Thinking Geeky Thoughts

Just thinking out loud on a Monday night… you know — about fatty acid profiles of oils and butters.

Those of you who make cold process soaps are probably somewhat familiar with this concept, although it can be applied to lotion making and bath and body products as well.

Fatty acids are essential fats contained in our carrier oils and cosmetic butters.   They are called “essential” fats because our body needs them.  You may have heard of “Omega-3” and “Omega-6” – these are two types of fatty acids.  (You may have also heard of the Omega-13 if you have seen the movie “Galaxy Quest”, but that is off topic).

As important as they are in the diet, the can also be beneficial in skin care.

There are many types of fatty acids, but the ones we are mainly concerned with for skin care are as follows.  These are the notes I have been taking concerning each one of them.

Lauric Penetrating, antiviral, antibacterial, antiaging, antioxidant
Myristic Penetrating, antimicrobial, skin flexibility, moisture retention, skin repair, thickener, antiviral, anti-inflammatory
Palmitic Moisturizing, thickens soaps and lotions, can be drying
Stearic Skin flexibility, moisture retention, skin repair, thickener, antiviral, anti-inflammatory
Riconllenic Humectant, drier, more viscous oil, analgesic, antibacterial
Oleic Repairs normal skin barrier function, moisturizing, Longer shelf life, anti-inflammatory, good absorption, occlusive (seals in moisture), antiaging
Linoleic Promotes normal skin barrier functions, reduces skin scaling, anti acne, moisture retention, anti-inflammatory, shorter shelf life than oleic acids, lighter and drier feeling oil than high oleic,  ideal for those with acne
Linolenic Skin lightening, improves skin barrier, improved skin tone, reduces inflammation, cell regenerating, elasticity


I have also been reading about the types of fatty acids that appear to be good for different skin types:

Dry or Mature Skin Oleic
Sensitive Skin Mix of Oleic & Linoleic
Acne / Oily Skin Linoleic (avoid too much oleic and capric (coconut/palm)
Skin tone, lightening Linolenic


Ok, good so far, but how do you use this information?   Well, I have been thinking about my oil choices for my products.   In general, I don’t believe there is a “bad” combination, but as you can see above, there are some types that are “better” choices, depending on what you are formulating your recipe to pander to.


Take for example, this combination of oils.   You can see that the first two oils are not penetrating, but offer a good amount of Oleic acid (good for dry or aging skin).  Apricot kernel also contains a good amount of Linoleic, so it is likely to be good for sensitive skin, but the coconut oil has a great amount of penetration with lauric and myristic acids.  It also has some thickening power with palmitic acid.    I think this combination might be good for dry or mature skin as it is high in oleic fats (if the skin can tolerate the drying effect that coconut oil can have on some of the more sensitive skin types).

Ingredient Lauric Myristic Palmitic Stearic Ricinoleic Oleic Linoleic Linolenic
Almond, Sweet 0 0 7 0 0 71 18 0
Apricot Kernel 0 0 6 0 0 66 27 0
Coconut Oil (Virgin) 48 19 9 3 0 8 2 0


If I were to change this recipe to include different oils, it has a much different picture.

Let’s say I want to formulate for sensitive skin, and I want to deliver the product into the skin tissue.   I need a good amount of Lauric (and/or Myristic), and I know I need a balance of Oleic and Linoleic.  I think this combination fits the bill.

Ingredient Lauric Myristic Palmitic Stearic Ricinoleic Oleic Linoleic Linolenic
Babassu 20 20 11 4 0 10 0 0
Sesame 0 0 10 5 0 40 43 0
Rice Bran 0 1 22 3 0 38 34 2


But what if I wanted to make a lotion (or soap) for someone with oily skin?  I need to avoid too much Oleic and go heavy on the Linoleic.  I guess it doesn’t need to be too penetrating, just light and non-greasy.  This looks like a good combination (although all these oils have shorter shelf lives — just one of the drawbacks of linoleic).

Ingredient Lauric Myristic Palmitic Stearic Ricinoleic Oleic Linoleic Linolenic
Evening Primrose 0 0 0 0 0 0 80 9
Grapeseed 0 0 8 4 0 20 68 0
Hemp 0 0 6 2 0 12 57 21


And if I wanted to make myself a lovely facial lotion that brightens and whitens the skin and evens out the pigmentation and skin tone?   I need Linolenic!

But wait – there is nothing here that is penetrating (lauric/myristic), so I might add some babassu oil as well to help with that.


Ingredient Lauric Myristic Palmitic Stearic Ricinoleic Oleic Linoleic Linolenic
Camelina 0 0 6 2 0 24 19 45
Flax Seed 0 0 6 3 0 27 13 50
Rose Hip 0 0 4 2 0 12 46 31


What I don’t know (yet) is whether having combinations of similar oils to achieve high Linoleic or high Oleic values (for example) is self-defeating.   For example, is it too drying or too greasy?   Maybe I would be better served to mix it up a bit and provide a more balanced diet?  Something more like this:


Ingredient Lauric Myristic Palmitic Stearic Ricinoleic Oleic Linoleic Linolenic
Camelina 0 0 6 2 0 24 19 45
Evening Primrose 0 0 0 0 0 0 80 9
Babassu 50 20 11 4 0 10 0 0
Olive 0 0 14 3 0 69 12 1


The other thing to consider is how much (percentage) of an oil is in a recipe.  For example, we might use 6% Camelina, 3% Evening Primrose, 3% Babassu and 4% Olive.  So is that each of these values, multiplied by the percentage of that oil?   That might also have to play into the equation for determining the percentages of each oils to use.


Anyhow, that is how I chose to spend my Monday evening, thinking these geeky thoughts.  I think in the long run, once I have it all figured out (and solve world hunger) that this will benefit my recipes.


Thanks for listening.    I feel like I got that off my chest now.  🙂  It has been bugging me all day as I was working on spreadsheets and budgets at work and wished I was working on this instead.


Do you have any thoughts or other factors to consider with fatty acids?  If so, please leave a comment.  I’d appreciate your input.


6 thoughts on “Thinking Geeky Thoughts

  1. This is great information! I am only just getting into the world of soap making. I started making infused oils that are not ready yet, from herbs that I’ve grown (except for cinnamon and anise), and I used olive oil as the base. I want to make just a basic soap for now, and I was thinking of using a base soap with shea. Yay or nay?


    1. Thank you. I am sure you will find soap making fun and addicting! I often infuse my herbs into olive oil as well, mainly because that is the oil in my soap recipes that is typically used at higher amounts and I want to get all that herbal goodness into my soap at a good amount. I use the heat infusion method though because I am too impatient to do it the other way. 🙂 Are you making cold process soap with your herbal oils and shea butter? Or are you making melt and pour with a shea melt and pour base?

      Liked by 1 person

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