Saponification is the process in which triglycerides are combined with a strong base to form fatty acid metal salts during the soap-making process. The distribution of unsaturated and saturated fatty acid determines the hardness, aroma, cleansing, lather, and moisturizing abilities of soaps. Plant extracts, such as rosemary, vegetable, and essential oils are frequently added to soaps to enhance quality and sensory appeal. Three natural soaps were formulated using cold saponification to produce a base or control bar (BB), hibiscus rosehip bar (H), and a forest grove bar (FG). Rosemary extract (R) or essential oil (A) blends were added as additives to each formulation prior to curing to evaluate the effects of natural plant additives on the lipid composition and sensory characteristics of these natural herbal soaps. A total of seven natural soaps, three without additives (BB, H, FG) and four with additives (BBR, HA, FGR, FGA), were manufactured and studied. The majority (86⁻99%) of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (5.0⁻7.0 µg/mg) remained unsaponified in the manufactured natural soaps regardless of feedstock used. Principal component analysis (PCA) analyses showed the unsaponifiable fatty acids were different in the hibiscus bar compared to the other bars. There was a very strong correlation between the content of unsaponified C18:3n3 and C18:1n9 in all natural soaps. These results indicate that unsaponified fatty acids are important contributors to the quality and overall sensory perception and preference of natural herbal soaps following manufacturing by cold saponification.
Keywords: fatty acid composition; natural herbal soap; sensory perception; unsaponified fatty acids.