The role of fats and oils in cosmetics

  • Murray Berdick
Technical Symposium: Fats And Oils In Cosmetics And Pharmaceuticals


The earliest emollients in the history of cosmetics were the naturally occurring animal fats and vegetable oils. These provided soothing and smoothing action on the skin and grooming effects on head and beard hair. For the most part, odor problems limited the interest in oils derived from fish. With the increasing sophistication of users and increasing understanding of the technology of these materials, the short-comings of natural fats and oils were overcome in several ways: (a) increased stability through use of antioxidants; (b) reduced odor through improved processing; (c) improved stability and diversification through chemical modification; (d) increased diversity through preparation of derivatives, and (e) substitution of mineral oil. Today the most important single cosmetic use of an unmodified natural fat or oil is that of castor oil as the base for lipsticks. Other unmodified oils have largely minor specialty uses, particularly in higher-priced cosmetics. These include almond oil, apricot kernel oil, sesame oil, safflower oil, wheat germ oil, avocado oil, turtle oil and mink oil. Cocoa butter is used to some extent in suntan products. Reconstituted fractionated coconut oil is widely used. Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids are increasing in importance. Hydrogenation has produced stable oils useful in cosmetics. Alkyl esters and monoglycerol esters of fatty acids offer a wider range of properties than the original oils. Improvements in the naturally occurring fats and oils have made it possible for them to compete in some characteristics, and current interest in “natural” cosmetics may turn the attention of the cosmetic chemist back to improved versions of the classical raw materials.


Cocoa Butter Cosmetic Chemist Polyglycerol Ester Mutton Tallow Butyl Stearate 
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Copyright information

© The American Oil Chemists’ Society 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murray Berdick
    • 1
  1. 1.Research LaboratoriesChesebrough-Pond’s Inc.Trumbull

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