Vegetable Oil Composition

Like everything in nature, vegetable oil composition consists of several basic substances. We very often speak about how great this oil is because is high in unsaturated fatty acids, or has phenols. But what does that mean? What do these oil element compounds do?

Here you can find a brief explanation about most common element compounds from vegetable oils, and what they mean.

vegetable oil composition

Table of Contents

Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are crucial for a healthy and good-looking skin, as they are not naturally produced by the body.  Deficiencies in essential fatty acids have negative consequences for your health and often lead to dry and inflamed skin prone to blackheads and whiteheads.

Unsaturated fatty acids are Linoleic acid (omega-6), Linolenic acid (omega-3), Ricinoleic acid (omega-9, only present in castor oil). Know all about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids here.

Alpha-linolenic acid: Alpha-linolenic acid is a high-dehydrating oleic acid when used too much. For your information, there is too much alpha-linolenic acid in linseed oil. Therefore, linseed oil for skincare is not recommended.

Gamma-linolenic acid: Gamma-linolenic acid is a rare oleic acid that is usually present only in low concentrations. Gamma-linolenic acid is actually produced by the body as well. As you get older, your body functions are getting weaker and your body does not produce enough gamma-linolenic acid. Gamma-linolenic acid is the salvation of aging skin. Primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil, borage oil, hemp oil are some examples of oils with gamma-linolenic content.

Oleic acid: is the most abundant fatty acid in human adipose tissue, and second in abundance in human tissues overall, following palmitic acid. Oleic acid is not the best fatty acid for skincare. It easily clogs pores and causes pimples. Hemp seed oil contains only about 9% oleic acid. Unfortunately, such low levels of oleic acid are rare in oils.

Saturated Fatty Acids

Naturally produced by the body, saturated fatty acids are effective occlusive agents important for the skin. Their levels are higher in young skin compared to elder skin. Using skincare containing oils with saturated fatty acids helps with this deficiency and combat skin ageing.

Saturated fatty acids are Lauric AcidPalmitic AcidStearic AcidMyristic AcidOleic Acid

You can find in which oils are all these fatty acids present in How Do You Use a Lye Soap Calculator? and its contribution to soap making. You can also find this properties table for vegetable oils and in Oil Properties for Soap Making.

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Anti-Oxidants and Vitamins


Polyphenols are active ingredients with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-DNA damaging activities (Nichols & Katiyar, 2009). Research has also highlighted their photoprotective effects, and polyphenols contribute to fighting the spread of free radicals, which are responsible for premature skin ageing. Because of their activity, polyphenols are precious ingredients.

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Vitamin A – Retinol:   keeps skin and the lining of some parts of the body, such as the nose, healthy. Retinol in particular works to decrease oil production, promote cellular turnover, and increase collagen synthesis

Vitamin B: it may be the most intimidating due to how many different types exist. What you need to know is that there are three primary forms: vitamin B3 (also known as niacin), vitamin B5 (also known as panthenol), and vitamin B12.

Vitamin B3: boosts collagen production and also reduces dark spots.

Vitamin B5 – Panthenol: is an humectant and is highly popular in moisturizers, shampoos and hair conditioners, offering barrier conditioning effects on the skin.

Vitamin B12: when applied topically, it successfully treats eczema by reducing the body’s production of nitric oxide production

Vitamin CAscorbic acid: one of the most effective ways to fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots. It’s also an antioxidant, meaning that it protects your skin against free radicals and skin damage, which escalate the process of premature aging, brown spots, and wrinkles.

Vitamin D: it is produced by the body with sun exposure (D2), it’s also present in fatty substances (D3), mostly animal fats but also some vegetable oils, like sunflower and avocado. There are scientific evidences that it helps treat psoriasis.

Vitamin E – Tocopherol: Part of the family of antioxidants, tocopherol is a type of vitamin E famous for its skin benefits, which among others include UV, pollution protection and hydration. Tocopherols are useful beyond their skin benefits: as antioxidants, they are great for naturally preserving cosmetic formulations. In particular, gamma tocopherol a component that effectively protects oil cosmetic formulations. Vitamin E is also a powerful anti-oxidant.

4 thoughts on “Vegetable Oil Composition”

  1. When we are shopping, it is pretty easy to head over to a shelf, grab a bottle of the cheapest thing and call it a day. Rarely do we consider the ingredients and what we need to know. Your discussion on various components like saturated fatty acids, anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals was very helpful. I hadn’t really considered the breakdowns of these various elements and I feel much more informed after your blog piece. Thanks! 🙂 

    • Hello A Jaynes and thanks for your comment.

      Although this article is meant for oils used in cosmetics, it also serves as a guide for oils we ingest!! You probably heard that unsaturated fats are better for our health than saturated. You know why? Because at the molecule level, unsaturated fats slide more easily, then don’t “stack” so well. So, they don’t clog so much like saturated fats. 

      As for soap, unsaturated fats make the soap more slippery and soft, and more conditioning, while saturated fats make for a hard, lasting bar of soap, more “drying/agressive” as it cleans better and more effectively. Both are needed to make a good, balanced, skin-friendly bar of soap 🙂

      Hope you enjoyed the article!



  2. As someone who is deeply in love of my skin and take skin care very important, articles like these always hit me differently and I enjoy them it was very educating and also an we opener, I never knew so much about alpha linolenic acid and gamma linolenic acid beforehand and it was amazing to learn about antioxidants. Thank you so much for sharing this

    • Hello Collinsss and thanks for your comment.

      I think I have just scratched the surface of chemistry with this post 🙂 I’ve studied more about soapmaking chemicalwise (definitely something I will publish) and it’s fascinating to learn how each of these components influence the final product (soap). This is also helpful for health and to know what oils you should (and shouldn’t) add to your diet. 

      I hope you enjoyed this post!

      P.S. – If you love your skin you definitely should use natural handmade soaps 🙂 Please, come visit my website to know more I will be publishing regularly about natural cosmetics, not just DIY and recipes but also good places to buy them. In alternative, please, subscribe to HerbAlcochete mailing list, to receive firsthand the lastest posts.



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