Carrier oils also referred to as base oils or vegetable oils are used to dilute essential oils and absolutes before applying to the skin. They “carry” the essential oil onto the skin. Different carrier oils offer different properties and the choice of carrier oil can depend on the therapeutic benefit being sought.
Carrier oils are generally cold-pressed vegetable oils derived from the fatty portions of the plant. Unlike essential oils that evaporate and have a concentrated aroma, carrier oils do not evaporate or impart their aroma as strongly as essential oils.
Examples of carrier oils are sweet almond, apricot kernel, grapeseed, avocado, peanut, olive, pecan, macadamia nut, sesame, evening primrose, walnut and wheat germ. Most oils bought in the grocery store are not cold-pressed. Instead, the oils are heated and therefore have less therapeutic benefit. Mineral oil is not used in aromatherapy because mineral oil is not a natural product. It is also said that mineral oil can prevent essential oil absorption into the skin.
Essential oils do not go rancid. Carrier oils, however, can! Carrier oils that you purchase should be natural and unadulterated. Exceptions include buying carrier oils that have natural vitamin E added. Vitamin E acts as a natural preservative.
Vegetable oils are probably the most familiar carriers used by therapists and deserve to be gone into in detail as they have interesting properties of their own. Good carrier oil has penetrative properties to assist the essential oils; it is 100% pure: it should have little or no smell, an attractive texture for massage and should benefit the skin.
A FEW TIPS WHEN BUYING CARRIER OILS
Nowadays, many people are very careful when choosing essential oils. However, this care and concern does not always extend to the purchasing of carrier oils. The quality of your carrier oil is every bit as important. To help with this we have detailed the following few tips:
- Make sure the carrier oil is of pure vegetable origin. Carriers containing any mineral oil will not penetrate the skin and therefore are no use in aromatherapy.
- Ensure the carrier oil is supplied in an amber or otherwise opaque bottle – as exposure to daylight can adversely affect the quality of the oil.
- Always choose an unrefined oil rather than refined in order to ensure that you are using a oil that has been less damaged in the process of extraction.
- Be wary if the Grapeseed Oil you are buying is described as ‘Cold Pressed’ – Grapeseed Oil cannot be produced by this means. Whist cold pressing is a preferred method of extraction – in the case of Grapeseed Oil it would produce an unsavoury raw grapeseed extract, which without some refinement would have a particularly short shelf life before turning rancid. Claims promoting this oil as Cold Pressed should be viewed with great caution.
- When purchasing Unrefined Avocado Oil – again be wary if the oil is clear. If it is truly unrefined it should be slightly murky and darker in colour.
- Be aware of allergic reactions or sensitivity to various carrier oils. Be prepared to offer an alternative. It is not uncommon for people to have an allergic reaction to Sweet Almond, Grapeseed and Peanut oils. Likewise, those with a gluten allergy may well react to Wheatgerm. Coconut Oil is often a safe alternative.
Sweet Almond oil is widely used in Aromatherapy and can be used as a 100% base oil. It is not absorbed too quickly into the skin therefore a good medium for a long massage. Sweet Almond Oil has good moisturising qualities. Sometimes used in body lotions and hand creams as it soothes and softens the skin. Sweet Almond is rich in protein and contains glucosides, vitamins and minerals and is suitable for all skin types.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot Kernel Oil is quite light in texture. Although it can be used as a 100% base oil, if added to other heavier base oils it will give the blend a lighter texture. Apricot Kernel is wonderful to use in your own skin preparations and is lovely to use after a manicure for hand massage. Apricot Kernel is good for all skin types and contains vitamins and minerals.
Avocado Oil would be used with other base oils – a 10% dilution added to your chosen base oil. It is especially beneficial for dry skin conditions and has shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity after regular use. Avocado is a very good oil for foot massage and keeping your feet in tip-top condition – and by adding a couple of drops of Peppermint and Black Pepper to your blend your feet we almost feel like new. Avocado is suitable for all skin types but especially ageing and dry skin conditions. It contains fatty acids, lecithin,protein and vitamins.
Borage Seed Oil
(Borago officinalis)- Macerated Oil. Macerated in sunflower oil, Borage is very rich in gamma-linoleic acid (approximately 23%), vitamins and minerals- potassium & calcium. A useful addition to oils to treat skin conditions and because of its fatty acid content, it is useful as an anti-ageing treatment.
Tip: It is an expensive oil, but very useful when added to a blend.
(Calendula officinalis )- Macerated oil
The flowerheads contain too little essential oil to make distillation commercially viable, so all active therapeutic properties are usually extracted by maceration in sunflower oil.
