From Lather to Hardness, Wax Has a Big Impact on Soap Formulas

The history of soap making reads like a story of civilization. A soap recipe attributed to the Babylonians appeared on clay tablets dated 4800 years ago. The Romans were avid soap makers, as well, with a whole soap factory being found under the ruins of Pompeii. But how did their soap compare to today’s soaps? Not as well as the ancients might have liked! While much of the baseline chemistry of soap remains the same, the refinement of our ingredients and the luxurious lathers and textures possible now would have made the pharaohs sigh with delight.

Why Use Waxes in Soaps?

The fatty acid profiles of natural waxes make them highly useful and effective ingredients for applications across the spectrum of soap formulation. Waxes have a more complex chemistries than other fats, so choosing wisely is key. Waxes are higher in saturated fatty acids than oils, which is good for creating harder bars, creamier lather, and better cleansing. In both soft and hard soap systems, they truly prove their utility. For example, the high palmitic acid content of cocoa butter lends itself to a creamy lather with high stability. Blended into soap systems, waxes provide a wide variety of excellent qualities to your product from the hardness of the bar to the amount and type of lather. In the case of soy wax and beeswax, both contain stearic acid, which is essential for firming up bars and providing hydration to the skin.

Waxes Can Impact Trace

One of the most important aspects of soapmaking is the concept of “trace”, which indicates that saponification is taking place. Attention to trace gives you control over your soap’s visual appeal and can be altered by changing the type and percentage of waxes and oils. Whether you are wanting a light trace to lengthen the pouring time to create swirled patterns or fill intricate molds, or you want to hold a moderate trace while ingredients are embedded or layered, choosing the right percentage of waxes will get the system right and consistent.

Knowing the fatty acid profile of ingredients becomes useful in making your final product with the specific attributes that your customers are looking for. Fats that are mainly saturated like lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic fatty acids accelerate trace. While mainly unsaturated fatty acids like oleic, linoleic, and linolenic fatty acids all slow trace.

All Around Bar Soap

Koster Keunen’s All Around Bar Soap formula shows off the versatility and usefulness of waxes in a pleasant-to-use body soap. It features the best attributes of cocoa butter’s dense lather and moisturizing with soothing and softening properties of bayberry wax. And all of that is punctuated by the energetic scent and color of orange peel wax, yielding a bar soap that highlights the benefits of using the right combination of waxes and oils to give your system a unique look and feel.

Ingredient Trade Name INCI Name %
Phase A
Deionized Water Aqua 21.42
Lye Sodium Hydroxide (Caustic Soda) 9.58
Phase B
Olive Oil Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil 25.00
Coconut Oil Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil 12.00
Almond Oil Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil 10.00
AR Cocoa Butter Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter 10.00
Bayberry Wax Myrica Cerifera (Bayberry) Fruit Wax 8.00
Orange Peel Wax Citrus Aurantium Dulcus (Orange) Peel Wax) 4.00

In the thousands of years since soap making began, consumers have come to rely on this product to do far more than simply wash their hands. Koster Keunen has nearly two centuries of experience in wax chemistry. We can help you formulate products for nearly any skin type using our understanding of the complexities of the chemistry of oils and waxes.

Whether you are looking to improve an existing product or add a new product to your line, contact us to discuss your formulation needs. We would be happy to help you to find the right wax products for your system.

About Koster Keunen

Koster Keunen has been working with wax since 1852 and has used our extensive experience and knowledge base to continuously develop new chemistries. Whether you are developing a new product, or need help with a reformulation or replacement, contact us to learn more about how we source, refine or develop waxes so you can create the perfect formula.