Most soaps that require olive oil are a variety known as "cold process" or "hot process." These soaps combine lye, chemically known as "sodium hydroxide," water and fatty acids. During the process, the fatty acids in the form of oils mix with the lye to create the soap. Olive oil is used for its soothing, gentle properties.
Qualities of Olive Oil
Pure olive oil soap is gentle enough to use on babies. The lather it produces is mild and has been described by some as "slimy." It is a very mild cleanser when used to make soap and has moisturizing properties that do not clog pores. Olive oil very rarely causes an allergic reaction and is often used in combination with other oils, such as palm or coconut oil, to produce a harder soap that lathers more. Lower-grade olive oils are considered the best for soap making, and extra virgin olive oil the worst because more of the fatty acids needed to make soap are found in the lower grades of oil. Olive oil is produced by pressing or squeezing the olives themselves until the oil is extracted.
Jojoba oil is extracted from the seeds of the jojoba bush. The waxy oil mimics a substance produced by our own bodies, sebum, and is not likely to clog pores or cause an allergic reaction. It is moisturizing and has a very light scent. Like olive oil, jojoba oil has excellent moisturizing properties, and studies performed by Christensen and Packman have shown it to be hypoallergenic. Because of these qualities, jojoba oil is considered an adequate substitute for olive oil in the soap-making process.
Rice Bran Oil
Rice bran oil is claimed to be a less expensive alternative to olive oil. Chemically similar to olive oil, rice bran oil is extracted from the inner husks and germ of rice. Like olive oil, it produces a very soft and mild soap with a light, filmy lather. It does not clog pores and has been touted as hypoallergenic. Rice bran oil is a very mild cleanser, and as of 2009, is only about two-thirds the price of olive oil.
Sweet Almond Oil
Like olive oil, sweet almond oil produces very little lather on its own. It is mild and has the same conditioning properties as olive oil. Unlike olive oil, the little lather that sweet almond oil does produce has been described as creamy and luxurious. Sweet almond oil is generally more expensive than olive oil and is chemically dissimilar. Sweet almond oil is extracted from the seeds of the white flowering almond tree. Do not use sweet almond oil if you are allergic to tree nuts, as it could cause an adverse allergic reaction.
- Soap Making Resource: Olive Oil Soap Making Tutorial
- Seventh International Conference on Jojoba and Its Uses; Skin Surface Softening Effects of Jojoba and Its Derivatives; M. S. Christensen and E. W. Packman; January 1989
- Botanical.com - A Modern Herbal - Almonds
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