Oils and butters

Surprise, surprise: the main ingredients of cosmetic oils are oils and butters. In the commercial world, it doesn’t have to be. Turn the INCI composition of some oils and oil serums and look at the first ingredient. All INCI ingredients are listed in descending order, meaning they the first in the highest concentration. Very often, absorption enhancers are in the first place, which I will explain later in the text. Why? Because it has to adapt to the market. For many people, it is cool to use natural products, but in essence they require the texture of classic cosmetics, absorbing within seconds. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but I personally don’t like overdoing it with the amount of absorption enhancers. After all, the point is in nutrition and the emphasis is on vegetable oils, and even with small amounts of absorption enhancers we can achieve dramatic changes in the rate of absorption and the feeling on the skin.

Why are some oils absorbed faster and some slower?

Absorption of a vegetable oil depends on the person and his/her skin, and not only on the oils. For example, one person will absorb avocado oil faster than almondoil, while some will absorb avocado oil more slowly. Some absorb almond oil better than hazelnut oil, some do not. It depends on our skin type, but also on a number of other factors that we carry written down in our genetic heritage.

Of course, dry skin type generally absorbs oils faster than oily ones. Also, the skin on the whole body is not the same. The thickened skin on the soles of our feet or palms absorbs oils more slowly than where the skin is thinner, such as on the face and behind the ears.

There are also several factors in the oils themselves that dictate the absorption of vegetable oils, which is primarily the chemical composition.

  • Fatty acid composition. Oils with short-chain fatty acids (10-12 carbon atoms), such as coconut or babassu butter, are absorbed faster even in oily skin. Shorter molecules simply penetrate more easily through an otherwise intricate and difficult-to-pass barrier we call skin. In contrast, oils rich in relatively large polyunsaturated fatty acids (over 18 carbon atoms) are usually more difficult to penetrate the skin, such as rosehip seed oil and hemp oil.
  • The presence of sterols. Sterols can affect the absorption of vegetable oils in various ways. Oils such as argan or olive oil, rich in sterols, are absorbed more slowly. But the presence of sterols can also speed up absorption, as is the case with hazelnut oil used for oily skin.
  • The presence of squalene. Squalene is a natural hydrocarbon, otherwise a precursor (basic molecule) from which the plant and animal organism produces sterols. Its presence accelerates the absorption of vegetable oil. One well-known example is Brazil nut oil. The presence of squalene also allows penetration into the hair structure, so oils rich in squalene are also used for hair treatments. This does not mean that all oils rich in squalene penetrate quickly, as it also depends on other factors. An example of this is olive oil.
  • The presence of emulsifiers, most often lecithin, but also diacyl and monoacyl glycerol (molecules that do not have three, but two and one fatty acid bound to glycerol). Rapeseed oil is an oil that contains both sterols and lecithin. Emulsifiers accelerate the penetration of oil through the skin, because locally on the skin itself, we could say, they create a cream, an emulsion with the skin’s natural moisture, and thus accelerate the penetration through the skin. But the content of emulsifiers in oils is never so high as to significantly accelerate the penetration into the skin.
  • The consistency and viscosity of the oil also depends on the composition of the fatty acids. Butters like shea butter contain a lot of saturated fatty acids, but those molecules are larger than those in coconut oil/butter. Therefore, the very thick, pasty consistency slows down the absorption of vegetable oil and mainly creates a long-lasting oily film (occlusion), which is a great advantage for dry skin, baby skin, but also atopic skin care./li>

Sensory properties of vegetable oils

It is quite logical that all vegetable oils are greasy. But their textures vary greatly.
Some vegetable oils, such as kukui oil, have an almost “watery” feeling of very light texture and lubricity.
Coconut or babassu butter has a very strong penetrating feeling of “disappearance”, with macadamia oil it is similar.
Some vegetable oils have optimal lubricity that is needed in massages and a classic example of this is almond oil.
Oils like avocado are quickly absorbed, and due to the phytosterols in them, they leave an interesting smooth feeling on the skin that is texturally different from almond oil.
Some oils, especially those that are slower to absorb such as argan or olive oil, have a slightly “heavy” feeling, but with a residual feeling of “protection”.

In such a world of diverse textures, everyone can find their combination with a little experimentation, and if we add absorption enhancers to that, you can play with them for the rest of your life.

Most cold pressed and unrefined oils have the original smell of their raw material. Sometimes it can be a pleasant and nutritious smell, as is the case with almond or apricot oil that have the smell of almonds, that is of cyanide. In some oils, this perfume component is strongly expressed, as in plum oil which has an intense cyanide odour and which gives each oil formulation an amaretto odour.
But some oils are a bit repulsive and strange to people. A classic example are sunflower and sesame oils which have a very nutritious seed scent.
The most famous oil with a slightly unpleasant smell is argan oil, which has become extremely popular (for a good reason), and in fact it has an unpleasant smell that is somewhat reminiscent of faeces. More than once I have met people who would back down from that oil, especially if they were accustomed to perfumed and refined argan oil.

The price of vegetable oils

Last but not least, let’s talk about vegetable oil prices. Some 15 years ago, all vegetable oils were very expensive. I was paying half a litre of evening primrose oil 120,00 euros, and a litre of almond (not organic) over 50,00 euros. Some of you who have been dealing with oils for a long time know this well. Today is different. Why?

Most brands, in fact almost none, do not directly produce vegetable oils. The oils bought from major world manufacturers at very reasonable prices, but they are bought in large quantities. They then form their prices, after packaging and analysis, if they do them at all.

There is a very instructive story about rosehip seed oil. It once happened that several brands had identical wild rose fruit oil (organic cultivation), from the same producer. The emphasis is certainly on- the same. As I am not isolated and have contacts with many people abroad, this kind of information was available to me. In retail, the price of oil differed more than twice! And what to say now? My heart ached when I saw people insisting on twice as expensive oil, just because it is a certain brand, and the content is the same. The cheapest oil, of course, was the one directly imported where one large step of the margin was skipped. I’m not criticizing anyone right now and really anyone can form their price, and you’re free to buy what you want, if it’s quality. But even in Croatia, people are slowly learning that quality should not be sky-high expensive. The crisis has helped us see that.

Today, evening primrose oil does not have to cost more than 40-50 euros per litre, even organic. Tamanu oil, for which I once paid 160 euros per litre (conventional cultivation), now costs quite decently 90-100 euros (organic cultivation).

Almost all vegetable oils and butters have been given more reasonable prices. As with essential oils- the bigger package you buy, the price per millilitre descends. But don’t be greedy. If you do not going to spend easily a litre of oil, it can spoil. So be prudent and buy a smaller quantity.

You are responsible for the low prices of oils. Not me, not importers or manufacturers. Some of you also educate other people and promote the making of cosmetics, the use of quality essential and vegetable oils, so everybody starts buying more. Your increased demand has opened up space so that oils can be imported directly- not only 5 kg, but hundreds of kilograms. And that further reduces their price. I thank you for this, but also for those who recognized it and made the oils available.

The low price still creates suspicion today. Indeed, there is still a lot of cheating on the market. Ask an expert, because even though it is cheap, it can also be very good. Quality is my obsession and everyone knows it.

The price of vegetable oils depends on the same factors as for essential oils. In short, it depends on the yield from the plant, the simplicity of cultivation, the yield of the plant per hectare, but also the method of production- vegetable oils obtained by more demanding and expensive technologically such as supercritical CO2 extraction process are always more expensive.


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