Why is that on the label? Guide to Natural Hair & Skin Care Ingredients: Oils & Butters

Do you ever wonder why a particular ingredient is included in the natural skin or hair care products available to you? If you are a savvy consumer, you do. And obviously, you are a savvy consumer, because you are seeking to use all-natural hair and skin care products! It kind of goes hand-in-hand.


Well, to help you discern those labels {and to help me as a quick reference for the healthy benefits of my favorite ingredients} I have started to put together a series of posts listing ‘ingredients you might find on all natural body care product labels and why’.

Eventually, I would love to have a comprehensive list of all the ingredients I like to use, but that is going to take some time. We have to start somewhere. And since, this week, I am working on crafting soap recipes, I think I am going to start with ‘oils & butters’ considering they make up such an important part of those recipes. Later on, I will share with you what I have learned about various water bases, botanicals, essential oils, plus other goodies {like clay and coal}. For now, let’s start here.

This is a list of my favorite emollient oils and butters, and usually the ones I use in my homemade personal care products – soaps {hot and cold process}, lotions, massage oils, balms, and more – and the reasons why I would include them in a particular recipe.

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Please let me know in the comments below if I missed something that you are curious about, or maybe I missed one of your favorites… do tell!


Avocado Oil, I think, is going to become one of my go-to oils. Known for its amazing healing properties, avocado oil is a favorite for use in all kinds of hair and skin care products. It is loaded with vitamins A, D & E, protein, minerals and amino acids. Avocado oil is known to regenerates cells, soften skin, moisturize, hydrate, reduce inflammation and itching, relieve burns, aid hair growth, and more. Highly penetrating and having a low chance of clogging pores, it also makes a good massage oil.

Castor Oil is mainly used in soaps to make a richly lathering bar. It also acts as a natural humectant, attracting moisture from the air and retaining it to the skin or hair.

Coconut Oil – Everybody loves coconut oil. In soap, it produces a hard, stable, whiter bar with a wonderful, thick, moisturizing lather. Great for hair, skin, and nails, it protects from damage and is extremely emollient. Can be used as an emulsifier. And, it smells amazing.

Cocoa Butter – Cocoa…? As in chocolate?! This richly emollient butter is a natural byproduct of making chocolate, and if it has not been naturally deodorized, then it very much retains that delicious cocoa scent. High in antioxidants, not only is cocoa butter great for your skin, it acts as a natural preservative. Cocoa butter is protective, heals overly dry or aged skin, and keeps skin hydrated, although it can be too heavy for oily complexions. Sometimes included as an emulsifier in creams, it also makes a nice healing balm.

Grapeseed Oil is a natural byproduct of the winemaking industry {Chocolate and wine… hmm, I think we are on to something here.} Great for both skin and hair, grapeseed oil is a natural mild astringent packed with vitamin E. It is very light and easily absorbed by the skin. Moisturizing without an oily residue, this scentless oil doesn’t weigh down hair or leave a greasy feel making it perfect for many natural hair and skin care products. It is even said to regulate natural oil production, bringing your own oils into balance. Because of the high heat resistance of grapeseed oil and it’s ability to protect hair from the harshness of the blow dryer, it makes a great addition to natural hair care products. Grapeseed oil is often mixed with more emollient oils for dry skin. Use only expeller pressed grapeseed oil to avoid solvents. Blend with more stable oils to extend shelf life.


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trying out lotion recipes with different oils


Jojoba oil is technically not an oil at all, but a liquid plant wax. An excellent natural preservative, jojoba oil serves well to stabilize other oils, and products it contains. Very close in resemblance to our own natural sebum, jojoba is protective and emollient yet allows skin to breathe. It is easily absorbed and great for dry, damaged complexions and hair.

Mango Butter is a wonderful emollient, great for products that target dry, damaged, or aging skin… or if you just deserve a little pampering. A high level of non-saponifiables makes mango butter good for superfatting soaps.

