Oils make up a great part of the beauty industry, and for good reason. Oils are packed with healthy goodness for the skin, and this is what makes them a great addition to your skin care routine.
With that in mind, it is important to mention that there are two types of oils: essential oils and carrier oils. While the two are used topically on the skin, there is a big difference in their functionality. This is an integral aspect of using natural oils, and one which often confuses many people.
For this reason, even before outlining which carrier oils work best with essential oils, it helps to define both categories of oils alongside their unique characteristics.
Why is this important? Because the two are different types of oils, have different structures and are used in remarkably different ways. Note too, that essential and carrier oils are also manufactured using different techniques.
What You Need to Know About Essential Oils
An essential oil, by definition, is the life blood of the plant. Essential oils are also known as ethereal oils. Some of the key chemical compounds present in essential oils include ethers, esters, ketones, phenols and terpenes.
The purpose of the oil is to keep the plant healthy by fighting off infections when the plant is above ground. These oils make up the volatile liquids found in the plant. They are manufactured by carrying out distillation of different non-fatty plant parts.
Common plant parts from which essential oils are obtained include the bark, roots, seeds, leaves and even the fruits! In some cases, flowers and branches are also used.
The key distinction here is the method of extraction used; essential oils are ONLY obtained through distillation. Different types of distillation methods exist, and they include steam distillation, vacuum distillation as well as hydro-distillation.
Essential oils are often yellow in color, are very potent and typically bear the aroma of the plant from which they have been extracted. Since such oils are highly concentrated, it is important that they are diluted prior to topical application.
Additionally, due to the oil’s potency, a little goes a long way. Ideally, a drop of essential oil when diluted, will suffice as far as the oil’s therapeutic properties are concerned. Note too, that essential oils can cause severe skin reactions when applied in undiluted form.
The severity is particularly extreme when used by those with sensitive skin. Lastly, essential oils are sold in glass bottles because they may cause degradation of plastic if stored in plastic bottles.
Examples of essential oils include: lavender, thyme, tea tree, cedarwood, peppermint, ylang ylang and rosemary.
What You Need to Know About Carrier Oils
Carrier oils are true oils, and just like essential oils, most are obtained from plants. Note however, that some carrier oils are obtained from animals, and emu oil is a perfect example of such. These oils are also known as fixed oils or vegetable oils.
They are often extracted from the fatty part of a plant through different methods from those used when extracting essential oils. Some of the methods include cold-press extraction, centrifugal extraction and supercritical extraction.
Owing to this process, carrier oils typically have a heavier molecular structure. They are mostly made up of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, both of which are distinctly absent from essential oils.
Another difference between carrier oils and essential oils is that the former do not have a potent aroma, and don’t usually evaporate – this is why they are referred to as fixed oils.
The name ‘carrier’ oils is used because one of the main functions of carrier oils is to dilute essential oils before application and then ‘carry’ the essential oil into the skin without any of the severe reactions.
Since carrier oils do not evaporate, when mixed with essential oils, they help the latter to be absorbed in the skin without changing the therapeutic benefits thereof. It is important to mention too, that while this is a major function, carrier oils also provide their own unique therapeutic benefits.
These may range from soothing, too anti-aging to skin softening benefits. As such, they are just as important for skin care routines. Lastly, carrier oils are typically sold in plastic bottles because they are not as potent as essential oils.
Examples of carrier oils include jojoba, sweet almond, avocado, apricot kernel, argan and coconut oils.
As you can see, essential oils are very different from carrier oils. Keep this in mind because it will guide you on which carrier oils work best with essential oils. Below are some of the options available for you, alongside the unique properties of each oil to help make the right choice.
1. Jojoba Oil:
Sourced from Jojoba beans.
Considered a favourite carrier oil by many people, jojoba oil is extracted from jojoba beans and typically has a golden colour. It has a slightly nutty aroma, and this makes for a great choice for many essential oils.
One of the advantages of using jojoba oil is that it has an indefinite shelf life. What this means is that it can be stored for a longer period of time than many carrier oils.
Jojoba is a preferred carrier oil because, in addition to the essential oils’ benefits, it has excellent benefits for the skin and hair. The oil’s structure bears a close resemblance to sebum.
Sebum is the waxy substance produced by the skin, and whose purpose is to keep the skin moisturized. As such, when applied on the skin, jojoba oil acts as a great moisturizer.
It is gentle on the skin and provides an excellent barrier against harsh environmental elements. Jojoba oil is also recommended for those with oily skin because its presence regulates sebum production by the skin.
– Has a medium consistency
– Has non-greasy absorption
2. Olive Oil:
Sourced from whole olives.
One of the most popular carrier oils, olive oil is obtained from pressing whole olives. It is used in both the culinary fields for its nutritional benefits as well as in products within the skincare industry.
The oil has a slightly sweet aroma, but is not completely neutral. The oil is packed with minerals, vitamins and proteins which, when absorbed by the skin, help it remain moisturized and rejuvenated.
Olive oil also has anti-inflammatory properties which provide relief from a host of conditions such as joint pain. When applied on the hair, olive oil helps restore the natural sheen and glow of the hair.
– It is an excellent source of omega fatty acids.
– Has a relatively short shelf life.
– Has a thick consistency that leaves the skin oiled.
– Popular and easy to find (though it is important to mention that for this reason, the market is infiltrated with oil that is impure and to which additives have been added).
3. Black Seed Oil:
Sourced from Black Seed (Nigella sativa plant).
Referred to as one of the ‘healthiest oils’ globally, black seed oil has risen in popularity in the recent past thanks to its incredible therapeutic benefits. The oil is extremely rich in essential fatty acids which make up about 80% of the oil’s constituents.
