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The (overly) Cartesian Soaper: Palmitic vs Stearic Question

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Orla

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The dilemma I am trying to resolve might sound ridiculous. It boils down to this: do I go for Palmitic 13 + Stearic 18, or Palmitic 7 + Stearic 27. Hum.
Nearly every discussion of palmitic and stearic lumps them together. The difference between them is explained in terms of shorter or longer acid chains. Which does not get me far.
Deeanna suggested that for her 30-35 for P and S combined was good. For oleic she felt that between 40 and 50 was good.
Now, FACT: for vegetarian, no-palmists that sets the bar VERY high.
A no-palm vegetarian like me can get oodles of stearic from Soya wax. That's not a problem. We can also get oodles of oleic from high oleic sunflower. Not a problem either. (Those are just examples of a general no-problem area). The problem as I understand it is the palmitic. I have no Cartesian knowledge of palmitic but a Baconian inductive method pleads strongly for its importance. I have yet to read a carnivore complain about pig tallow soap. On the contrary, they rave about it. Always. As for the palm oil fans, they are legion. A bit defensively snippety but delighted with their soap. Also, more Baconian evidence. Someone quite well known (Kenna?) made a series of single-oil soaps. She wasn't very impressed with any of them, except sweet almond oil. In her opinion, the sweet almond oil soap gave a nice foamy lather and was gentle. And her office mates all agreed with her. Sweet almond won the competition hands down. Now, sweet almond has a nice dose of oleic, no lauric or myristic and no stearic. The only place those bubbles can have come from was the palmitic. Also, someone on my French facebook group also raves about the bubbliness and creaminess of her very high Almond oil soap.
I probably should add that I'm a 'no-palm, vegetarian, low-coco' person. But many on this list are low-coco.
I also have some low-level Baconian evidence in favour of palmitic from my own soap. Which is bubbly, and definitely gentle and a nice lather. (Though it actually takes ages to get there) And I have all the additives (aloe/SL/CA/sugar). My suspicion, however, is that the bubbliness, creaminess of my lather is not the best in world (I'd lose against the lard people any day).
I hope someone doesn't just pipe in with "try the two and see which you like" because I am actually interested in understanding the difference between palmitic and stearic. And I only make soap at the very most once a week. And I like to master-batch. And, as I say, the Cartesian in me is just curious.
When I say that Deeanna's nice soap desiderata set the bar high for people like me, I could point out that getting our P/S up to the bar of 30 definitely brings our oleic down to the bottom of that scale (40).
So, am I right in thinking that Palmitic 7+Stearic 27 (34), actually loses against Palmitic 13+Stearic 18 (31)? In both cases, oleic is down to 40. I did some searches on the soapmakingfriend recipes database and they seem to confirm that for people in my category of the population there is no point in hoping to get P/S in the 30-35 range and Oleic any higher than 40 in the 40-50 range. Sorry. Long. Boring? Thank you for your thoughts...
 

DeeAnna

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Palmitic soap is somewhat soluble and stearic soap fairly insoluble, so I'd predict a soap that is high in palmitic acid at the expense of stearic would be easier to lather and perhaps make more volume of lather compared to soap that's high in stearic acid at the expense of palmitic.

With the most commonly used soaping fats, it's hard to tweak palmitic without also changing the stearic. That's why these two fatty acids typically get lumped together. If you do want to change one independently of the other, you may have to work with some of the less common soaping fats, such as the sweet almond oil you mentioned. Lauric and myristic acids are often lumped together for the same reasons (coconut oil). The only fatty acid that's pretty easy to change independently of the others is oleic acid (olive oil).

"...am I right in thinking that Palmitic 7+Stearic 27 (34), actually loses against Palmitic 13+Stearic 18 (31)? ..."

I have never placed much importance on a few percentage points difference in fatty acid amounts. Remember we're dealing with averages for the fatty acid percentages, not data collected specifically from testing your actual fats, so bear in mind the fatty acid profile of your actual soap is probably somewhat different than what the averages predict.

