In short, we'll talk about how it all works and how to replace the fat in the recipe with another so that everything works out. We will revolve around the most popular and affordable oils and butters that form the basis of most recipes and guides, and which are sometimes called carrier oils.
What is a carrier oil?
The carrier fat category includes a lot of oils and fats that we work with in the production of cosmetics or even food. The word "carrier" is mainly used to distinguish these oils from essential oils, since carrier and essential oils are very different groups of fats. We have already written a comprehensive article about carrier oils, which are really mandatory equipment for every beginner and advanced home blender manufacturer, and about oils that we think should never be missing at home, because you can use them when mixing cosmetics and in the kitchen , you can read more here. Both articles clarify the necessary terminology and provide advice on the use of oils, so we recommend that you take a look at them.
The most popular and essential fats are shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, olive oil or olive pomace oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and nut oils such as almond, macadamia, and many others. Oils and butters, or collectively fats, are without exaggeration wildly different in their texture, color, density, of course composition or even smell. What they have in common is that they form the basis of most recipes and that they are simply similar-looking fats, which is why they can sometimes tempt you to make "butter-for-butter" exchanges, which sometimes work out, but often, unfortunately, don't.
So... What are we going to deal with?
All of these essential, or carrier if you prefer, fats serve several purposes, and it's a good idea to keep this in mind when creating recipes and then mixing them:
How much is there and what does it carry or dilute in the recipe?
What consistency is it?
How quickly is it absorbed?
What is its texture and at what temperature does it start to melt?
What can it do to the body and what will it bring to me?
How much does it cost?
…and we will look at all this now.
Volume and dilution – how much is there and what does it carry and dilute?
You probably already understood that fats form the necessary basis of most products (along with water in some recipes). Just as a traditional cake cannot be baked without flour, cosmetics cannot be mixed without fats. The answer to the question of whether you can simply leave out some oil or butter is almost always no. If you do not have the oil or butter listed in the recipe, you must substitute another oil or butter. And not just any - ideally one that behaves similarly to the original. You will probably bake a brownie using coconut flour instead of wheat flour, but it will probably taste and look completely different - maybe it will be too stiff, the dough thin, the ingredients not combined, or... anything else. It's the same with mixing cosmetics.
Therefore - definitely do not omit the ingredients in the recipe that form its basis. And when you replace them, expect a slightly different result, even if you are sure that you have found a replacement that is as similar as possible.
Consistency – what is the consistency like at room temperature?
The most important purpose (after creating the base) of oils and butters is to give the product a certain consistency.
The consistency of the fat will affect the consistency of the product (just as oil and butter behave differently when baking). And we're talking room temperature consistency. Look at it and say to yourself:
Is it 1. liquid, 2. soft, 3. hard and brittle?
Very often there are exchanges of shea butter for cocoa. But that's rarely a good exchange. Shea butter is soft and sticky at room temperature, while cocoa butter is smooth, firm and fragile. Therefore, we cannot ask shea butter to provide the hardness and stiffness that cocoa butter should provide. And conversely.
So – the first thing to think about when changing ingredients is whether they really have exactly the same consistency at room temperature. We will emphasize room temperature once again. Because when we dissolve it, it's all liquid, right. :) On the other hand, it's all greasy too, so even if we swap soft for hard, it'll kind of work. Just not exactly as it should have been.
Absorption rate – how quickly does it soak in?
The most important ability of carrier oils and butters is simply to moisturize, soften and soften the skin (or hair). Fats generally make our skin very happy. Even here, however, there are huge differences in how quickly or how slowly they are absorbed into the skin. Some are absorbed immediately after application, others remain on the surface for a while and others for hours. You hardly notice the so-called "dry" oils on the skin, even though they soften it instantly. Heavy and slow-absorbing oils can leave greasy stains around.
So you choose fats according to what you are producing and what you want from the product. If you want a light, non-sticky hand cream, you reach for a light, fast-absorbing oil. If you're making a glossy lip balm, you'll choose a slow-absorbing oil that will sit on your lips for a while, making them shiny. When making a face serum for oily skin, you will probably use a dry oil, and when mixing a dense nourishing foot mask, you will use a heavy oily oil or butter.
So - we think that the speed of absorption will significantly affect how we will like the result, and that's why we always use oils that absorb into the skin just as quickly when changing.
You can easily find a lot of tables on the Internet with a much larger number of oils that we did not fit here.
And the most important thing. Trust yourself and trust your gut! Before making, spread some oil or butter somewhere and observe. Did it absorb quickly, or does it feel heavy on the skin? Is it greasy or does it feel dry? Is it somewhere in between? And that's really all you need. All wisdom lies in the question and answer of whether you are comfortable with it and whether you want your product to be as well.
