Olive oil is a major part of my soap recipes. However, it is expensive. For example, I usually buy a 2 QT 3.6 FL OZ bottle of olive oil for $12.99. I wanted to find an oil that had skin benefits and also saved me some money, so after running a few recipes through my soap calculator I settled on sunflower oil. By comparison, a 1 QT 1 PT bottle of sunflower oil at the grocery store costs $3.89. I could buy 3 quarts of sunflower oil and it would still be cheaper than a 2 QT bottle of olive oil.
According to the National Sunflower Association (yes there actually is one!) there are four types of sunflower oil: High stearic/high oleic, high oleic, high linoleic, and mid-oleic. Oleic acids occur naturally in animal and vegetable fats and oil. For the sake of brevity, and the fact I’m not an authority on this, I’ll only focus on what’s relevant to soapmaking.
High oleic sunflower oil, by definition, contains a minimum of 80% oleic acid. Mid-oleic contains 65% and is the “standard” in North America. Sunflower oil at the store is most likely mid-oleic and will work fine in your soap recipe. Mid-oleic sunflower oil can be used in any soap recipe requiring high oleic oil. The soap calculator I use only has two options: sunflower oil and high oleic sunflower oil. I always choose high oleic since there is no option for mid-oleic. I have used ‘high oleic’ labeled oil (purchased online) and mid-oleic sunflower oil from my local store. After making several batches and testing the soaps I’ve found there is no difference between the two.
Some may reason that buying olive oil online is cheaper, but once you factor in shipping costs it’s not that cost effective. Also, I prefer buying soapmaking supplies locally when I can.
Now let’s talk about sunflower oil benefits!
Sunflower oil has wonderful moisturizing and conditioning properties. It is rich in essential fatty acids, contains high amounts of Vitamin E and resists infection by forming a protective barrier on the skin. Studies have found that the application of sunflower oil provides protection against nasocomial infections in very low weight infants. They are 41% less likely to develop the infection. That’s amazing!
Usage in Soap
Out of the bottle it has a light scent and amber color. It will give your soap a stable, conditioning lather. It is slow to saponify so the higher the usage rate, the softer the bar. It should be used in conjunction with other oils and hard butters or fats for a balanced bar. Some soapers suggest using up to 20% but I’m all about pushing the boundaries!
I have used up to 47% sunflower oil in my soap recipes, and it creates a very rich and creamy lather. After using it my skin feels incredibly soft – it feels like I just applied lotion without the greasy feeling. I’ve made Castile soaps (100% olive oil) before and it’s never made my skin feel like this.
In conclusion, I love it! I think it’s a fantastic alternative to olive oil with its many skin benefits. Don’t mistake cheaper for inferior. This economically priced oil has many great soaping qualities. Give it a try and see if you like it!