The Fatty Acids that Help Your Soap Perform

February 04, 2017 1 Comment

Alpha Linolenic Fatty Acid

It's been a busy week in the soap kitchen this past week; so far, there's about 500 bars of soap on the curing racks. Among them are two new bars of soap: the Activated Charcoal Detoxifying Soap Bar (below) and a Mint Grapefruit Soap Bar.

Activated Charcoal Soap Bar

I'll write a little more about the Charcoal Soap Bar when it is ready. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, the soap shelves will start to look a little fuller!

In addition to making soap, however, I've also spent some time studying. Specifically, this past week I focused on learning more about the various fatty acids that help (or hinder) your soap's performance. Very simply, your soap is made up of a combination of oils on one hand, and a liquid (lye) solution on the other. Soapmakers have hundreds of oils (and butters) at their disposal that they could use to make soap. Each oil or butter is made up of a unique combination of fatty acids that affect how the final soap product will perform. 

Fatty Acids

Three-dimensional representations of several fatty acids. (Credit: The original uploader was (Automated conversion) at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link).

For example, some fatty acids cause soap to lather while other fatty acids kill the lather. Some fatty acids are very moisturizing while others will dry skin out in short order. Some fatty acids clean, and others do not. Some fatty acids will last a long time, while the short life-span of other fatty acids will cause soap to go rancid very quickly. 

Choosing which oils to use in soap making, however, can be like choosing a political candidate: none of them are perfect! The fatty acids that generate lather and clean well are also the ones that will dry out skin. And the fatty acids that provide the best moisturizing qualities are the same ones that will kill the lather, or hardly last a month. The trick for soapmakers is to pull together just the right balance of oils, i.e. fatty acids, to accentuate the positives and minimize the negatives, for the perfect bar of soap.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be putting together a display in the soap shop with some single-oil soap pucks (olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, lard, coffee butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, shea butter, grapeseed oil, peanut oil etc.) for you to see, touch and feel. Tea Tree and Lavender DeodorantThe real difference will be most apparent when you go to use each of the single-oil soap pucks, but still, I think it will be interesting and fun for you to see. When it is completed, I'll post here, as well.

Finally, this last week, I made a second test batch of aluminum-free and baking-soda-free stick deodorant. Following feedback and experience from the first test batch, I've made some modifications, and we're ready to put this one through its paces. This product is still in its testing phase, but if you are interested in an aluminum-free deodorant option, let me know.

1 Response

Soapmaker Hans
Soapmaker Hans

March 30, 2020

Interesting post! Most people do not know about the real power in the fatty acids of the soap.

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