Saturday, December 11, 2010

Substitutions: Exchanging one oil for another

When I first started making products, I'd find all these amazing lotion recipes but it always seemed I was missing the oil or butter they suggested. I tentatively exchanged the oils, fully prepared for an epic fail, and they would work! Yay! Lotion success! I figured out which ones I liked based on skin feel - I like a greasier feeling lotion so my staples are soybean, rice bran, olive oil, and shea butter - and I learned which ones I could substitute for others. It's saved me a ton of money and stress over worrying about screwing up a morning's work!

A quick way to know which oil is a good substitute for another is by skin feel. Is the oil very light, light, medium, or heavy feeling? Does it feel greasy or dry? For instance, I find sunflower oil a great substitute for soybean oil, and avocado oil a good substitute for olive oil based upon skin feel. I use sesame oil and rice bran oil interchangeably, and I find sweet almond and apricot kernel feel very similar.

If you haven't tried the oils, and thus can't go by skin feel, or want to get into what each brings to the party, then I'd suggest consulting the posts on our oils (found here) or taking a look at the carrier oil comparison chart.

So let's say the recipe calls for sesame oil but you only have the roasted kind and you really don't want to smell like hot and sour soup all day...what can you substitute? If you're going on skin feel alone, rice bran oil is a great choice. If you are looking at the fatty acid composition, you'll want to choose something with about 40% linoleic acid to 40% or so oleic acid. Which brings us to...well, rice bran oil again, although wheat germ oil is a good choice. If you're going on the Vitamin E content, you have a ton of oils to choose from including wheat germ, sunflower, soybean, hempseed, and hazel nut oils. If you want a comparable level of phytosterols, then apricot kernel, hazelnut, olive, soybean, sunflower, and wheat germ oils will work well (although sesame oil has some unique phytosterols, all of them reduce inflammation). And if you're looking for something that also doesn't stain fabrics, then you'd want to consider fractionated coconut oil or one of our esters.

Or what if the recipe calls for lanolin and you don't want to use it? If you're looking for the same skin feel, you'll want to go with a heavier oil like castor, olive, or avocado oils. I'd substitute it for a butter to get the thickening effects, and my first choice would be shea butter to get a similar level of greasiness. If you want to get those great phytosterols, you'll want to choose something with cholesterol. Unfortunately, none of our oils contain cholesterol, but they do contain the building blocks of it in the form of squalene or squalane. Which means you'd want to turn to olive oil (my first choice) or hazelnut, macadamia nut, or rice bran oil. Olive oil and rice bran oil will create a greasier feeling product, which will be closer to the skin feel of lanolin.

You can substitute just about any oil for another oil in a recipe and not worry about messing up the emulsification. You will alter the skin feel, but the chemistry will remain the same. The HLB of most of our oils and butters are between 6 and 8. The exceptions to this are fractionated coconut oil (HLB 5), lanolin (HLB 10), and mineral oil (HLB 10.5). If you're using an emulsification system like e-wax, Polawax, or BTMS-50, it won't make a difference. If you're making your own emulsifier through the HLB system, then you'll have to recalculate.

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun!

1 comment:

Shea Butter Lover said...
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