Shortening for topical use?

Answered on March 25, 2014
Created March 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM

So, vegetable shortening, like Crisco isn't paleo right? Something to do with the type of oil(s) it is? I am looking into making my own body butters and lotions and was wondering whether or not it could be used as a suitable base though. Anyone know enough to explain to me why that might not be a good idea/why it would be fine? If it's not a good idea to ingest the oil, would the same apply for absorbing it through the skin/using it as a moisturizer? (Yes, there are lots of body butter recipes that don't call for it with healthier oils. Coconut, almond, shea...etc...I was thinking including something that had a higher melting point.)

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on March 25, 2014
at 10:24 AM

Trans fats are toxic to humans, they're implicated in causing cardio vascular disease. PUFAs (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids), which are in most industrial seed oils (corn, soy, canola, safflower, "vegetable", etc.) are somewhat "essential", but only in very small amounts, and need to be clean - unfortunately the process for extracting them is more similar to an oil refinery and damages the oils by oxidizing them due to the high heat. The oils are then bleached, degummed, and de-odorized - otherwise they'd be too disgusting to consume.

They are used in cosmetics for the same reason anything else is used anywhere: they're cheap. Corporations don't care about your health. They care about 4 things: using the least expensive ingredients that can do a job, making a very shelf stable product so it can sit in warehouses or on shelves for years and still be sold, making a very consistent product, being able to sell that product at the highest price they can. These goals are not pro-health, or pro-consumer. If anything, they're pro-shareholder.

There is also a culture of anti-saturated fats, started from the industrial seed oil manufacturers many years ago, so the cosmetic makers would be afraid of using things like butter because of its percieved negative connotations. Plus, butter would go rancid. By extention, conventional wisdom considers one of the most healthy oils out there, coconut oil, as an evil saturated fat. Meanwhile the public embraced the true evil fats: trans-fats, in the form of margarine, and "I can't believe I'm eating this crap."

The other issue with coconut oil is that it's solid until it hits about 77'F. Making cosmetics with it would require some sort of emulsifier, otherwise your body lotion or whatever might turn chunky. (Oh, and by the way, ever notice how some "lotions" contain alcohols in them? Alcohols are a drying agent. They're in there, so you put on more lotion, feel good for a while, the alcohol dries your skin, you put on more lotion, and so on...)

I'm sure you're aware of various medicines that are absorbed through your skin. Stuff like dramamine patches, nicotine patches, androgen/estrogen/testosterone patches, and so forth. If you eat something, at least it has to be digested. But if you put it on your skin and it's absorbed because it's small enough, it doesn't have a chance to be broken down by your digestive system.

Some people even react to gluten in cosmetic products, so it's likely also absorbed.

tl;dr - if you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin.

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