Updated: Sep 11, 2019
Apricots have made their way into culinary mainstream and are used in many different dishes and creations including drinks, smoothies, dried fruit mixes, alcoholic beverages, pies, jams, and salads. They are even used to add flavor to meat dishes like “sweet apricot chicken” and “fire apricot wings”. Apricots are easily recognizable by their soft orange and golden hues and are known for having both a sweet, yet tart and juicy flavor. Apricots aren’t only famous for their use in cooking dishes, but also for the many health benefits they provide when both consumed and applied topically, often as an oil. The oil obtained from apricots is cold pressed and comes from their large brown kernel or seed. Although the oil comes from the kernel and is formally called apricot kernel oil (AKO), many people simply refer to it as apricot oil because of the fruit it originates from.
The apricot tree is thought to have originated from Armenia and was named as such: Prunus armeniaca or “Armenian plum”. It is currently the country’s fruit, but the exact origin has often been disputed with some scientists claiming it was from China and others from India from around 3000 B.C.. Although apricots are able to be grown in multiple areas of the world, including North America and Europe, the world’s largest cultivators of apricots today are in Turkey and Uzbekistan. Annually, there is estimated to be almost 4.5 million tonnes produced or almost 10 billion pounds of apricots annually. That is a lot of apricots!
Because we do not consume apricots during soapmaking, we will skip over many of the health benefits that they provide when and instead focus on the topical benefits. Apricot kernel seeds are made up of fats, protein, sugar, fiber and water. Typically a combination of solvent extraction and cold pressing are used to obtain the apricot kernel oil which contains about 92-98% lipids. In addition to the lipids, it also contains phytosterols like beta-sitosterol (plant sterol similar in chemical structure to cholesterol that conditions skin), beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A) and tocopherols (vitamin E). Some apricot oils have also been found to have trace amounts of alpha-estradiol and estrone, two anti-wrinkling hormones.
The chemical makeup of apricot oil is important in soap making because it will determine the soap qualities when used as part of the saponification equation and also when used as a post cook superfat. The triglyceride acids are mostly oleic acid (51.0 – 83.3 %), linoleic acid (9.6 – 45.9 %) and palmitic acid (3.2– 10.7 %). These numbers may look a little varied because they are from many different tests. If you are concerned about your fatty acid makeup, inquire with your oil supplier.
Soapee lists the general fatty acid makeup of apricot kernel oil as: Linoleic- 27%
After reading The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap, you should have a better understanding of how these fatty acids will affect your recipe. We know that palmitic acid will increase the hardness, longevity and stability of the soap; however, it should be noted that there is only a very small amount of this fatty acid in apricot kernel oil. We also know that linoelic and oleic fatty acids are both very good at providing conditioning elements to the final soap bar. If added to the recipe and then added with the lye, you can expect these soap qualities to be added to your total recipe; however, the other components of the oils may be oxidized by the sodium hydroxide. If added after the saponification process, you can expect all of the components and benefits of apricot kernel oil, including the non-lipid components, will be added to your soap and that the apricot oil will provide additional moisturizing properties and increase the fluidity of your recipe.
Keep in mind that free fatty acids, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids are more susceptible to oxidation and rancidity. The linoleic acid found in AKO can cause potential risks when used in high concentrations and in conjunction with things like tap water, excessive superfatting, contact with metals, and more.
Now that you have had the opportunity to explore apricot kernel oil and what it has to offer your soap, let’s make some hot process soap using this wonderful ingredient! Check out the new recipe in the Members Recipe Book!