if you want to get specific.  Click here for a full blog I published about Aromatherapy Basics.  For my favorite Lye Calcuator on line, click Cranberry Lane!  Correct Lye calculation is paramount when making cold process or hot process soap.

Aloe Vera Oil

Aloe Vera is renown for its healing properties. Aloe is use for many burn remedies. It is known to penetrate the skin much faster then most other oils. Aloe has been used for many things from anti aging to anti inflammatory pain reliever. It is also believed useful with acne. Normal usage of aloe Vera oil at 5-10% in most soaps, creams, and lotions. 


Argan oil

Aragn oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree, endemic to Morocco, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties.

Apricot Kernal

This oil has been used for centuries in cosmetics as a skin softening agent. It also contains vitamins and minerals and is good for skin that has aged prematurely as well as for sensitive skin

Avocado Oil

This oil is expressed from fruit and has been used in cosmetics for a long time. The oil is more difficult to locate than other oils but can be found in food specialty stores or health food stores. Avocado oil will make soaps rich and very emollient. It contains vitamins, protein, lecithin and fatty acids which make it beneficial for people with dry skin or eczema.  Avocado oil has a high percentage of unsaponifiables, making it an excellent choice to super fat your cold process soap with. It is wonderful in massage oil because of its natural vitamins B1, B2 and A. This oil is cold pressed.

Black Cumin Oil

Is from the Black Cumin seed and very high in antioxidants.  It smells very fresh, natural and “green” like carrot seed oil does. It is not black, per se.  Black cumin oil is like the color of say honey.

Castor Oil

Castor oil is expressed from the seed of the castor bean plant. It is well known to make lots of lather.  The oil adds mildness and richness to soap and is most successfully used in superfatting. You can find this oil at local pharmacies.

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is derived from the seeds of the cocoa tree. It improves the overall consistency of soap, making it both creamy and hard. It has wonderful soothing and emollient qualities. It is widely used as a base in cosmetics. Locate this oil with candy making suppliers.

Coconut Oil

This is the number one oil for soap makers. Used on it’s own, it can tend to dry the skin. It yields a creamy lather and medium hard soap.  I use 30% coconut oil in many soap recipes and no more than that,  I use it because of the great value of its lather.  30% or under I find is not drying.

Emu Oil

One of the most expensive but luxurious oils to use.  100% Emu as the lone ingredient makes a very creamy fairly soft bar of soap.  It is naturally opulent appearing to have mica powder in it.  It does take awhile to trace and several weeks to cure, but very much worth it.

Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionated coconut oil is a fraction of the whole oil, in which the different medium-chain fatty acids are separated for specific uses.  Not good for later beacuse the lauric acid has been removed.  But has an indefinite shelf life and for that reason is a great carrier oil choice. 

Grape Seed Oil

Grape Seed oil is used extensively in the cosmetics industry for it pleasant emollient properties and compatibility with lotions and surfactants. Its soothing and healing effects on the skin have been appreciated for generations. It is widely used for hair conditioning and styling, imparting a rich silky luster and enhancing hair growth. 

Hazelnut Oil

This oil is gentle, non-greasy, and is recommended for very dry skin. The oil is pressed from hazelnuts and is imported from France. The shelf life on this oil is approximately 3 months. It keeps best in the refrigerator. Our oil is food grade and can be used in salads and baking. This oil is excellent in lotions, creams and facial products and is popular in soap as well. Use it alone as a massage oil or combined with jojoba or sweet almond oil.

Hemp Oil

Hemp seed oil is one of the world’s richest sources of polyunsaturated fats, including both of the essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6) and GLA (gamma Linolenic acid),which make it an excellent natural emollient and moisturizer. Body care products containing hemp seed oil can reduce skin discomfort by soothing & restoring dry or damaged skin and increasing the natural moisture retention capacity. With regular use, body care products containing hemp seed oil can help slow down the effects of skin aging and leave the skin smooth, soft and moisturized. In hair care products, hemp seed oil imparts gloss and manageability to hair, bringing relief from dry scalp or hair damage by blow-dryer heat, chemical perms, coloring or sunlight.

Macadamia Nut Oil

Similar composition to the human skin for unique lubricating and emollient properties.   The oil, obtained from the nuts of the macadamia tree, contains a high concentration of palmitoleic acid, and is very similar to mink oil and to the sebum of human skin. No other known plant oil has a similar composition.

