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Carrier oils, often called neutral or base oils, are used to dilute essential volatile oils, which if applied to the skin concentrated can cause irritation and sensitization. Carrier oils get their name from their purpose in “carrying” the essential oil onto the skin.
Natural vegetable oils are the most commonly used carriers. They are derived from the oily parts of plants, such as seeds, kernels or the nuts. Because they lack therapeutic properties, carrier oils are often overlooked. Regardless, they play a major role in topically applied essential oils.
Essential Oils vs. Carrier Oils
Essential oils are extracted from the leaves, barks, roots, flowers, and other aromatic parts of a plant, but carrier oils are extracted from the fatty sections and have a neutral or faintly sweet, nutty scent.
Due to their high-fat concentration, carrier oils can go rancid over time. The levels of natural content like fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins, as well as the method of extraction, can affect how fast carrier oils become rancid. Extensive refining and adding various solvent residues to vegetable oils will significantly increase shelf life but may have adverse effects on nutritional content.
Essential oils don’t go rancid. Instead, they oxidize and gradually lose their potency.
Carrier oils are typically derived using either hot or cold pressing.
In hot pressing, heat is applied to soften the plant tissue, before pressing it to collect the oil underneath. Chemicals are often added to aid in the extraction. Hot pressing is used to increase the yield produced, especially from seeds like Sesame, which hold very little oil. After heat treatment, the resulting oil is relatively dark, and the acid value is high, which means refining is needed to make the oil edible.
On the other hand, cold pressing involves extracting the oil at room temperature. The process can still generate heat because of friction, but the ambient conditions are adjusted to keep heat to a minimum. The collected oil is cool, and its acid value is low, so there is no need of refining. Oil is separated from other plant materials by precipitation or refining. Because no heat is introduced, cold-pressed oil retains natural properties such as taste, flavor, and physiologically active substances.
Although trends are changing, the majority of vegetable oils in grocery stores are not cold-pressed. For the most nourishing and freshest oils, therefore, shop with retailers that specialize in the sale of natural skin-care ingredients.
Carrier oils might not have the health benefits that come with essential oils, but they still offer important nutrients, including proteins, soluble vitamins, and minerals. Most carrier oils naturally contain Vitamin E and, therefore, act as antioxidants which are helpful to the skin.
Moreover, vegetable oils are a rich source of essential fatty acids. These are fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce and, consequently, need to get from our diets. Individuals that lack the proper intake of essential fatty acids demonstrate dry and unhealthy skin and are at a risk of suffering from severe skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
Using carrier oils that have a high essential fatty acid content can help to nourish the skin, and promote its look and feel.
For long term preservation, carrier oils should be kept in tinted glass bottles with tight-fitting tops, and stored in cool and dark locations.
When you purchase a carrier oil, the supplier or manufacturer may have packaged it in a plastic bottle to save packaging and shipping costs, and because many customers use the oils a few days or weeks after purchase. This doesn’t mean the oil is inferior, but you should always check the expiry date to ensure you’re buying fresh oil.
Most vegetable oils can be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their lifespan. Oils stored in the fridge may solidify or turn misty and will need time to return to their original state before use.
Popular carrier oils
The properties of vegetable oils, such as consistency, composition, absorption, scent, and shelf life, can vary widely. Therefore, one carrier oil might work with a particular essential oil, and not another. Furthermore, carrier oils can be blended just like essential oils to change or combine their properties.
The most commonly used base oils are Sweet Almond and Jojoba.
Thanks to its versatility and affordability, Sweet Almond oil is deemed an essential carrier oil to have. Derived from Almond seeds, the oil is characterized by a light, sweet and nutty aroma and a yellow tinge in its otherwise clear appearance. Its viscosity is medium, and when used on the skin, it absorbs semi-quickly and leaves a slight hint of oil.
Sweet Almond oil is friendly to all skin types but is especially recommended above other carriers to dry sensitive and irritated skin. Its high mineral, vitamin, protein, and essential fatty acid content make it an effective skin softening and nourishing agent. It has found extensive use in cosmetics and therapeutic skincare and is also one of the best multi-purpose carrier oils to use for massage.
Contrary to other vegetable oils, Sweet Almond remarkably resists oxidization and rancidity. Its shelf life is typically twelve months and can be stored for longer in special conditions. The high tolerance of Sweet Almond to spoilage makes it a proper choice to buy in bulk.
As Sweet Almond oil’s most natural match, users consider Jojoba as one of their favorite carrier oils for all applications, from massage to cosmetics.
Jojoba Oil is extracted from the beans of the Jojoba plant, which grows in the deserts of South America. It’s a light textured liquid wax that absorbs easily and penetrates deeply to nourish the skin with Vitamins E, A, B1, B2, and B6, as well as other minerals. Due to its SPF of 5, Jojoba can also be used as a natural sunscreen.
Suitable for all skin types, Jojoba has excellent moisturizing and emollient properties that profoundly nurture both the skin and hair. It is also said to have natural anti-inflammatory agents and can be used to fade off wrinkles and delay signs of aging.
Like Sweet Almond, Jojoba oil exhibits a long shelf life and is, therefore, suitable for bulk buying and prolonged usage. When the two oils are combined, the resulting blend has a chemical make-up that resembles the skin’s natural oil; Sebum and can help to re-balance dry and oily skin types.
Other common carriers
Besides Sweet Almond and Jojoba, other widely used carrier oils include Grapeseed Oil, Olive Oil, and Fractionated Coconut Oil.
Although not oils, vegetable butters such as Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter have beneficial properties that make them suitable for use as carriers.
Using mineral oils as carriers
Mineral oils and petroleum jelly are petroleum products with no direct botanical origin. Experts, therefore, advise against using them as carriers.
Mineral oils are used in many commercially available baby oils and moisturizers because they’re cheap to manufacture, but when used as carriers, they can clog up skin pores and inhibit the absorption of essential oils.
In addition, mineral oils prevent the skin from breathing properly. Studies also show that petroleum jelly can sip into the body and block vitamins from being utilized.
Carrier oils are largely considered safe to blend and use, both internally and externally. When shopping, however, inquire about the processing method.
For maximum benefits, you should always buy cold-pressed vegetable oil.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using this product.