REVITALIZING CARRIER OILS FOR NATURAL AND ORGANIC HAIR CARE
- For many centuries, carrier oils prepared from various botanical sources have been part of meticulous hair care regimens all over the world. These plant oils were not only used for cosmetic purposes; they also held an important status in traditional medicine to treat issues such as hair loss, head lice, dandruff, and scalp infections.
- Naturally rich in moisturizing lipids and other nourishing constituents, carrier oils are ideal ingredients for natural and organic hair care applications. They are beautifying emollients that can soften hair, provide lubrication, and improve manageability. They also support in the protection of hair by coating the outside of hair fibers to form a barrier or by penetrating the hair shaft to reduce breakage due to hygral fatigue.
- Popular carrier oils used in hair care include Coconut Oil, Jojoba Oil, Castor Oil, Argan Oil, Camellia Seed Oil, and Olive Oil. Each of these oils displays special benefits for the hair based on the fatty acid profile, the presence of other active compounds, and their observed properties.
CARRIER OILS FOR NATURAL & ORGANIC HAIR CARE - AN INTRODUCTION
Since ancient times, botanical oils have been incorporated into cosmetic hair rituals for enhanced status, beauty, protection, and well-being. The ancient Egyptians, for instance, were known to carry out invigorating scalp massages using warm Castor Oil meant to strengthen and stimulate hair growth. The ancient Greeks, who viewed Olive Oil as a sacred golden liquid from the heavens, slathered their hair strands with the oil infused with fragrant essential oils and herbs. In India's Ayurvedic tradition, the ritual of daily oiling represented a way to not only rejuvenate, detoxify, and maintain the color of the hair, but it was also a means of enhancing spiritual well-being delivered through the absorption of powerful plant essences through the scalp.
Today, while these ancient hair regimens have evolved and transformed into modern-day beauty treatments, carrier oils continue to play an important role in natural hair care and in the creation of revitalizing hair care products. These oils, derived from a variety of botanical sources such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and kernels, are full of nourishing and protective constituents that can contribute to lustrous, healthy-looking hair. Moreover, the desire of consumers to align with more natural and organic ingredients for beauty and hair care makes the use of carrier oils all the more appealing for hair product manufacturers and formulators.
Read on to discover the cherished benefits of carrier oils in hair care, and how exactly popular carrier oils work to nourish, strengthen, condition, protect, and rejuvenate the hair!
HOW EXACTLY DO CARRIER OILS BENEFIT THE HAIR AND SCALP?
Carrier oils, unlike essential oils, are non-volatile liquids. They are also known as 'fixed oils' or 'base oils'. The term 'carrier' is a reference to aromatherapy, a field that relies on these oils as a vehicle to safely and effectively deliver the therapeutic benefits of essential oils through the skin.
Based on the composition of carrier oils and how they interact with the chemistry and structure of the hair, different oils are suited for different hair types and hair goals. The beauty of all-natural materials, including carrier oils, is that while they may share similarities, each carrier oil is ultimately unique. This uniqueness is a valuable attribute to take into account for hair care treatments and formulations. With hundreds of carrier oils available on the market, the potential to create truly innovative, creative, and targeted hair care treatments and products is vast.
In addition to a carrier oil's composition, other technical factors that may need to be considered include the oil's viscosity, penetrative ability, stability, as well the method of extraction or processing. Generally speaking, carrier oils can benefit the hair and scalp in the following ways:
- Oils act as natural hair emollients, delivering softening and conditioning benefits to the hair. They help lubricate the strands, smoothen the hair cuticles, and assist with detangling, preventing the hair from feeling rough, brittle, or overly frizzy.
- Oils can improve the appearance of hair strands through the addition of shine and luster, or by creating definition to curl patterns.
- Many carrier oils are protective by forming a barrier on the hair's surface against external elements such as dust, pollutants, heat, and harsh styling agents or cleansers.
- Certain carrier oils are protective by reducing porosity. Damaged hair is characterized by their porous nature which absorbs or releases water easily and continuously. The hair thus experiences increased stress that ultimately leads to fracturing. Oils that are able to penetrate the hair fibers block the entry of water and therefore reduces the constant swelling and deswelling of the hair cuticle.
- Some oils have natural cleansing and anti-irritant properties. These can soothe an itchy or flaky scalp, or help eliminate dirt, lice, bacteria, and certain types of fungi.
- Oils deliver nourishment to the scalp, including beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, squalene, and replenishing fatty acids.
These benefits can often be gained by applying the oils directly to the hair, either to the scalp or just the hair strands. Massaging is a common practice that is frequently paired with the use of oils to encourage blood flow and hair growth. For protective purposes, the carrier oil can be applied before shampooing or gently smoothed over the dry strands as a leave-on conditioner. Heating certain oils such as Coconut Oil is further believed to enhance its penetration into the hair shaft to strengthen the hair and reduce swelling. This is frequently seen in hot oil treatments used to intensively condition and hydrate the hair for improved appearance and manageability.
Carrier oils are also nourishing and quite versatile ingredients that can be added to various hair care formulations, including shampoos, conditioners, serums, hair masks, and styling products. Complementary carrier oils are often blended together to strengthen or diversify their properties, which allows the user or formulator to create an ideal blend for a specific hair type or issue. To promote the oil's therapeutic actions for the hair, preferred essential oils or botanical extracts can be incorporated. Herbal oils, which infuse beneficial herbs in nourishing carrier oil mediums such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, are also wonderful all-natural variations that can be used for delightful results.