Texture and melting point - what is its texture and at what temperature does it start to melt?
It may not seem like it, but these two things are very close. In the case of liquid oils, we don't really have to worry about the melting temperature, think about it only in the case of fats that are solid at room temperature, which are mostly butters and oils, such as the popular coconut or babassu. Because in most cases, liquid oils will remain liquid even if you go outside with them, and in addition, we usually don't cover our bodies with creams or skin oils a lot when the temperatures are low outside. For illustrative purposes - olive oil solidifies at around 1°C. So if you want to slather yourself with olive oil on a winter hike to Sněžka, be aware that it might be stiff. Otherwise, there is no need to worry too much about liquid oils in this matter.
But, if you are replacing solid fats, it is good to think about the melting point. You're often asked if you can substitute virgin coconut oil for unrefined shea butter (and vice versa - they look similar after all. The reason this doesn't always work is their texture and melting point. Texture-wise, coconut oil is smooth, soft and greasy, shea butter hard and sticky. Coconut oil melts around 24°C, shea butter up to 38°C. It may surprise some that cocoa butter, which we already know is much firmer and harder than shea butter, melts at a lower temperature, at 34°C.
If we take into account that the temperature of the human body is around 37°C, it follows that coconut oil will dissolve as soon as it meets the skin (and will be liquid on its own on warm days or with heating), while shea butter , it will still need to be warmed up with a massage on the skin. This is important to remember especially when making lip balms or unwrapped solid body butters – coconut butter melts right away and provides better "slip", shea butter adds firmness and needs to be warmed by moving it over the lips before it is transferred from the balms to the lips.
So - for recipes where the texture of the product is important, there is a risk of melting and solid fats are used, make sure you watch the melting point of your ingredients.
Abilities and specific characteristics - what does it do and what does it smell like?
We will not go into detail here, because each oil can do something different, and it is definitely not necessary to overwhelm yourself with unnecessary information. You will find an oil on the market that should help you with any problem: acne, rash, cold sores, dry skin, eczema, sore and strained muscles, soft tissue injuries, burns, irritation, you name it... So here too, search and find out , choose according to what you're dealing with, but always approach everything with common sense and don't expect oil or butter to solve all your woes overnight.
But what is good to consider and what is often counted in recipes is the specific smell of some fats. You will probably immediately think that we often use cocoa butter because of the wonderful rich smell of chocolate, virgin coconut oil for its exotic coconut smell and perhaps beeswax for the soothing sweet smell of honey.
Also, be careful with very strongly "smelling" fats - shea butter can be unpleasant, and nimbus oil, for example, really stinks. If you are sensitive to fragrances, first find out or reach for refined or deodorized fats that are fragrance-free, and then mix the scent with essential oils or cosmetic fragrances. (Keep in mind, however, that refining fat will not only lose its smell, but often also some of its therapeutic properties).
So - if the smell of the raw material is a basic property of the product (chocolate lip balm without cocoa butter will logically lose its charm), do not exchange . You cannot reliably replace the smell. Especially if you don't want to use cosmetic fragrances that would improve this feature.
Price - How much does it cost?
We say this quite often - when you make a cleaning product that you immediately flush down the sink after applying, or perhaps sparkling water or bath oils that you bathe in and then send down the drain, think about your wallets too. For such products, we usually want the oil to "only" do what it does best - to be an oil. In our opinion, replacing 10 ml of castor oil costing 4,- for 10 ml of argan oil, which would cost you 25 crowns, in the cleansing oil is a bit unreasonable. But of course you can do it, you definitely won't spoil the product, just your wallet might cry.
So – think about the price and rarity of the oils. Enjoy more expensive oils in products that will stay on you for a while and that belong mainly to the face or décolleté. So slip delicacies like prickly pear oil, baobab oil or blueberry oil into your face cream or use them in oil face serums.
So... let's wrap it up!
Do you want to change something in the recipe? First answer these questions:
Are the ingredients in the same state at room temperature? They should be - liquid for liquid, soft for soft, hard for hard. Otherwise, no.
If they are the same consistency, do they have the same absorption rate? If the recipe calls for a fast-absorbing oil (for example, grape) and you use a heavy one (for example, avocado), expect that the product will behave differently on the skin.
Does the recipe contain emulsifying wax (you can find out what it is here) or another wax that is at least 10% of the total weight? If not, definitely check the melting temperature of the fats you want to change. Otherwise, your lip balm could turn into a body oil, and we don't want that.
Is the recipe based on the special properties of the oil or butter? If so, and you don't have one, make something else for now. The star of the recipe deserves to remain the star of the recipe. :)
We believe that this article will help and make home production a little more cheerful, simpler and at the same time more precise. Let us know! :)