September 13


Unsaponifiables in Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are the unsung heroes of the skincare formulating process.

Each oil contributes its own range of benefits to our skin, and getting to know their individual properties is worthwhile so that you can combine oils into an effective blend for the skin.

All oils are made up of similar compounds, but each has a signature range of properties that make it distinct from all the other oils available.

Today, I will talk about the unsaponifiable fraction found in oils. It is a mouthful of a word, but taken slowly, un-sapon-i-fi-able sounds like the spelling, and relates to saponify, which is the process of soap making.

The non-saponifiable compounds are a minor portion of oil’s make-up but make the difference between a dry oil like camellia with its tannin-like compounds and an oily oil like olive. Or a very red oil high in beta-carotene versus an oil like avocado, which can be green if not refined away.

It is this unsaponifiable fraction that is often refined out to create oils uniformly without color or scent. But, the unrefined carrier oils that deliver the high value plant compounds for those who want nutrient-dense raw materials for their formulations.

Other unsaponifiable fractions are oil-soluble vitamins like tocopherols, vitamin E, or beta-carotene which is the precursor to vitamin A in the body. Beta carotene is found in the red oils like sea buckthorn, buriti, and unrefined rose hip seed.

Or plant sterols, the plant world's version of cholesterol that helps calm skin inflammation when applied to the skin. Oils high in plant sterols are avocado, rice bran, watermelon and prickly pear seed oils.

Squalene is another compound found in carrier oils and naturally produced in the skin as well. It is an oily lipid compound found in all living organisms that helps the plant, animal, or human body function properly by regulating inflammation and oxidation, among other actions. It is exceptionally high in amaranth seed oil but olive, pumpkin seed, and argan oils have significant amounts.

The unsaponifiable fractions are what help set the oils apart from each other: the color of the oil, odor or scent, vitamins, minerals, squalene, plant sterols, and skin feel, as with the tannins of the camellia seed oil, are just some of the richness found in natural plant carrier oils.

Mix, combine, and match and wonderful combinations can be uncovered.


About the author 

Susan Parker

I'm Susan M Parker, author, teacher and researcher. My life is steeped in the lipid oils, carrier oils, plant butters. Since publishing my book Power of the Seed in 2014 I have been teaching and sharing my work with the botanical and lipid oils with students from around the world.

  • Thank you, Susan. I can almost feel my brain getting bigger when I read your posts. You put this information in terms that are easy to understand, yet maintain the integrity of the subject. Have a great day!

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