Fossil fuel oil is slippery is very versatile. As well being the base for most plastics and driving our cars it can be found in less obvious places. It is sold as a moisturizer (think Vaseline), petroleum-derived, synthetic fragrances are added to many commercial cosmetic products and hexane (another petroleum derivative), is used to extract some vegetable oils.While I don’t mind oil on my pistons I draw the line at rubbing it on my skin or using it to fry my eggs.
So what to use instead? Renewable Fatty Acids of course
So let’s talk fatty acids. For the purposes of this post, fatty acids are the oily greasy stuff you use to cook with, cut off your bacon, burn in your beeswax candles or rub on as your Shea Butter Body Moisturiser.
They are the oil that is formed in a plant or the fat stored by an animal. There is of course a lot more to them then that and Meanwhile here is a beginners guide.
Animal & Vegetable Derived Fatty Acids
Fatty acids are fatty, oily, greasy or buttery
They can be harvested from plants and animals.
Vegetable Derived These are obtained from the seeds, nuts and even flesh of plants. Mains uses are cooking & cosmetics.
Animal Derived – Examples would be butter & lard
Main uses of fatty acids are cooking, cosmetics, lubricating and soap making.
Some like Jojoba should only be used for cosmetic purposes. Coconut oil on the other hand can be used for just about everything.
Animal fats are still used in soap making but not so much for cosmetics.
They come in a variety of forms under the following headings – but it is a rough guide only. Cocoa Butter for instance is more like a wax, while butter acts more like a solid oil.
Liquid Oil – never solidifies
Solid Oil – firm when cool but has very low melting point so sometimes it may be counted as an oil i.e. Coconut oil
Butters – a solid oil. Has a high melting point. Rather confusing. Milk butter for example acts more like a solid oil, while Cocoa butter is more like a wax.
Waxes – very hard-of a candle (wax), like consistency. Bees wax for example.
Essential Oils Are not an oil at all as they don’t contain any fatty acids.
Vegetable Derived Oils
These are obtained from the seeds, nuts and even flesh of plants. There are many kinds of vegetable oils, butters and waxes.
Animal Derived Oils
This is the fat stored by an animal. These are mostly solid ranging from hard and waxy like lard to the softer butter
Are not an oil as they don’t contain any fatty acids.
Next you might want to know how your fats and oils they have been obtained and processed – especially if you plan to eat your oil.
Animal fats are collected after slaughter. Concerns here are rather about how the animal was treated before it was slaughtered.
Extracting vegetable oils and processing them is a more complex process. Most commercially produced oils are solvent extracted. This involves a chemical solvent like the petroleum-derived hexane. This technique is used for most of the “newer” oils such as soybean and canola oils.
Mechanical methods where the oil is squeezed or pressed out of the vegetable matter in a variety of ways involves less in the way of petroleum derivatives but depending on the method used can affect the oil. Cold pressed oil is considered the least invasive method of extraction though it also less efficient.
Read more about oil extraction here.
Both animal and vegetable fats can be hydrogenated.
Hydrogenated oil is made by forcing reactive hydrogen gas gas into oil at high pressure in the presence of a palladium catalyst.
Hydrogenated oil is more stable, does not go rancid as quickly
It has a higher melting point, so can be used for frying.
It is used to make liquid oils more solid. Margarine is an example of a hydrogenated oil.
Oils have been hydrogenated since the 1930s.
Hydrogenating oil modifies the chemistry significantly.
The fatty acids in oils are unsaturated fats. They are unstable.
Hydrogenating oil turns these unstable fatty acids into new more stable fats known as trans fats acids.
There are concerns that trans fatty acids may increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, and decrease HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol.
Because they are not natural the digestive system does not know what to do with them. They may actually bioaccumulate in the body.
Coconut oil – a hard oil which has a very low melting point. Use neat as for everything from hair care to make up removal or add to creams and balms. Can also be used for cooking.
Cocoa butter – a hard oil which has a high melting point. Use neat as a lip balm or add to creams and balms.
Bees wax – a hard oil wax has a very high melting point add to creams and balms to make them firmer.
Shea butter – a creamy butter with a surprisingly low melting point. Moisturising and balms. Making cream and lotions. There’s an introduction to shea butter here
Castor oil – a very thick oil – add it to lip balm. Can often be bought in chemists.
Rapeseed oil – a lighter oil with quite a strong scent but U.K. sourced.
Olive oil – a richer oil can sometimes be bought on tap in the U.K. Used for cooking and cosmetics.
Almond oil – a lighter oil. Can be bought in big supermarkets, Asian shops and online
Oils I try To avoid
Oils and waxes last for ages but as soon but mix them with water and they can quickly go off. The problem is the water. It is a breeding ground for bacteria!
Find out more basic information about ingredients and alternative products here
Aromantics is a good and ethical supplier but expensive. I buy a lot of ingredients in bulk from other suppliers. Ebay is a good source. Prices vary so do shop around.