There are so many oils for soap making that you will be spoiled for choice. You can use endless combinations of them to produce different bars of soap with different qualities such as cleansing, conditioning, creaminess etc.
So how do you know which oils to use? It takes some soap making experience and quite a lot of experimental batches before you will get to know all the properties of the different oils that are available. To make your life easier I have listed the most common oils and their properties below.
Almond Oil (Sweet)
This lovely oil is high in vitamins A and B and makes a white bar of soap. Typically used at around 10% in soap recipes.
INCI: Prunus dulcis
SAP Value: 0.136
Castor oil is a thick oil and is a great addition to shaving soap and shampoo bars as it really boosts the lather. Do not go above 10% in your recipe or your soap will be soft and sticky.
INCI: Ricinus communis
SAP Value: 0.128
Coconut oil creates a nice firm bar of soap with a good lather. Coconut oil is a very effective cleanser. But be warned - do not be tempted to add too much in your recipes as it can have a drying effect on the skin. 30% in your soap recipe is ideal. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and has a few melting points: 76-degree Fahrenheit and 96-degree Fahrenheit. The one most commonly used in soap making is the 76-degree Fahrenheit melting point variety which you can easily buy from any supermarket.
INCI: Cocos nucifera
SAP Value: 0.190
This is the first-choice oil for many soap makers, and it is easy to see why. It creates a very gentle bar of soap with a creamy and mild lather. Soap can be made with up to 100% olive oil. Traditionally, Castile soap was made with 100% olive oil. Pure olive oil soaps improve with age, but they do not have much of a lather, but it is their low cleansing properties that make them perfect for sensitive skin.
INCI: Olea europaea
SAP Value: 0.134
Palm oil produces a long lasting and hard bar of soap. However, it is a controversial ingredient because of its environmental impact. You can buy ethical palm oil though, but it is harder to obtain and it is usually more expensive. For example, Colombian palm oil is produced through a scheme in which palm oil plantations replace coca plantations (the plant used to produce cocaine), so no rain forest has been cut down. If you want to use palm oil always ask where it has come from and how it has been produced.
INCI: Elaeis guineensis
SAP Value: 0.141
Sunflower oil is high in vitamin E and is full of essential fatty acids. It produces a lovely creamy bar that will condition and moisturise the skin. Typically used at around 20% in soap recipes or it will result in a soft bar of soap.
INCI: Helianthis anuus
SAP Value: 0.134