Soap making secrets: Why is coconut oil used in soap making?

Soap a l'orangeSoap a l’Orange provides cleansing power thanks to coconut oil

One of my favorite ingredients to use in soap is coconut oil. I’ve used it in every single batch of cold process soap that I’ve made.

Every oil provides a different benefit to soap. Olive oil is conditioning, but doesn’t provide cleaning power. Castor oil helps create bubbly soap, but won’t add hardness to a bar. Soap makers have to think about the unique properties of each oil before creating a batch of soap in the soap lab.

So, why do soap makers love coconut oil? Because it gives soap its cleaning power. It’s a lather making powerhouse that creates big, fluffy bubbles. Lather’s a good thing because it helps draw dirt and oil away from your skin. Coconut oil also helps to create a harder bar of soap.

While coconut oil has wonderful cleansing benefits, it can be irritating when used incorrectly. According to the book, “The Soap Maker’s Companion,” by Susan Miller Cavitch, soap made with a high percentage of coconut oil (over 30% of the total oils in the recipe) can strip away the natural layer of oil that protects our skin. Once that layer is gone, our skin is more susceptible to becoming dry and irritated. Basically, when too much coconut oil is used in a formula, the soap can overclean your skin! (I’ve simplified the explanation. If you’re a nerdy soap maker with a love of science, I highly recommend Susan’s book.)

When coconut oil is used with other moisturizing oils at its optimal concentration, less than 30% of the total oils in the recipe, it’s not drying and helps to make a delightful bar of soap.

Of course, everyone’s skin reacts differently and Emmet Street Creations makes soap with different concentrations of coconut oil.

If you are looking for a gentle soap made with less than 20% coconut oil, try our Beachin, Lemongrass and Green Tea, or Crisp Apple Rose soap. If you like soap that provides big fluffy later, try our Soap á l’orange, Chipotle Caramel, or Peppermint soap. 

Can’t decide which one to try? Try them all and save money with our 3 for $12 special!

Do you have a question about the soap making process? Ask it in the comments or on our Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post. 

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