Category Archives: Green Chemistry

Cold Pressed Oil?

We frequently get the question: “is your oil “cold pressed” ?”.

Well – yes and no.

First, some transparency:

The references we mainly use for oil quality are:

  • The American Oil Chemist Society (of which we are members).
  • Codex Alimentarius (a document supported by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations – Guidelines and Codes since 1963 for food   safety and quality – Link to Codex
  • Bailey’s Oils and Fats, 6th Edition.

These resources represent the collective knowledge of many oil producers and analytical labs gathered over many years to establish best practices for oil quality and safety. After all – we are selling food ingredients to be used in cosmetics that sit on peoples counters for… unknown years so quality is crucial.

Back to “cold pressed”: the term is generally a marketing term. Why?

A few facts about the organic oils we sell:

            1 – most organic vegetable oils are mechanically pressed using stainless steel equipment. These presses have different designs but the goal is always the same: get as much oil as possible out of the seeds or fruit. For organic they can only use mechanical methods (no solvents).

            2 – The pressure plus the friction used to press the oil out of the seed will always generate some amount of heat. That is unavoidable.

            3 – Every oil has a different tolerance for heat – most of us know you do not fry with olive oil but you can fry with canola, for example. So – what is the significance of the heat for a specific oil if all oils are so different?

            4 – All of the references cited above agree that the technical meaning of “cold pressed” from someone that actually makes the oil is a) oil pressed without the addition of heat, or b) an agreement between the buyer and oil producer. So, unless you are buying 80,000 lbs. of oil it is unlikely you can have any say on the production method.

While there are companies all over the internet making claims about “cold pressed’ I suspect that few of them have any idea how their oil is actually made (with the exception of Laurel Skin!).

When we contract with a supplier we go to the manufacturing press, if at all possible. We require a production flow chart and we analyze the oil in addition to the analysis that they send us. We spend money every month monitoring the quality of the oil – because that is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than making random claims. We want to know how the chemistry of the oil is changing over time to ensure the you have the best quality oil possible.

The important thing about oil is to know what it’s chemistry looks like. Check out our blog on “Peroxide Value” to learn more about oil quality.

A Note on Quality: Peroxide Value and other Quality Measurements

I am always talking about Peroxide Value (PV) when I talk about oils. This is part of how we assess the quality of an oil.

When we receive a new shipment of oil, we check:

  • The Production date,
  • The test date,
  • The Peroxide Value,
  • And the Free Fatty Acids (not to be confused with the Fatty Acid Profile – 2 different things)

“Peroxide Value” is a chemical measurement of the peroxide (aka hydroperoxides) in an oil that indicates how an oil is aging. The PV on the Certificate of Analysis from when they made the oil is a snapshot in time. Six months later we may run another PV test. The free fatty acids should be within the limit set on the spec and will go up when the PV (or oxidation) has increased measurably.

You should also always look at the production date and the shelf-life so you know what you are dealing with.

Recently Isabel (our QC/QA manager) and I did a deep dive into the international picture of safety in oil and decided to make a couple of changes to our specifications. We have raised the limit on PV on our Specifications to a PV of 5 for refined oils and 10 for unrefined oils. This does not mean they are “bad” above those limits. It means they are starting to age and will eventually go rancid.

Our recommend USE limit for safety is a PV of 20 for an unrefined or virgin oil and of 10 for a refined oil. We will not sell an oil over 10 for Virgin and over 5 for refined (except olive oil – different story)– because we know they will continue to age.

We also recommend that you use a good antioxidant in your blends. We sell a sunflower derived natural tocopherol that will often, at the least, double your shelf life.

So – remember – these are food that we are using in cosmetics, they are made from plants and they all have different rates at which they age. You can always call us with questions.

How to Make a Cosmetic Black List … (Hint: Don’t)

I’ve no idea how many “green” brands and retailers there are but all of them seem to have a “black list”. They choose some number of nasty chemicals and promise that they are not in the products they sell.

Further – everyone seems to copy everyone else’s Black List – so you see the same list over and over.

Here’s the problem: there are 60,000 different cosmetic ingredients.  A list of 20 or even 200 chemicals is never going to capture all of the problem chemicals.

What is the solution?

First: everything this a chemical. H2O is a molecular description of the chemical, water.

Second: all chemicals are made using a finite number of methods. Some chemicals are made using biological methods like fermentation or production using yeast. Some are naturally occurring like oil in a sunflower seed. Most, however. are made using a set of reactions that require reacting one chemical with another chemical. If you are not a chemical engineer, how do you know what is “green”?

If you want to convey to a chemist your goal to use “green” ingredients, giving them a list of 30 chemicals just won’t do the trick.

One solution is to explain that you want “green chemistry” per a wonderful paper that was published in 1998 by John Warner and Paul Anastas*. The link below is to the American Chemical Society site which explains (in very clear language) these principles.

If an ingredient meets these standards, then it is a pretty sure bet that it is safe for skin and for the planet. Many chemists were never taught about this in school but it is high time that they learn.

Spread the knowledge and save the planet. Use ingredients that meet the Principles of Green Chemistry.

*Green Chemistry Link