In addition to this, the oil is also rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Antioxidants are great for healthy glowing skin because they help to get rid of free radicals which are known to speed up the aging process while increasing wrinkle formation.
The oil’s anti-inflammatory properties on the other hand, make black seed oil an excellent choice for a carrier oil. When applied topically, black seed oil helps with the treatment of many skin conditions which are characterized by inflammation. Its therapeutic effects have also been recommended for the treatment of eczema, psoriasis as well as ulcers.
Black seed oil has a deep and earthy aroma, and this makes it a great choice for essential oils that are string and have a woody aroma. Some of the great accompanying oils include sandalwood, fir balsam and cypress oils. Note that black seed oil is not recommended for use in pregnant and lactating women.
4. Coconut Oil:
Sourced from the coconut fruit.
Coconut oil is a popular carrier oil, and is largely recommended for its medicinal properties. Indeed, there are countless benefits for using this oil, both orally and topically.
Take note that coconut oil is available in two key forms: the refined type and the unrefined type. For topical application, unrefined coconut oil is simply impossible to use.
This is because it is solid at room temperature. Other distinguishing characteristics include its distinct coconut aroma as well as its deep set white colour.
For this reason, refined coconut oil, sometimes referred to as fractionated coconut oil is recommended. This type of oil is available in liquid form at room temperature and has no distinct aroma. It is absorbed well by the skin leaving a non-greasy appearance.
Fractionated coconut oil is great for skin care as it moisturizes the skin and prevents dehydration. Best of all perhaps, coconut oil does not clog the skin pores, and is also beneficial for those with oily skin.
– Fractionated coconut oil is rich in essential fatty acids.
– Both the refined and the unrefined oils have a relatively long shelf life.
5. Sweet Almond Oil:
Sourced from pure almond nuts.
Sweet almond oil is a popular carrier oil, not just because of its therapeutic properties, but also because it is relatively affordable. The oil has a light nutty smell, but one which is bearable for those who are extremely sensitive to sharp aromas.
Some people find the smell of sweet almond oil rather pleasant, and this is what makes it ideal for aromatherapy. It also has a golden colour. Its benefits for the skin are attributed to the presence of Vitamins A, B and E as well as fatty acids that include oleic, stearic, linoleic and palmitic acids. The oil is also rich in minerals and protein.
Some of the benefits of using sweet almond oil include its protectant role largely because while it is excellent at lubrication, it does not penetrate the skin. As such it is particularly useful for massages, leaving behind soft supple skin and a great complexion. It is an excellent all-purpose carrier oil, so if you are just starting to shop for carrier oils, is an ideal place to start.
– Sweet almond oil has a medium consistency.
– May cause a reaction and so, as is the case with nut-based carrier oils, caution must be exercised for those who have nut allergies.
6. Apricot Kernel Oil:
Sourced from the kernel of the apricot plant.
Apricot kernel oil is easily identified by its distinct pale yellow colour and faintly sweet aroma. Its lightweight texture makes it a great option for topical application because it does not leave a greasy or oily feeling on the skin.
This is why it is commonly used in aromatherapy and in skin care products. It is also used by those who get acne breakouts, thanks to its lightweight nature. It works excellently in slowing down the aging process while maintaining healthy skin thanks to the presence of Vitamins C and E.
This warm oil also has sooting properties that are ideal for inflamed or irritated skin. One of the best things about this oil is that it can be applied on its own, or used as a carrier oil. When mixed with other oils, apricot kernel oil still exhibits its full therapeutic effects.
– Also beneficial for hair loss
– May cause staining on clothes
– Has similar characteristics to almond oil
7. Argan Oil:
Sourced from the kernel of the Argan tree that is native to Morocco.
Argan oil is one of the most popular carrier oils, and for good reason. The oil is extremely rich in fatty acids and Vitamin E, both of which are key for healthy glowing skin and hair. It is for this reason that argan oil is fondly referred to as ‘liquid gold’.
Best known for its excellent moisturizing properties, argan oil is an ideal carrier oil for use in massage. Its rich Vitamin E content both nourishes and protects the skin. What’s more, it is a non-greasy oil and is easily absorbed.
Since it is very gentle, it is also suitable for those with sensitive skin. The presence of antioxidants in the oil makes it great for anti-aging. Get rid of wrinkles and fine lines by adding argan oil to your skin care routine.
Other benefits when used on the skin include its ability to maintain skin elasticity, elimination of stretchmarks and soothing irritated skin.
– Argan oil has a sweet smell, but depending on the time of harvest, may have a faint smell. In fact, batches harvested in winter and fall tend to have a deeper aroma compared to those harvested in summer and spring.
– Argan oil is also used as a hair conditioner.
8. Rosehip Oil:
Sourced from the seeds of the wild rose bush
Rosehip oil, sometimes referred to as rosehip seed oil, is rich in beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant to which the oil’s anti-aging properties can be attributed.
The oil is also packed with essential fatty acids that include linoleic and linolenic acids. When applied on the skin, the oil is easily absorbed and the fatty acids are used for the regeneration of skin cells and the maintenance of the skin cell’s membranes. Its easy absorption also has the advantage of keeping the skin hydrated and creating a protective barrier.
The above carrier oils are some of the most common options available. To make a personal choice however, you would have to consider your skin type alongside the essential oils to be used.
Remember, sweet almond oil is a good place to start because it is both gentle and soothing on the skin. Make sure you consult a dermatologist in case you experience any adverse reactions or are pregnant.