IMO the palmitic of 7% versus 13% is probably not too important. Also the difference between 34% combined p+s is probably not significantly different than the 31% p+s.

Given your concerns, the stearic of 27% versus 18% is probably significant. That's a 9% difference. That much more stearic in the 27% recipe is going to make a perceptible difference in the way the soap lasts and lathers.
 

cmzaha

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I will make a side note that I found 100% SAO to not make a nice single oil soap. I have one sitting here that was poured 4/2020 made with vinegar, 2% superfat and it is still snotty, with very little lather.
 

Orla

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hum. Cmzaha, I think you are a soy person as well. I've done the rounds on getting my palmitic up. Avocado oil is not really a runner for me as it's far too (expensive and) dark and the refined probably doesn't have much palmitic anyhow... palmitic is animals or palm trees... Olive will give me some...
 

DeeAnna

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Hmmm. I see what you mean. Once you get away from palm oil and variations on palm oil, the remaining higher palmitic fats are cocoa butter and many of the animal fats, especially lard and tallow.

One other fat that seemed a bit promising is rice bran oil -- it's high oleic, moderate palmitic, and low stearic. Some RBO would help shift the fatty acid profile in the direction you want.
 

Orla

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Everyone would be entitled to scream if I threw in the word 'organic' :cool: !
RBO is as cheap as could be here EXCEPT if you want it organic - then it leaps up to 10 times the normal price.
You see you put the bar very high for us Deeanna?!!! :) We can come up with lashings of stearic... I think I'm going to opt for OO at a small 10% and, on tiptoe, I make it in the door of your 30 P/S and 42 Oleic!!! thank you both for the input!
 

szaza

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Not sure if this is useful to you (probably not), but I wanted to chime in because I think it's an interesting discussion.

A bit more than a year ago I tried to make soaps that approaches the FA profile of a high lard soap (80% lard, 20% CO, 5% sf).
FA profile: 10 Lauric, 5 Myristic, 24 Palmitic, 11 Stearic, 38 Oleic, 5 Linoleic

I came up with 2 different recipes:
The first one I tried to get as close as possible to the original FA profile (recipe: 22% CO, 38% Cocoa Butter, 40% Avocado oil - unrefined). I lowered the superfat to 3% to make up for the abundance of unsaponifiables in avocado oil. It wasn't perfect, but I felt the theoretical FA profile was pretty darn close.
FA profile: 10 Lauric, 4 Myristic, 21 Palmitic, 14 Stearic, 38 Oleic, 6 Linoleic.

For the second recipe I only looked at the combined value of s+p and did not try to exactly imitate the FA profile. It was just 22% CO and 78% shea butter, with 5% SF
FA profile: 11 Lauric, 4 Myristic, 6 Palmitic, 32 Stearic, 39 Oleic, 5 Linoleic.

Funny enough, the second recipe behaved a lot more like the real lard soap (except it lathered a tiny bit more, because I overcompensated for the myristic in lard with the whole 2% extra CO). Turns out unsaponifiables play a way bigger role in soap feel than FA profile ;) I think one tester even said the first recipe felt more like a high oleic soap.
I'm still curious what would've happened if I'd used refined avocado oil for the first recipe...
 

Orla

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Hi Szaza, funny, you are also on my radar for some reason!!! Soy?! The best I've come up with so far is this:
SAO 25%, Cocoa Butter 20%; Coco 17%, Soy wax 12; Avocado 10, HO Sunflower 10, Castor 6.
That gives:
Lauric 8; Myristic 3; Palmitic 13; Stearic 18; Ricinoleic 5; Oleic 40; Linoleic 7; (SF 5)
If you substitute avocado with OO, then you lose a point on palmitic and gain two points on Oleic.
(Actually, all of my recipes (mainly variations on the same theme) are in the soapmakingfriend database; until the recently (untried recipes, they were very high stearic/oleic).

