CARRIER OILS 101
- Carrier oils are widely used in aromatherapy as a base for massage.
- Diluting with carrier oils reduces the potency of essential oils, making them safer to use on skin while leaving their aromatic profile and individual properties intact.
- Factors to consider when selecting a carrier oil are its scent and texture, reputed benefits and shelf life, which vary between different source materials.
- Major factors impacting storage of carrier oils are temperature, light and oxygenation.
A BRIEF BACKGROUND ON CARRIER OILS
It is common for aromatherapists to use carrier oils as a base for their massage oils. These oils help dilute concentrated essential oils so that it feels more comfortable when applied on one's skin. Aromatherapy is a popular method of improving physical and emotional well-being. If you want to learn more about carrier oils, you have come to the right place.
Carrier oils are typically cold pressed from the seeds, kernels or nuts of various plants. Because of their source material, they often retain a light nutty fragrance, though odor strength and profiles vary. Carrier oils are readily absorbed by the skin and do not evaporate quickly. This gives them strong staying power, which his makes them good base materials for many applications.
Oils have been employed as bases for perfume and cosmetics since antiquity. This was common practice in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece where olives, almonds, sesame and moringa were some of the oil sources used in ancient perfumery, massage and skin care practices. Aromatherapeutic practices have since been documented across civilizations throughout history, but they have exploded in the latter half of the twentieth century. With this heightened popularity, the unique composition and properties of a wide variety of carrier oils have experienced a surge in mainstream interest.
Presently, carrier oils are essential components of aromatherapy massage and many types of natural cosmetics including bath and body oils, creams and lotions, shampoos and conditioners, facial serums and lip balms. They work supportively with essential oils and other natural ingredients, reducing the potency of their aroma without impacting their properties, while often adding beneficial properties of their own. Because of this ability, they are the silent stars of many treatments, enacting a mostly imperceptible but greatly important influence on the effectiveness of a massage and the color, scent, properties and shelf life of many products.
HOW TO SELECT A CARRIER OIL
A few things to consider when selecting a carrier oil are its suitability for your purpose, its overall appeal, its production and shelf life.
If using a carrier oil on your body, you will want to be sure it is appropriate for your skin type, as some oils are lighter and more readily absorbed by the skin while others have a stronger consistency and may leave behind a residue. Additionally, some oils might be gentler on pre-existing skin conditions.
Does the carrier oil have an appealing scent that you will enjoy in your bath, on your skin or in your hair? How might it blend with different essential oils? Some carrier oils have a stronger scent than others and might be more suitable to combine with specific essential oils.
Do you prefer an unrefined oil, a natural blend or an organic variety? There may be subtle differences in the oil's character that result from different types of production and processing, so it is a good idea to read up on the details. It is also important to note how long a carrier oil will stay good after the first use. If you tend to use oils sparingly, you will probably want something that stores easily and can last a long time before going bad.
COMPLETE LIST OF CARRIER OILS
Good carrier oils should be light and easily spreadable. Popular carrier oils include:
- Rosehip seed oil
- Tamanu oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Macadamia oil
- Castor oil
- Black seed oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Evening primrose oil
- ... and many more!
Each oil has its own unique characteristics and benefits. We have compiled some key details to give you a brief rundown:
|Rosehip Seed||Seeds of various rose varieties:
||Light earthy scent, fast drying, no oily residue||
|Tamanu||Kernels of Tamanu fruit(Calophyllum inophyllum)||Rich nutty/woody scent, slightly oily residual texture||
|Grapeseed||Seeds of Vitis vinifera (grapes)||Odorless with high absorption; one of the lightest carrier oils||
|Macadamia||Nuts of Macadamia tree (Macadamia ternifolia)||Very light scent, strong oily residual texture||
|Castor||Seeds of Castor Bean (Ricinis communis) plant||Odorless to very light scent; oily residual texture||
|Black Seed||Seeds of the Black Cumin (Nigella sativa) plant||Slightly nutty, bitter pungent odor; slight oily residual texture||
|Sweet Almond||Kernel from the fruit of the Almond (Prunus dulcis) tree||Very subtle nutty aroma; slight oily residual texture||
|Olive||Fruit of the Olive (Olea europea) tree||Pungent, fruity scent (will influence essential oil blends); slight oily residual texture||
|Coconut||Kernel from the fruit of the Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) tree||Light coconut smell; slight oily residual texture||
|Evening Primrose||Seeds of the Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)||Faint oily scent; strong oily residual texture||
The shelf life of each oil is up to 2 years; refrigeration recommended after opening.
