Essential Oils Soaps
Right out of the gate, it is readily apparent how essential oils and fragrance oils are different from each other. There’s a healthy and fundamental tinge of “natural versus synthetic” there, and the contrast is undeniably stark. On the other hand, there’s the matter of essential oils versus absolute oils. When it comes to this particular topic, the differences aren’t as clear cut. After all, they each stem from aromatic glands found in plants. How can they really stand out from one another?
1 – Steam Extraction
Absolute and essential oils do stem from the same place, but they actually go in different directions when they are extracted. Essential oils are extracted – meaning they’re removed – by a process called steam distillation. This method utilizes steam to pass throughout the plant in a grid-like formation. A sealed steam distillation container is used to make the process function properly.
The steam essentially turns the oil taken from the plants into vapor that then rises up into pipes. It then goes into a condenser and then towards a collector. Water is formed there that contains a combination of oil and water. After this, the final step involves siphoning the oil away from the water’s surface. There are some exceptions (such as clove) where the oil must be extracted from the bottom however.
2 – Citrus Pressing
Secondarily, essential oils can also be extracted by cold pressing. This is particularly useful when gathering oil from the peels of fruit, including the likes of oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tangerines, and limes. Cold pressing is typically preferred over the steam method here since it doesn’t break down the acids in the fruit. Steam distillation is typically too hot to keep the acids intact. Aromatic content is also preserved through citrus pressing.
3 – Absolutes & Solvent Extraction
Absolute oils are what you get when aromas have been gathered from plants typically considered far too fragile for the extraction and distillation methods detailed above. Solvent extraction has to be used, a method that uses petroleum based materials such as ethanol, hexane, homeether, and methanol. These solvents can take fatty material with the aromatic compounds alongside plant waxes and chlorophyll. The mixture produced is referred to as “concrete.” This is then mixed with alcohol, taking away the aromatic compounds.
4 – Purity
The final result you get from solvent extraction is residue-rich aromatic oil. There is a lot of debate going around concerned what sort of long and short term effects this might have, especially when it comes to using hexane. Absolute oils are already approved for usage in literally thousands of commercially sold products, but they are off limits in cases such as organic soap. There remains a concern for just how pure they really are. For this reason, absolute and essential oils should be considered two entirely different things.