Szaza, just to be sure, are you saying that the 2nd recipe was pretty wonderful?!!! I don't like the 'sound' of all that Shea, but that's perhaps just stupidity on my part. And you were underwhelmed by the vegetarian lard soap?!

I tried to find out about the acid profile of refined avocado oil, but drew a blank. I bet American soapmakers pretty much always use refined avocado oil (that seems to be the case for OO; on a facebook group refined OO is systematically referred to as 'regular' putting virgin in the 'exotic' category! In France (probably in Belgium too) its almost impossible (if not impossible?) to find the 'regular' sort! But there are many US fans of avocado so I think it must still have the unsaponifiables...

What d'you think Szaza? on the basis of your tests, would you vote for my avocado or OO version?! The other oil I tested at was pistachio (expensive)... I'd give you the feedback if it were not for the fact that all of my soaps take an age (three months I'd say) to come into their own and so at 1 month: some miserly bubbles but no creamy lather. I'm used to that so not unduly worried...
 

szaza

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I think your recipe sounds pretty good!
I've heard some soapers mention poly unsaturated oils lather pretty well, so maybe that could be something you could explore for more lather if you don't want to up the lauric/myristic? - just be aware of DOS...

Szaza, just to be sure, are you saying that the 2nd recipe was pretty wonderful?!!!
Yup, it was quite nice soap, just really expensive to make :p (both soaps were nice, but expensive, the first recipe just behaved significantly different from the second) I tried again with 20/80 coconut/shea and this time I felt the shea soap had a bit of a waxy feel (compared to the 80% avocado and 80% olive oil soaps I made around the same time). Maybe that 2% coconut made a bit difference? I don't know..
Comparing shea, avocado and olive at 80% was really interesting by the way! I loved the 80% avocado soap, it was a lot more bubbly than the shea and a lot less slimy than the olive oil soaps. It's still high oleic, so it melts away pretty fast, but honestly, I resent soaps that stick around too long :p
What d'you think Szaza? on the basis of your tests, would you vote for my avocado or OO version?!
Based on the above I'd go with avocado, although.. since it's so expensive and only 10% of your recipe, maybe olive might be just as good ;)
If you're looking for refined oils, try frying oils.. my olive oil is 'olive oil for frying'. I sometimes get some refined avocado oil from a natural cosmetics supplier in Germany, otherwise it's impossible to find here..
Also, if you want a cheap alternative to almond oil, I often use high oleic sunflower (frying) oil. It's not the same, but close enough in performance in a 75% of oils comparison soap and about 1/4 of the price... ;)
 

Orla

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thanks a million, Szaza, I think I'll experiment with the avocado - refined for colour reasons - through The Soapery (sacrificing my organic at least provisionally). Do you not use The Soapery? It's only like 5,49 or something for shipping. I stay with my French supplier for the non-OGM European soy wax out of loyalty, but even on that The Soapery is cheaper!!! And yes, I'm a big fan of the HO Sunflower. And I can get organic at a good price. Am just on this whim of trying to push up the palmitic relative to stearic! Nope, no refined OO in France - I don't really care, it just intrigued me. I even hunted in the very cheapest Lidl type places!!! The French are having none of it, it seems! Not surprising since the country is falling down with it... Have a nice evening all!!
 

szaza

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I guess Belgians enjoy frying more 🤣
Gosh, I thought it'd be fun to see if there's a difference in supply of oils in france and I'm shocked! I checked out colruyt, since that's where I get my refined olive oil for frying. If I search for 'oil' in the Dutch version of the Belgian colruyt, I get 166 results, in the French version of the Belgian website, I get 92 (in the same shop :p ) and on the French website (randomly chosen shop) I only get 42...
 

Dawni

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Everyone would be entitled to scream if I threw in the word 'organic' :cool: !
RBO is as cheap as could be here EXCEPT if you want it organic - then it leaps up to 10 times the normal price.
This is unfortunate coz RBO makes really nice soap. Lathers well, makes a fairly hard bar compared to some other liquid oils, lasts fairly well in the shower too.

