Essential oils are highly volatile plant essences, produced primarily by steam distillation (sometimes by cold pressing or by CO2 extraction or solvent extraction.) They contain the aromatic molecules of the plant. The plant produces them for various reasons...reproductive (to lure bees for pollinization, for example), protection (the antifungal properties of the leaves of the melaleuca trees give us Tea Tree oil, among others) etc.
Unlike fixed oils (the vegetable oils) they are highly concentrated and must be diluted in a carrier... they should never be used undiluted (or "neat") on the skin. They work on the oldest part of the brain (the limbic system) and have intense effects on the parasympathetic
nervous system, as well as powerful antibacterial effects.
One of our great pleasures in soapmaking is experimenting with combinations of essential oils to produce a scent that is pleasant and exciting. Unlike fragrance oils, essential oils are very powerful and can be quite expensive. The quality of essential oils is reflected in the high quality of soaps it produces. We list the use of all essential oils in our product line.
Do the Aromatherapy effects of Essential oils survive saponification? That research has not been done, but chemically, many of them probably do. The main action of essential oils is olfactory...by inhalation. When we inhale them, they cross the bloodbrain barrier through the lungs, react with the olfactory receptors in the back of the nose and cause reactions in the limbic system, affecting the parasympathetic nervous system, the emotions, heartrate, breathing depth and speed.
Addendum. I do believe the EMOTIONAL effects of the oils will come thru in soap...if you can smell them, they will act on the emotions...thus a citrus or peppermint WILL wake you up... lavender or roman chamo or the other 'relaxing' oils will help you sleep well.
We have had many of our clients claim that teatree soap has cleared up rashes and skin problems.
You will have to decide for yourself if the oils have a beneficial effect on you. Just know that our intent is to produce the purest, most natural soap product that we can make.
1. Bremness, Lesley, Herbs, Eyewitness Handbooks, 1994, DK Publishing, Inc.
2. Cavitch, Susan Miller, The Soapmaker's Companion, 1997, Storey Publishing.
3. Maine, Sandy, The Soap Book: simple herbal recipes, 1995m Interweave Press, Inc.
4. Worwood, Valerie Ann, The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, 1991, New World Library.
Avocado oil is obtained from the pulp of the avocado and is highly therapeutic. It contains protein, amino acids, and vitamins A, D, and E. These components are moisturizing and healing, allowing cell regeneration and softening of body tissues. Avocado oil is used in our shampoo bars, as it helps heal scaly skin and scalp.
Argan oil comes from the kernels of the nuts of the argan tree and is considered by native Moroccans to be "liquid gold". The region where it is found is protected and local Berber women control the argan oil industry. Argan oil is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin E; antioxidants, Omega-6 fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acids, and linoleic acid. Argan oil is highly beneficial for both hair and skin.
Castor oil is a highly moisturizing oil. It's high percentage of ricinoleic acid makes it quite viscous and acts as a humectant, attracting and retaining moisture to the skin. It is used in our shampoo bars, where it gives a hard, moisturizing characteristic to the bars.
Coconut oil is one of the main soap-making oils. It is made from dried coconut meat. It is solid at room temperature and is moisturizing, but is best used in conjunction with other oils. A percentage of coconut oil in cosmetics is moisturizing, but too much of it can be drying. It makes a creamy lather, which will even lather in salt water. Refined coconut oil is closest substance to human sub-cutaneous fat and more compatible with skin than vegetable oils. It has a virtually unlimited shelf life, since it can not turn rancid, and it can not clog pores, making it an ideal carrier for oily or troubled skin.
Cocoa butter is obtained from the same bean as chocolate or cocoa. Cocoa butter lays down a protective layer that holds moisture to the skin. It contains about 5 IU of vitamin E per ounce. Cocoa Butter softens and lubricates the skin. If it smells like chocolate to you that is because it is the by-product from the manufacturing of cocoa and chocolate.
Hazelnut oil is a wonderful moisturizer in creams and soaps. It is absorbed easily by the skin. It is rich in proteins and essential fatty acids.
Jojoba oil is a liquid wax which offers the traits of both to make it a great ingredients in soaps, creams, and massage oils. It is highly penetrating and closely resembles our sebum. It is used in our shampoo bars and is an excellent anti-oxidant.
Meadowfoam Seed oil is derived from the seeds of Limnanthes alba. It is used in shampoos and soaps where it helps add shine and moisture to hair and scalp made dry and brittle by the harsh process of daily washing. Our Sweet Orange shampooscontains this oil.
Neem oil is used to treat a variety of skin disorders. The oil has antiseptic properties and is used to treat dandruff, oily skin, infections. It also contributes hardness and conditioning properties to soap. Our Pet soap contains neem oil. It is also effective as a mosquito repellent.
Olive oil is a very good moisturizer because it attracts external moisture, holds the moisture close to the skin, and forms a breathable film to prevent loss of internal moisture. Olive oil does not block the natural functions of the skin while performing its own. Pure olive oil soaps, called Castile, are very mild soaps with a slow lather.
Palm oil is obtained from the fruit or seed of the palm tree. A rich source of Vitamin A. Palm 106 is a refined, food grade oil. Although it has little contribution to skin care and would not make a nice bar of soap by itself, it makes a nice hard bar when used in combination with other oils such as coconut and olive oil. It is less water-soluble and resists "melting" as do many softer soaps. It saponifies easily and pulls other oils into saponification quicker. We use sparingly for environmental concerns.
Soybean oil is the primary ingredient in vegetable shortening (Crisco). It contains high percentages of linoleic and oleic acids, yielding a soft soap. Used in conjunction with coconut and olive oils, it makes a wonderful contribution to a solid bar of soap.
Shea butter is solid and comes from the natural fat obtained from the karite tree. It is often referred to as karite butter. Shea butter is an emollient. It is extremely therapeutic, helping to heal cracked, aged and damaged skin. Its chemical constituents help to heal bruising and soreness. Shea butter contains vitamins our skin needs to stay healthy. It softens the skin, has a superior moisturizing effect on the skin and reduces scars.
Evening Primrose oil contains a high content of linoleic acid, vitamins and minerals. The body doesn't produce this essential fatty acid (also known as Vitamin F), so we must be sure to include this nutrient in our diets and skin care products. Evening primrose oil is easily absorbed by the skin, encouraging transport of this fatty acid. Essential fatty acids inhibit bacterial growth and encourage the production of antibodies, enabling our systems to defend against infection and inflammation. They also combine with protein and cholesterol to build membranes which link cells to one another. Water loss, resulting in dry skin, is thought to be related in part to low levels of essential fatty acids.
Apricot kernel oil is a pale yellow oil derived from the kernel of apricots, as its name implies. minerals and vitamins, esp. Vit. A. It is a good source of minerals vitamins and is especially useful for prematurely aged skin, sensitive or inflamed or dry skin.
Sweet almond oil is also derived from the almond kernel. It contains minerals, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and E, glucosides, and is very rich in protein. Helpful to all skin types. Especially good for eczema. helps relieve itching, soreness, dryness and inflammation Useful against burns and thread veins. Very lubricating, but not penetrating, which makes it a good massage oil, and protectant. It helps relieve itching, soreness, dryness, and inflammation. We find this oil adds a particular richness to our Saving Face soap.
Beeswax is obtained from the honeycomb of honeybees. It is used in soap formulas for the hardness it contributes to the final bars. The smell of honey is a bonus.