If you are planning to use an essential oil topically, it is recommended that you use carrier oil. As the name implies, carrier oil carries the highly concentrated essential oil for topical purposes, making essential oil usage much safer. Carrier oils are oils which are extracted from nuts, seeds or vegetables and have an array of health and beauty benefits of their own including healing, hydration, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory to name a few.
It is important to note that once an essential oil has been added to carrier oil, the shelf life is significantly and immediately altered, as oils extracted from nuts, seeds and vegetables have a much short shelf life than essential oils. How and where a blend is stored will also have some implications on the shelf life, i.e storing blends in a cool, dry, dark place will stop them going ‘off’ as quickly.
When choosing a carrier oil to work with there is quite a selection to choose from. The following carrier oils are among the most widely known and used in the industry.
Sweet Almond Oil – derived from the almond nut which is rich in antioxidants and high in vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, D and E. It is one of the most popular carrier oils as it is well received by most skin types (unless you have a nut allergy, of course!). It improves complexion, soothes irritated skin and is extremely hydrating. A great oil to use during the cold, dry Winter months. Sweet almond oil has a clear, pale yellow colour and a slightly sweet, nutty scent.
Coconut Oil – extracted from the meat of the coconut. Comes as fractionated and non fractionated versions. A very hydrating oil and a favourite among massage therapists and medical professionals. Added benefit – fractionated coconut oil will not go rancid and doesn’t stain clothes - winner! Fractionated remains liquid and clear, while non fractionated type solidifies at room temperature.
Jojoba Oil – extracted from the seed of the Jojoba bush. Known as an oil but is actually a liquid wax. The chemical make up of this oil is extremely similar to the natural oil we produce on our own skin called Sebum, making it extremely penetrative. It is rich in vitamin E and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Olive Oil – extracted from the olive plant and has been used for centuries as a skin moisturiser. This oil is rich in linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated fatty acid) as well as minerals and other vitamins. A heavy and greasy oil with a distinctive smell - I’d recommend applying this oil to hair rather than the body.
Grapeseed Oil – pressed from the pips of the grape. This oil is pale green and extremely high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, making it light textured and easy for the skin to absorb. This oil has to be slightly refined before it can be used for cooking or massage as the crude oil as an unpleasant odour. However the processing does not affect the oils beneficial properties. A great choice for oily or acne skin types.
Macadamia Nut Oil – extracted from the kernel inside the nut. This oil is rich in palmitoleic acid, which is similar to the skins natural oil, Sebum and it very rich and hydrating. Especially good for dry, irritated skin and is safe to use on babies.
Tamanu Oil –Known as one of the most healing oils. This oil has analgesic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties making it a great choice for wound healing.A very rich and heavy textured oil. Best mixed at 20-50% with other carrier oil.
Sunflower Oil - extracted from the seeds which grow in the centre of the flower. A light textured, yet deeply nourishing oil rich in vitamin A, B, D and E. Avoid processed, supermarket-grade oils and instead choose unrefined organic version, as it will contain skin enhancing ingredients, such as potassium, Vitamin B and E and Omega 6 fatty acid.
Apricot Kernel Oil – Similar to sweet almond oil in that both are rich in vitamin A, B’s, D and E and great for dry, irritated skin. A preferred oil for face and neck.
St. John’s Wort – Rich ruby red in colour. An excellent anti-inflammatory oil. Also great for soothing inflamed nerves as well as sprains, burns and bruises. Research suggests that this oil may increase photo sensitivity, therefore it is recommended not to be applied onto skin that will be in direct sunlight for 12 hours.
Which carrier oils are your favorite to use?