Olive Oil, IMHO, sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Because of its medicinal benefits and shelf stability, olive oil is one of my favorite oils to use and the one I use as a base for most of my herbal oil infusions. Historically used for centuries in the Mediterranean, olive oil is one of the original cosmetics. Among other things, olive oil is packed with anti-aging antioxidants, can reduce the appearance of scars, and is a good choice for dry sensitive complexions. Many are put off by the strong smell of olive oil, and it can be a bit on the heavy side, so I find it is best blended with other lighter oils. I almost always use organic extra virgin olive oil in my products, but the lower grade and lighter colored olive oils are also a great choice for natural hair and skin care products, lending a lighter aroma and color to the end product. Avoid pomace olive oil which is inexpensive but is extracted using solvents.


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summer herbs from our pnw medicinal garden infusing organic olive oil


Palm Kernel Oil increases lather and hardness in natural soaps and many soapmakers love it, but you have to be careful where it comes from. Palm and Palm kernel oil can be controversial because of irresponsible deforestation practices. It can also be farmed sustainably and responsibly. I only source this ingredient from companies committed to buying from responsible and sustainable sources who adhere to strict environmental protection regulations. Moisturizing when used in moderation, but can be drying when used in excess.

Rice Bran Oil is one oil I am just starting to play around with. Being full of powerful antioxidants, it is said to diminish the effects of aging, delaying the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Fast absorption.

Safflower Oil is a nourishing oil used in cosmetics and natural soap. Deeply soothing, it is a first choice for skin care recipes calling for moisturizer.

Shea Butter – Who isn’t in love with shea butter? It seems like shea butter pops up in everything these days. There is good reason for that. Shea butter is therapeutic and healing, softens skin and improves elasticity. It is anti-inflammatory, heals bruises, relieves soreness, and blocks UV rays. It is good for treating damaged, dry skin or preventing it. A high level of non-saponifiables makes shea butter good for superfatting soaps.

Sunflower Oil does not clog pores, is therapeutic, penetrating, moisturizing, and nourishing – full of vitamins A, D, E and essential fatty acids – these qualities and more make it a great choice for skin that needs a healing touch. Said to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Combine with oils having a longer shelf life to maintain freshness. This is another one you have to look out for, use only expeller pressed sunflower oil to avoid harmful chemicals of solvent extraction methods.

Sweet Almond Oil – Nutrient rich, light, and nearly odorless, sweet almond oil is suitable for all skin types, makes the skin soft and pliable, and is a favorite of massage therapists and aromatherapists alike. It is rich in omega 9 and omega 6 fatty acids, and vitamins D & E. In the tradition of ayurvedic medicine, sweet almond oil is said to bring the body back into balance. When used in hair products it may help to strengthen, thicken, protect, add shine, and prevent split ends, all while having a pleasant mild aroma. Makes a good aromatherapy or perfume base because it doesn’t penetrate as easily as other oils. Sweet almond oil is said to be slightly drying and so is often mixed with more emollient oils. Avoid solvent extracts and use only cold pressed almond oil.

Well, that is a start. The list is sure to grow as I update and add to it over time. I already have other posts in the works to continue this series on natural health and body care ingredients. I’ve also got one going on the various plants and herbs we grow for tea and other things here in our Pacific Northwest edible and medicinal gardens. Stay tuned. I hope you find these posts helpful, I think I will.


For more information on the benefits of natural ingredients, here are some of the references that I found to be helpful –

The Herbal Bath & Body Book, by Heather Lee Houdek

The Soapmaker’s Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How (Natural Body Series – The Natural Way to Enhance Your Life)

Mountain Rose Herbs product pages – https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/

Bulk Apothecary product information pages – http://www.bulkapothecary.com/

This information is for research and educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

2 thoughts on “Why is that on the label? Guide to Natural Hair & Skin Care Ingredients: Oils & Butters

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  2. Pingback: Naked HOPS & HONEY – Unscented, All Natural, Handmade Skin Care | PNW from Scratch

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