Calendula oil contains Vitamins A,B,D & E and minerals. Considered a truly healing oil it is reputed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, choleretic (increasing bile production) and vulnerary (helps healing of wounds) properties, rendering it effective on bed sores, broken veins, bruises, gum inflammations (and tooth extraction cavities), persistent ulcers, stubborn wounds and varicose veins. It is extremely effective on skin problems; rashes, and in particular, chapped and cracked skin.
Tip: Although extremely beneficial on its own, the effects are enhanced when essential oils for the condition being treated are added to it. If adding 25% or less to a basic carrier oil, the addition of the extra essential oils becomes more important.
Camellia Oil is from China and can be used as a 100% carrier oil. It is soft, light and penetrates into the skin quickly so your skin is left feeling smooth and refreshed. Camellia is rich in vitamins and Oleic Acids which enhances skin moisture and gives skin a radient, luminous silkiness.
True fixed oil of carrot is extracted by maceration of the finely chopped traditional orange carrot root in a vegetable oil and is rich in beta-carotene. True carrot oil is rich in beta-carotene, vitamins B, C, D and E and essential fatty acids. Useful on burns, carrot oil is anti-inflammatory, it is known to be an effective rejuvenator, delaying the ageing process, with repeated use. It is therefore a useful ingredient in skin creams or oils which are used every day and is particularly good for neck massage.
Coconut Oil, Fractionated
Coconut oil does not occur naturally, the white flesh, when pressed yielding an odorous solid fat which contains therapeutic properties. To obtain coconut oil the fat is subjected to heat (as in hot extraction) and the top, liquid fraction removed. This is usually deodorized for use in both the food and cosmetic industries, as its natural odour is overpowering even with the addition of essential oils. At room temperature, coconut oil is a solid, white substance with only a faint scent. The oil liquefies when its container is placed in warm bath water. Coconut oil aids tanning and is reputed to help filter the sun’s rays. It is emollient on hair and skin and is reputed to improve the moisture absorption of dry skin. In India it has been a favourite oil for skin and hair and for massage – used daily for babies.
Caution: On some people it can cause a rash – perhaps because it is not a complete product.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose Oil is a very popular and well known oil, mainly used for its high levels of GLA (gamma linolenic acid )content. You would use a 10% dilution in your chosen base oil, cream or lotion. Suitable for all skin types and safe to use with psorisis and eczema. Evening Primrose Oil contains vitamins, minerals and gamma linolenic acid for which it is most well known.
Grape Seed Oil
Grapeseed Oil can be used as a 100% carrier oil. It is a good all rounder and economical. Grapeseed contains vitamins, minerals and protein
The nuts of the hazelnut tree yield an amber yellow oil with a pleasant aroma and a slight flavour of marzipan. Hazelnut is most commonly warm-pressed from the small nut kernels. Hazelnut oil is said to penetrate the top layer of the skin slightly, being beneficial for oily or combination skins and effective on acne. It is stimulating to the circulation and also has astringent properties.
Tip: However, when using it to benefit skin disorders, it should be used alone as the base, with added essential oils. Particularly good base for Sandalwood, Rosewood and Ylang Ylang.
Hypericum Oil(St. John’s Wort)
St John’s Wort (the common name for Hypericum) is another macerated oil. The properties are extracted from the plant when there are plenty of buds present; these give the oil its rich ruby colour. The oil is a product of blossoms and leaves from the St. John’s Wort bush, steeped for three weeks in a base oil, exposed to direct sunlight. An anti-inflammatory oil, Hypericum is particularly soothing to wounds where there is nerve tissue damage and is effective on sprains, burns and bruises. Recommended shelf life – 1 year.
Tip: As with Calendula, the addition of essential oils increases the therapeutic effects and the two carrier oils together make it even more effective.
Jojoba Oil is is extremely compatible with the skin and is used in many cosmetics right across the board. It is a favourite with Aromatherapists for facial massage or to add to other carrier oils and essential oils for improving dry skin conditions.
Light Coconut Oil
Light Coconut is a very fine, light oil. It has been refractionated so therefore is odourless. Light Coconut has a very silky texture and is wonderful for the face or for adding to heavier carrier oils to lighten them up. Light Coconut Oil can be used as a 100% carrier oil and is an excellent emollient so will leave your skin feeling silky and soft.
A fairly new arrival on the aromatherapy scene is the oil from the Macadamia Nut, grown in New South Wales and Queensland, It is high in palmitolieic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that does not occur in any other plant oil but is found in sebum. Fairly stable, the unrefined oil is a soft golden colour with a lovely texture and ‘feel’ to it and has a hint of an aroma (the refined oil is pale yellow and has no smell). Palmitoleic acid in sebum diminishes progressively as we get older and Macadamia oil may help replenish this in older skin. It is highly emollient with anti-ageing properties. Nourishing to a dry and /or mature skin, it has been found useful in sun preparations – it is used in France as an aid against sunburn.
