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Pure Coconut Oil Soap- Breaking the "Rules of Formulating" with a 100% Coconut Oil Soap

In the Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap, we learned about the science of soap making and did an intensive study of fatty acids and how they affect soap qualities. We learned that coconut oil is high in two saturated fatty acids that make it an excellent choice for adding lather, big fluffy white bubbles, hardening, and more intensive cleansing properties to our soaps- lauric and myristic fatty acid. When combined with the sodium hydroxide in our lye solution, sodium salts of fatty acids, or our soaps, are created and we are left with sodium laurate and sodium myristate.

Both sodium laurate and sodium myristate have a very “oil-hungry” carbon tail that makes them more effective at cleansing than some of our other fatty acid soaps. Because they can be more efficient at cleansing, which may be excellent for a general-purpose cleansing soap, such as a dish or laundry soap, too high of a concentration will not only help clean dirt and oil from our skin, but it can also be so effective that it can cleanse and remove the skin’s natural oils as well. When we strip away the skin’s natural oils, it can leave our skin feeling dry and cause other complications like irritation, redness, itching, and flaking. This can be especially true for those who have sensitive or dry skin and those who have skin conditions. Because of the wonderful properties coconut oil provides to soap recipes, most soap makers usually recommend a "20% or less coconut oil rule" when it comes to formulating bars that will be used on the face, hands, and body, with universal guidelines suggesting "definitely no more than 30%". These same "recipe rules" apply to other oils that are also high in lauric and myristic fatty acids, such as babassu and palm kernel. (Of course, we know at UG2SOAP that most soap making "rules" can be broken, and in this case, standard recipes high in lauric/myristic acid meant for face and body use can benefit from a balanced blend of oils that produce more mild soaps, the inclusion of skin-loving additives, and/or the use of a higher superfat.)

Armed with the knowledge that too much coconut oil can feel drying to some, it would seem odd that this post is about a body bar recipe made only with coconut oil. A 100% coconut oil body bar is what I like to call a "recipe anomaly", similar to castile soap, which is a classic and amazing recipe that defies "normal" recipe formulating guidelines. Soaps comprised only of coconut oil will have a long and stable shelf-life because of the high saturated fatty acid composition. When we make a pure coconut oil soap recipe made for hand and body use, we also include a large concentration of free fats (also known as our superfat) that have a low oxidation (rancidity) risk because of their chemical composition. The use of a 20-30% superfat is very unusual for recipes, and would most certainly increase the risk of oxidation and rancidity, in addition to decreasing the shelf-life, in almost every other recipe- but not this one! According to the soap properties predicted by the soap calculator, a pure coconut oil soap would create a very "cleansing" soap and we know that high cleansing numbers often, although not always, equate to a soap that may cause drying and irritation. 100% coconut soaps also break the recommendation of using a lower coconut oil concentration... and yet, our Ultimate Triple Coconut Oil recipe yields a very gentle, softening, and bubbly soap.

How can a recipe made from such a high concentration of "cleansing" soaps create a soap that is mild, gentle, bubbly, and softening? To compensate for coconut oil’s excellent oil-busting ability, we add a high concentration of unsaponified oil and free fatty acids. By doing this, we can reduce the soap's ability to grab onto dirt and oil, increase the free fats, and instead create a soap that is ultra-gentle and one of our absolute favorite recipes.

To include additional free fats that help combat drying and produce a gentle soap, we must calculate a much higher superfat than normal (think 5-6%) and include it in our recipe. Our Triple Coconut Oil recipe uses a 30% superfat. You can add it to your recipe before the cook (hot or cold process), after the cook as a PCSF, or you can split it up and add some at the beginning and some at the end. You can also elect to use an alternative post cook superfat such as olive oil or shea butter (hot process).

UG2HP Budget Tip: Big Lots has 102oz coconut oil for $12 ($0.12/oz) and Walmart has LouAnn’s coconut oil 64 oz for $10 ($0.16/oz). Both suppliers often have sales and coupons. Be sure to look for Big Lots 20% off days and sign up for their loyalty programs for extra savings!

Recipe: Follow the directions from The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap to make this ultra-luxurious pure coconut body bar

This makes a very inexpensive bar and is one of our favorite recipes. If you would like to use a fragrance, please follow the suggested recommendation from your supplier. To make a pure coconut oil body soap, you can use CP, LTHP or HTHP. If you use HTHP, it will create a beautiful, fluid, and easily pourable recipe, especially if you add coconut milk after the cook. You can use 100% coconut oil and water for a pure coconut oil soap, or you can add a few of the extra ingredients to make our Triple Coconut Recipe with coconut milk, coconut oil, and ground/flaked coconut meat.

Pure coconut oil soap also makes an excellent all-natural laundry soap. Our clothes aren’t concerned about dry or flaky skin so you don't need to include a superfat in your dish/laundry recipe. We can use pure coconut oil soap’s excellent cleansing ability to remove oil, dirt, and tough stains. You can even add a few drops of essential oil to add a light fragrance. Be sure to run your new recipe through a soap calculator and skip on the colorants!

Tips: If you would like to make this recipe with HTHP, be sure to use a bowl that is at least 3X the total recipe volume because coconut oil soaps are very exothermic and can have a large expansion. Using a smaller heating container can lead to dangerous spills. Be sure to cut your pure coconut oil soap as soon as it has hardened which can take anywhere between 20-60 minutes. We like to freeze all of our soaps and do so for 30 minutes before cutting.

Watch the video below as we make our Triple Coconut Oil Fluid Hot Process Soap in less than 20 minutes from ingredient prep to clean dishes! For more information about soap science, recipe formulating, hot process soap, and fluid hot process soap, be sure to get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap today! Visit our bookstore now!

Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap- Pure Coconut Oil Recipe

Have you made pure coconut oil soap? Share your tips below! Looking for some other great single oil recipes? Check out our Three Oils & FIVE Soaps recipes!


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