Essential oils have beneficial properties that have been used for many years in aromatherapy and skin care. At Alabu we make many different soaps with essential oils, that I believe work well for different types of skin.
I am often asked if essential oils are active in our soaps; that is to say, do they retain their therapeutic properties after going through saponification (the name for the chemical reaction between oils and lye to form soap).
In the past I always said that I don’t know for sure but thought that the essential oils are active and retain at least some of their therapeutic properties. Well now two of my favorite and well-respected authorities on essential oils and handcrafted soap have collaborated on the answer. In this article Robert Tisserand interviews Kevin Dunn to investigate the question if essentials oils are active in soaps.
Here is the summary; there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that essential oils in soap are active and therapeutic.
The heat (caused by saponification) may cause some loss of essential oil molecules through evaporation, but it should not cause any significant chemical changes. The contact with lye will cause some chemical changes, and of course that’s what Kevin describes in the interview. These changes may or may not result in an alteration of therapeutic properties. That depends on which properties you are measuring and also on which constituents (chemical compounds in the essential oil) you are talking about. Some constituents may be altered but not all in a particular essential oil.
There isn’t a simple answer, except to say that in MOST instances essential oils do in fact retain their therapeutic action! I will be discussing in greater detail the essential oils we use here and why.
Here is the whole interview, but I warn you it is soap geek talk! What’s important is that based on the research, that essential oils do retain their therapeutic properties in soaps.
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