In addition to these popular carrier oils, there are many more that may offer just what you are looking for. Check out our complete list of carrier oils today!
HOW TO USE CARRIER OILS
Carrier oils are often used as a base to dilute concentrated essential oils. This process makes essential oils safe for use in D.I.Y. recipes and other topical applications. Essential oils that are too concentrated may cause redness or mild irritation. That's why you will need something to "carry" these essential oils onto the skin.
If you want to learn how to use carrier oils, New Directions Aromatics has published helpful resources. We cover dilution ratios, reasons for combining essential oils with one or more carrier oils, and more. Our articles also cover diluting essential oils based on infants, young children, and adults. For example, you should aim for three to six drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier for younger users. Healthy adults, on the other hand, can handle 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier.
When it comes to using carrier oils and essential oils, you are advised to stop applying the mixture if it causes sensitivity or irritation.
CARRIER OILS FOR ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are volatile and evaporate quickly. Often, these oils contain the natural scent and characteristics of plants that they were derived from. Essential oils, however, are concentrated and may result in skin irritation if used without dilution. This is why it is important to select a good carrier oil for use with essential oil blends. NDA explains through our resources the many types and applications of carrier oils for effective use in aromatherapy, massage and personal care. We also cover common misconceptions about carrier oils to help you make informed decisions about which oils to use and how to use them. For example, some people mistake mineral oils, butter, margarine, vegetable shortening, and other petroleum derivatives as carrier oils although they are not well suited for blending or topical use. Our natural, plant-based carrier oils are ideal for many aromatherapeutic and cosmetic applications – browse our selection to find the best one for you!
CARRIER OILS FOR SKIN
Because carrier oils have non-comedogenic characteristics and are plant-based extracts from seeds and nuts, they are often safe for use on skin. In fact, some carrier oils contain protein, Vitamin D, Olein Glyceride Linoleic Acid, and other beneficial elements. Sometimes these products are used alone or mixed with other oils for multi-purpose combinations. At NDA, we believe that carrier oils deserve recognition for their ability to nurture skin through hydration. If you want to know which carrier oil leaves little oily residue, creates a smooth finish, or is an excellent emollient, be sure to browse through our resources.
CARING FOR CARRIER OILS
Because they are such vital components of aromatherapy blends and beauty products, it is important to treat your carrier oils with care! Major factors affecting their shelf life include temperature, light and oxygenation. To preserve quality, carrier oils should be stored in dark colored glass bottles in cool, dark places, away from direct light sources. UV rays will quickly break down an oil and accelerate spoilage, so be sure to keep them out of the sun. Dark colored glass helps to filter out UV light. Small bottles are best and always ensure the lids or caps are tightly secured to keep oxygen exposure to a minimum.
Some carrier oils are known to turn rancid more rapidly than others. To extend the shelf life of certain unrefined oils, some Vitamin E oil can be added as a preservative at a concentration of about 1%. However, be careful to keep the bottle clean when mixing and not to let any moisture in. This technique may help increase the longevity of Evening Primrose and Rosehip oils.
Since oxygen is one of the major causes of rancidity, addition of nitrogen will greatly help in extending the shelf life of carrier oils that are easily prone to spoilage. Nitrogen, being heavier than oxygen, will displace the oxygen when introduced into the bottle or pail containing the carrier oil.
Most carrier oils can be refrigerated but there are some (for example Avocado oil) whose compositions may be negatively impacted by the cold and should be kept at room temperature. Be sure to browse through our resources to confirm best storage practices for the oil of your choice.
A good carrier oil is an essential component of an essential oil blend for the body, working with it to provide you with the best possible experience. When properly cared for, a carrier oil will care for you, pampering your senses with its unique character and attributes. Different oils have different personalities and there is sure to be one that is just right for you. Take some time to discover our wide range of carrier oils, their many uses and benefits, and let the possibilities carry you away!
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR CARRIER OILS
As with all other New Directions Aromatics products, carrier oils are for external use only. Carrier oils should not be ingested and should not be stored within the reach of children, in case of accidental ingestion. As with all other oils, a patch test should be conducted on the inner arm or another generally insensitive area of skin, using a dime-size amount of carrier oil to check for sensitivities. An absence of an allergic response within 48 hours indicates that the oil is safe to use.
The topical application of carrier oil is not generally known to have side effects. In the rare chance of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use.
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