This is a list of most commonly used oils in soapmaking - it is by no means complete, but gives a general overview of most oils and fats.
** Please remember that everyone's skin is different. This information is based on each product's description by most companies and is not medical claims on my part nor can everyone receive the same results. Test on yourself first if you are not sure how your skin will react. **
Almond Oil - produces stable lather and skin conditioning in handmade soaps. Wonderful for dry, inflamed, or irritated skin. Contains vitamins and minerals. Widely used for soaps, lotion bars, and cosmetics.
Apricot Kernel Oil - this is the choice oil for most professional massage therapists. Absorbs easily into the skin - a light, moisturizing oil that is good for even the most sensitive or dry skin.
Avocado Oil - Rich in vitamins A, D, & E as well as amino acids and protein. Wonderfully moisturizing and excellent for anyone with extremely sensitive skin.
Castor Oil - acts as a humectant by attracting and retaining moisture to the skin. Also contributes lots of bubbles to soap - a "bubble booster". Used alone, it would create a soft, transparent soap.
Cocoa Butter - made from the same bean as chocolate and cocoa. Cocoa butter is a by-product of making chocolate. When used in soap, it puts down a protective layer that holds moisture to the skin, acting as a softener. Also contributes to a very hard bar.
76 degree Coconut Oil - Coconut is the only oil that will lather in *any* type of water - even seawater. Solid at room temperature. (Fractionated coconut oil is liquid at room temp and is mostly used for cosmetics and lotions.) When used in the correct percentage, coconut oil is moisturizing and adds lots of fluffy lather.
Emu oil - made from the rendered fat of the Emu bird. The oil is transdermal meaning anything you add to it will make it more readily absorbed through the layers of the skin. Emu is non-comedogenic (won't clog pores), has a natural SPF, is hypo-allergenic and non-irritating, anti-inflammatory, helps prevent and diminish scars and stretch marks, helps to heal burns like no other oil can, reduces wrinkles, and is a wonderful emollient and moisturizer. WHEW! Is there nothing this oil can't do? I am not a fan of animal fat, but I make an exception in this case. Therapeutic grade emu is what I use but there is also a "soap grade" which has not been as thoroughly refined.
Grapeseed Oil - light oil commonly used in massage oil preparations. Rich in vitamins and minerals. A great source for a face wash or face cream.
Hempseed Oil - made from the crushed seeds of the Cannabis sativa, aka the marijuana plant. High in protein, but very prone to rancidity. The cost is prohibative compared to other oils. Moisturizing emollient that helps heal dry skin and burns. Can be used up to 30% of your total oils in a soap recipe, but too much of this oil left unsaponified in a soap will cause it to spoil.
Jojoba oil - it's actually a liquid wax rather than an oil. Commonly used in shampoo bars for its conditioning properties, but can be used in other soaps and creams as well. Jojoba has some anti-inflammatory properties and is highly resistent to rancidity - can actually lend those properties to other oils thereby extending their shelf life as well.
Lanolin - fatlike substance obtained from sheep's wool, although it is actually a wax. Known to be effective in softening dry, cracked, chapped skin. It is easily absorbed and lays down a protective barrier therefore holding moisture in. Wonderful emollient when added to soap or lotion.
Lard - made from rendered pig fat. Lard is actually a good moisturizer for the skin. Provides good lather and cleansing properties.
Meadowfoam Oil - highly resistant to rancidity and lends those properties to other oils, extending their shelf life. An excellent moisturizer and can be used in soaps, creams, lotions, and cosmetics. Prevents moisture loss in the skin.
Neem Oil - used to treat a variety of skin problems including psoriasis, eczema, dandruff, etc. Has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties. Used in pet soap shampoo bars to repel fleas and ticks. Can be used as a natural bug repellant in "people" soaps and lotions. Adds hardness and skin conditioning in soaps and is easy to saponify.
Olive Oil - an excellent oil to use in soap as it is a moisturizer that forms a "breathable" layer on the skin, preventing loss of internal moisture. Produces small, silky bubbles and contributes hardness to the bar. *However* - olive oil makes a very hard, almost completely white bar after a few weeks that is worth the wait. Suitable for babies and even the most sensitive of skin. (Pomace olive oil is also used in soapmaking .)
Palm Oil - made from the pulp of the fruit from the palm tree. When used in a combination with other oils, it makes a very hard bar of soap. It is very mild and cleans well, but does not offer much in the way of skin conditioning. Its lather is small and stingy if not used with other soaping oils. Palm helps pull other stubborn oils into saponification faster. Palm is the vegan alternative to using animal fats such as lard and tallow in soap. **Note** All palm oil used in my soaps have come from a sustainable farm rather than from the rainforest.
Palm Kernel Oil - made from the kernels of the palm tree. Like coconut, palm kernel lathers well in almost any type of water. It lends to a very white, wonderfully lathering, hard bar of soap. It can dry the skin if not added to other ingredients.
Shea Butter - also known as the African karite butter. It is expressed from the pits of the fruit of the African butter tree which grows in Central Africa. Fabulous for superfatting soaps to add moisture and nourish the skin. I LOVE shea butter! It's great stuff and if you haven't tried it, you must.
Soybean Oil or Shortening - used as an alternative to animal fats in soap. Adds mildness, lots of fluffy lather, and is moisturizing when used in combination with other oils.
Sunflower Oil - rich in vitamin E, provides skin conditioning for dry skin. Sunflower oil is a natural and healthy way of maintaining a great skin, thanks to its calming and emollient (moisturizing) properties. Being rich in nutrients and antioxidants, it is widely used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes and is found to be effective against acne, eczema, inflammation, general redness and irritation of the skin.
Tallow - rendered beef fat. Provides little skin conditioning, but adds to the mildness and hardness of the soap.