Olive Oil

Olive oil makes a very hard bar of mild, gentle, conditioning soap with little bubbles and stable lather. It is slow to trace and is good for sensitive or baby’s skin.

Palm Oil

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the palm tree. It makes a hard bar with stable lather. It hastens trace. It saponifies easily and pulls other oils into saponification more quickly. It should be limited to 20% of the total oils as it may be drying to the skin. If used alone, the resulting soap is brittle with sparse lather.

Palm kernel flakes or oil, not to be confused with palm oil, makes a hard, cleansing, white bar with fluffy lather. It substitutes well for coconut oil. It makes a smooth textured soap. It traces quickly. If it is less than 25% of your total oils, it will make a moisturizing soap; anything more will make a soap that is too drying.

Peanut Oil
It is a good idea to avoid using peanut oil when making soap because some people are very allergic to peanuts.

Pomace Oil

Pomace olive oil is extracted from the residues (from previous pressings), skins and pits (pomace) of olives. It has a high percentage of unsaponifiables and, unlike regular olive oil, tends to put the oils into a quick specification. The final bar of 100% pomace tends to be somewhat softer than those made from virgin or midgrade olive oil.

Primrose Oil

The primary use of Evening Primrose Oil in skincare is to treat eczema, and itchy, dry, or aging skin conditions which are caused in part by the skin’s lack of ability to produce GLA

Red Raspberry Seed Oil

High in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, Red Raspberry Seed oil has been shown to reduce the effects of oxidative stress in skin. Also red raspberry seed oil may act as a broad-spectrum UV-A and UV-B shield.  *Oomah study group.

Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is another unsaturated oil, so it should be used in combination with palm, coconut, or a similar oil. It is valuable for its moisturizing properties.  Very high in vitamin e it has an almost indefinite shelf life.  Easy to get a the local grocery, this is one of my favorite oils.

Sesame Oil

Is rich in vitamin A (protects the skin) and vitamin E. It is high in antioxidants that protect against the sun and air pollution. The sterolins in sesame oil are valuable moisturizers and skin conditioning agents.

Shea Oil

A by product of shea butter,  Shea butter, also known as African karite butter is expressed from the pits of the fruit of the African butter tree. It is high in unsaponifiables, so it is great for superfatting. It makes a hard, shiny, and conditioning bar with stable lather. It traces quickly. Use it in 2-5% of your total fats and oils.

Soybean Oil
Makes a nice, hard bar of soap especially when mixed with olive oil and coconut oil.

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet almond oil comes from the edible almond. It makes a wonderful moisturizing bar of soap when mixed with other oils. It saponifies easily and yields a mild soap with good lather. It will turn rancid quickly if not refrigerated. Make sure you list it in your ingredients for some people are allergic to almonds.  Almond oil is rich in protein and offers relief for itchy or inflamed skin.

Sunflower Oil

Has been used as a skin conditioning agent in Europe for many years, but until recently, it has been little-known in North America. It is rich in vitamin E, and is a good source of lecithin (phospholipids) one of the principal components of human cell membranes (the very cell membranes cosmetic products try to protect and rejuvenate).


Tallow is rendered beef fat. Suet is the hard fat from around the beef kidneys. Suet is the highest quality tallow. It makes a mild soap that cleans well. It adds hardness to soap. If used alone, it makes a brittle soap with sparse lather.

Turkey Red Oil

Turkey red oil is sulfonated castor oil. It has been processed so it mixes with water more easily. It is not recommended for soapmaking.

Vegetable Shortening

See soybean oil.

Vitamin E Oil

Use Vitamin E in your fixed oils to help slow the oxidizing process or use it in your soap and lotions as a wonderful anti-oxidant. This is a thick, viscous oil that is easy to mix into lotions and liquid oils.

Walnut Oil

Walnut Oil is a wonderful emollient oil which is high in linoleic acid and aids with moisturizing dry damaged skin.  Both Hazelnut and Walnut are deep penetrating, nourishing oils. They have an astringent action which stimulates circulation. They are well suited oils for dry skin and we believe, especially good for use on the feet. These oils are a good source of vitamins A, C, and E.


Deborah Dolen is an author living in Bradenton, Florida and an avid writer for Amazon Kindle books.  Please visit Deborah Dolen’s author page on Amazon, Deborah Dolen on Twitter or Deborah Dolen on her blogs. Deborah Dolen’s pen name is Mabel White.  Deborah Dolen’s newest ho to make beauty products blog is at www.deborah-dolen.com


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