CosmeticOBS - L'Observatoire des cosmétiques
March 9, 2015Ingredient of the month

When cosmetics are immersed in… vegetable oil! Add to my portfolio
pro subscription only feature
see our subscription plans

Thinkstock/L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

Can you name at least one category of cosmetics that can NEVER contain at least ONE vegetable oil? … No, really? Not even one? And yet there are some. Only a few, that’s true. Which ones? You’ll get the answer at the end of this article!

Reading time : ~ 6 minutes

They form the base of creams, skincare oils, nourishing conditioners… and all emulsions, broadly speaking. And emulsions, which are a mixture of fats (oils, but also butters and waxes) and water, are the dosage form of the great majority of cosmetics.
There you go; you already have a clue to answer our riddle: look for a cosmetic product that cannot contain fats…

Many types of oil in many products

One of the characteristics of vegetable oils is that, on top of theoretically being able to be incorporated into numerous types of formulation, they are present in a multitude of products, whether they be developed by natural and organic or conventional cosmetics brands.
And we are not talking about only one type of oil! One could imagine only one of them is the cure-all, the least expensive, the least scented, the most easily available, and the easiest to emulsify… But no, almost all of them can be found in formulas. Indeed, if they all belong to the same category of cosmetics ingredients, they are all a bit different.


It is stating the obvious to say that oils have an oily texture. Of course, there are oily textures and oily textures. Indeed, some are more easily absorbed by the skin than others, others slide more or less easily, or show a more or less ‘dry’ skin feel.Some are more fluid, others a bit thicker, and in their hydrogenated form they can even become really thick, even almost solid at room temperature… which is perfect for lipsticks or massage balms for the body.
And here is a second clue for our riddle: look for a cosmetic product whose form is perfectly liquid…


If they are frequently incorporated into cosmetics, it is also because vegetable oils are much more than an excipient. They actually prove to be an infinitely precious, extremely pleasant source of actives for the skin, much more than mineral oils or silicones.
All of them are rich in fatty acids (some of which are essential, meaning our body cannot produce them) and vitamins, trace elements, antioxidants: they vary in terms of richness, since they all have a different composition.
And each of them has their own specific role or complements other vegetable oils, which explains why they are often mixed together.
So here is a third clue for our riddle: look for a cosmetic product that is not positioned on skincare…

Cosmetics without… vegetable oils

Let’s recap: a cosmetic product with no fat, with a liquid form, or which is not designed for skincare…

• Are you thinking about a shower gel or a shampoo? It is intrinsically true these cleansing gels do not need any oil in their formulas. That does not mean they do without, though, especially when it comes to add a softening (for example with sweet almond oil in shower gels) or nourishing touch (with jojoba, olive, safflower, moringa, sunflower, coconut oils in shampoos) to their claims.

• So now you are thinking about a face powder or a blush? Because a dry formula does not need any fat? Not necessarily, that is true. And some actually do not contain any. But many others do, like sunflower, olive, apricot, or jojoba oils, to add some binder or improve the texture… and provide the additional skincare hint to the main makeup function of the product.

• Are you kicking the ball into touch, naming conventional cosmetics creams based on mineral oils and silicones? It is true some of them do not contain any vegetable oil in their formulas… which does not mean they cannot. Many – actually, an increasing number of them in the sector – also take advantage of their richness.


Here is the answer.
You will never find any vegetable oil in the formulas essentially composed of alcohol, like perfumes (which exclusively contain alcohol, essential oils, and perfuming substances) and deodorants. But beware; only deodorants presented in aerosols are concerned. By contrast, roll-on formulas bear all the characteristics of emulsions and can therefore contain oils, including vegetable ones.
Likewise, toning lotions (often based on alcohol) or micellar lotions are designed without any oil, whether vegetable or not.
Lastly, toothpaste is made with very specific formulas, and nail varnish also has a particular formulation based on solvents, plasticizers, and film-forming agents: they never contain any oil either.
In the end, all this represents a very tiny part of the great mass of cosmetics containing oil!

© CosmeticOBS-L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

All articles (88)