Monoi de Tahiti Oil
Monoi de Tahiti is produced by soaking a very large number of freshly picked, unopened white Tiare Gardenia Flowers in a light pure Tahititian Coconut oil for ten days. The coconut oil is still extracted and produced according to traditional methods from sun-ripened and sun-dried coconut kernels from the rich Tahitian Tumu Ha’ari palm tree. The special blending of the two indigenous vegetal ingredients is what island dwellers of Tahiti refer to as ‘Monoi’, which means ’the sweet scented oil’ in Mahoi, the old Tahitian language.
For generations Tahitian men and women have been using this remarkable deep-moisturising natural formula. Tahitian women are world-renowned for their beautiful, smooth and healthy looking skin and for their magnificent lustrous hair despite constant exposure to the hot Tahiti tropical sun and to the salted seawater. Their secret is Monoi de Tahiti…the legendary 100% natural skin and hair beauty treatment with remarkable deep-moisturising and anti-dehydrating properties and with deep hair-conditioning natural benefits. Pure Monoi de Tahiti is a rich and naturally concentrated emollient that penetrates easily into the skin. For optimum benefits it is best to us Monoi de Tahiti immediately after a shower or bath when the body skin is still moist. Monoi de Tahiti is a beneficial ingredient for all seasons. In cold weather, it is a natural barrier against frostbite and chapping and gives a beautiful, healthy appearance to even the driest skin. In summer it is the ideal after sun treatment to soothe and rehydrate the skin and prevent wrinkles caused by prolonged sun exposure. It is a naturally concentrated product and only a few drops are necessary to moisturise the entire body. It is non-greasy and will not clog the pores.
Note: Pure Monoi de Tahiti may solidify below 70’F (22’C). It is a natural process that does not affect its properties. Simply place container under hot tap water to restore its fluidity.
Peach Kernel Oil
Peach Kernel originates from China and is produced as for Apricot Kernel described earlier. It is a pale golden colour and has a light sweet smell. When used on the skin it supposedly encourages the body to secrete its own natural oils, making it a natural favourite for facial massage. It is high in both mono- and polyunsatuarates and contains useful levels of fatty acids and vitamin ‘E’, making it a useful supplement to encourage skin suppleness and elasticity. It helps prevent skin dehydration and is especially suitable for more sensitive complexions.
Rosehip Seed Oil
Rosehip Seed Oil is rich in texture, although it can be used as a 100% carrier oil it would be better used as a 10% dilution in other carrier oils. Rosehip Oil is good for hydrating and conditioning the skin. On its own it would be a lovely oil to use during and after pregnancy but without any essential oils added to it.
Sesame Seed Oil
Sesame Seed Oil is has a slightly smokey, nutty aroma and is a little sticky. It is very nourishing and hydrating for the skin. I would recommend a 5-10% dilution of Sesame Seed Oil to another carrier oil of your choice. The pressed oil is rich in vitamins and minerals, its vitamin E and Sesamol content giving the oil excellent stability. It is beneficial for skin conditions and protects the skin to a certain extent from the harmful rays of the sun (believed to screen out up to 30% of the sun’s harmful rays). It is a common component of many modern suntan oils. High in vitamins, minerals and lecithin, it is excellent for adding to facial massage blends.
Soya Bean Oil
Soya Bean oil comes from the Soya Bean plant. It is high in polyunsaturates and is one of the most popular of cooking oils.The oil contains many acids (oleic, linoleic, stearic, palmitic, etc) and traces of chlorophyll. Although containing some vitamin C, it is not as rich a source as Sunflower or Wheatgerm oils. It is a very nourishing oil of a very pale colour with a tinge of yellow. It is a good carrier oil in as much as it is quickly absorbed when applied to the skin. It must be of the very best quality though. Caution: Prone to oxidation
Sunflowers are bold and happy looking plants that originate from the Native American Indians.
An organic, reasonably priced oil that is good for massage. Sunflower Oil is beneficial to dry, damaged hair – blend with Almond Oil and gently warm, then massage into the scalp and through the hair then wrap in a warm towel and leave for about an hour. You will probably find you’ll need to shampoo your hair 2 or 3 times but I can assure you the benefits will be worth it.
Vitamin ‘E’ Oil
Vitamin E Oil a rich oil to help smooth the skin. I know many girlies over the age of 40 who massage their faces with this oil before going to bed to help prevent the inevitable.
Watermelon Seed Oil
Watermelon Seed Oil is rich in Omega 6 and 9 essential fatty acids which are easily absorbed by the skin. This is another light oil suited to facial massage eventhough it can be used as a 100% base oil for massaging the whole body – it doesn’t leave you feeling too sticky but it does leave you feeling silky and soft.
Wheatgerm Oil is another one of those oils used for ageing skin. It is also used to stabilise and prolong the shelf life of aromatherapy products due to its antioxidant properties.