The fatty acids we are concerned with for soap making are: lauric, myristic, palmitic, stearic, ricinoleic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids. Each brings properties to the process of soapmaking and the finished product. We will discuss each of them, one per post.
The first fatty acid is lauric acid. Lauric acid is a saturated fat and a medium-chain fatty acid, made up of a twelve atom carbon chain. What does this mean to you? Oils high in lauric acid will make soap that gets hard and offers mounds of fluffy bubbles for your bathing pleasure. It also creates a super cleansing bar. The flip side of this wonderful fatty acid is that it will not contribute to a long-lasting bar and its cleansing level is high enough to be unpleasantly drying for most bathers.
Which oils are high in lauric acid? Of the primary oils employed for soap, coconut, babassu and palm kernel oil (not palm oil) are highest. Of the lesser known, less available or expensive oils, cohune, tucuma and murumuru butter are also high in lauric acid. (http://soapcalc.net/calc/OilList.asp)
Hardness and good lather are important to most soapmakers and their customers, so oils high in lauric acid are typically used at 20 - 30% in the formula, whether the soapmaker chooses one of the high-oleic oils or a combination of oils.
Of course, no usage rate rule is actually a rule. Exceptions abound and for a number of reasons; therefore, consider them guidelines only. Let experience and purpose guide the actual formula.
Stay tuned! The next blog post is all about myristic acid.
If you are participating in the soap design contest, best wishes for success! Contest rules and dates are in the May 2017 issue.
May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne, for Making Soap, Cosmetics & Candles
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