If it's supermarket RBO it's very affordable for me (my soaps), price doubles if cold pressed (for everything else) from soap supplies places. I've not been able to find organic RBO where I am.. Probably coz organic rice itself is hard to find? Haha

SAO 25%, Cocoa Butter 20%; Coco 17%, Soy wax 12; Avocado 10, HO Sunflower 10, Castor 6.
That gives:
Lauric 8; Myristic 3; Palmitic 13; Stearic 18; Ricinoleic 5; Oleic 40; Linoleic 7; (SF 5)
If you substitute avocado with OO, then you lose a point on palmitic and gain two points on Oleic.
As an example, to get to the numbers I want, this recipe will be SAO 22%, Cocoa Butter 20%; Coco 16%, Soy wax 12; Avocado 16, HO Sunflower 10, Castor 5. That gives: Lauric 7; Myristic 3; Palmitic 13; Stearic 17; Ricinoleic 5; Oleic 43; Linoleic 8; (SF 2).

Yours is a nice recipe to begin with though, just fiddled with the numbers to see if the oleic will increase and it did. Also I like less coconut, which then means for me, lower superfat too.

If I'm going to make without soy I'll add Shea and use RBO somewhere in there to get the P+S to where I want it.
 

Orla

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Dear Dawni, I salute you on this wonderful day! and thank you so much!! I can hardly believe you got those numbers up!!! I thought that all fiddling possible had been done!!! And I just ordered RBO from Crudigno Organic Oils. THANK YOU!!!
And Dawni, this will be a leap of faith for me because I'll just have to take your word for it that I won't have a disaster on my hands with the 2% SF, but I'm jumping!!!
 
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Dawni

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Dear Dawni, I salute you on this wonderful day! and thank you so much!! I can hardly believe you got those numbers up!!! I thought that all fiddling possible had been done!!! And I just ordered RBO from Crudigno Organic Oils. THANK YOU!!!
And Dawni, this will be a leap of faith for me because I'll just have to take your word for it that I won't have a disaster on my hands with the 2% SF, but I'm jumping!!!
Lol I used to do a lot of fiddling with my numbers, not so much anymore. My focus now is just low cleansing, and a high enough longevity without lowering the conditioning number too much.

Several of us here use a low superfat, I learned to do that here in fact. All soap will clean, even without coconut but it helps with bubbles too so I figure I don't need too much. If you factor in the non purity of sodium Hydroxide to begin with, a high superfat then just seems redundant.

Can't wait for you to try your RBO! Several of us here have made soap with high amounts of it and liked it :)
 

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Woot! How did I miss this conversation? I go to great lengths to try to increase my palmitic too, also being a veg/non palm soaper. My recipe is 20% each of CO, OO, RBO and Soy Wax, 10% Shea and 5% each of castor and avocado. I will report back soon on the fatty acid profile of that, because that’s downstairs on my laptop :)
 

KiwiMoose

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Downstairs now. Here ya go:

Lauristic: 10
Myristic: 4
Palmitic: 13
Stearic: 23
Ricinoleic: 5
Oleic: 31
Linoleic: 11
Linolenic: 1

I always use an additive such as aloe, oat milk, coconut milk, beer, carrot juice, etc.
 

Orla

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Hi Kiwimoose, you beat me to it! I just entered your figures. Your stearic is double your palmitic, as mine was. I have been masterbatching my lye 50/50 with aloe instead of water. I've had no problems except that I'm now going to use the double bucket method Deeanna describes on Youtube. My linoleic was lower than yours though and that gives bubbles. I just felt that the stearic was weighing down the palmitic and the soap not giving enough fluffiness to my taste!!! at least not quickly enough! I tested a few of my soaps and looked back at earlier recipes I'd used and realised that earlier they had more palmitic and Linoleic... and for me they were more luscious!!! A bit of a wake-up call!!!
 
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