POPULAR CARRIER OILS FOR NATURAL & ORGANIC HAIR CARE
This selection of carrier oils represents some of the most popular oils used in all-natural or organic hair care products and treatments. It presents their unique profiles, key benefits, and specific applications for hair care.
Coconut Carrier Oil
Extracted from the fleshy 'meat' of the tropical coconut (Cocos nucifera), Coconut Oil is a luxurious hair moisturizer that is wonderful for dry and damaged hair. One of the most remarkable features of Coconut Oil is that it is one of the few carrier oils that has the ability to penetrate the hair shaft. This, in turn, reduces the stress placed on the hair fibers due to the continuous entry and leakage of moisture in porous hair. The application of Coconut Oil therefore helps strengthen the hair fibers and protects from hygral fatigue, thereby preventing hair breakage and split ends.
Nearly half of the fatty acid composition of Virgin Coconut Oil is composed of Lauric Acid (49%), followed by smaller proportions of other medium-chain fatty acids including Capric Acid and Caprylic Acid, and long-chain fatty acids including Myristic Acid and Oleic Acid. Lauric Acid, which contributes to the solidified state of virgin Coconut Oil at room temperature, has been reputed to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. This supports in the natural cleansing and clarification of the scalp. Coconut Oil has been used traditionally in antifungal remedies implicated in dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Coconut Oil (or indeed Palm Oil) can be reconstituted to be composed almost entirely of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This variety, known as MCT Oil or Fractionated Coconut Oil, serves the advantage of having more rapid penetration, a milder odor, and being more convenient to use.
Coconut Oil is excellent in: Deep conditioners, pre-wash/pre-shampoo hair treatments, hair masks, protective shampoos, and other restorative hair products.
Argan Carrier Oil
Native to south Morocco, the Argan tree (Argania spinosa) is a spindly botanical with impressively long root systems that enable it to survive in harsh, arid weather conditions. The Argan fruit contains an oil-rich kernel that is cold-pressed to release a golden-yellow oil. Close to 50% of the oil's fatty acids consist of Oleic Acid, and it is also abundant in Linoleic Acid (up to 36%) and Palmitic Acid (up to 15%). Oleic Acid, along with Linoleic Acid, imparts excellent moisturizing and conditioning properties to very dry hair. They are also known to be anti-inflammatory and may therefore support in the soothing and restoration of a healthy scalp.
Intriguingly, there is also some evidence (although indirect) to suggest that Argan Oil can act similar to Coconut Oil in that it is able to penetrate the hair shaft. More specifically, the application of Argan Oil following hair dyeing and coloring procedures has been shown to decrease protein loss from the hair resulting from such disruptive treatments.
Argan Oil is excellent in: Deep conditioners, pre-wash/pre-shampoo hair treatments, hair serums, protective shampoos, products, and treatments for color-treated hair.
Jojoba Carrier Oil
The Jojoba plant (Simmondsia chinensis) is a hardy desert botanical native to southern Arizona and California as well as northern Mexico. Jojoba seeds are small, brown nuts that bear a striking resemblance to coffee beans, although they are comparatively larger. These seeds are rich in a golden waxy liquid that can be extracted through cold-pressing.
The uniqueness of Jojoba Oil lies in the fact that it is a liquid wax ester and not an 'oil'. Its chemical make-up displays a striking similarity to natural sebum. Its predominant fatty acid (roughly 70%) is Gadoleic Acid (Eicosenoic Acid), which helps in conditioning the hair without exhibiting greasiness. When applied to hair strands, it does not penetrate the hair shaft but rather forms a thin protective film around the hair fibers to lubricate and prevent moisture loss, contributing to glossy, healthier-looking hair. It is also particularly beneficial for scalp issues due to its anti-inflammatory and clarifying properties. Rich in Vitamin E and Vitamin B, along with beneficial minerals including Zinc and Copper, this highly stable oil delivers intensive nourishment to the hair as well.
Jojoba Oil is excellent in: Hair serums, leave-on conditioners, hydrating shampoos, styling, and detangling products.
Castor Carrier Oil
Castor Oil is a versatile plant oil derived from the seeds of the Castor plant (Ricinus communis). Perhaps the most popular public impression of this highly viscous oil is that it boosts hair growth; it is often used as a home remedy to lengthen the eyelashes or combat hair thinning. Indeed, Castor Oil is capable of creating the illusion of thickness and hair growth because of its high viscosity, which coats and creates an additional layer over the hair shaft. This intriguing effect is thought to be the cause of many of the hair growth claims behind Castor Oil. There is now an abundance of hair care products, including hair masks, hair mists, deep conditioners, hair growth shampoos, as well as eyelash and eyebrow serums that capitalize on Castor Oil's unique benefit of creating the appearance of thickness.
The key constituent of Castor Oil is a long-chain fatty acid called Ricinoleic Acid, which is present at about 90%. It also contains small proportions of Linoleic Acids (4%) and Oleic Acids (3%). Ricinoleic Acid is known for its potent humectant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Thus, when used on the hair, Castor Oil powerfully moisturizes, hydrates, and softens the hair strands for a beautiful cosmetic result. In addition, it displays antimicrobial qualities, which can be valuable in cleansing and clarifying the scalp.
Castor Oil is excellent in: Hair masks, deep conditioners, hair growth treatments and products, scalp massages, clarifying shampoos, thickening serums for eyelashes and eyebrows.
Camellia Seed Carrier Oil
Hailed as one of the beauty elixirs from East Asia, Camellia Seed Oil is an exceptional cosmetic oil extracted from the seeds of exotic Camellia fruits. The Camellia shrub (Camellia oleifera) is a small botanical that produces sturdy green fruits only after several years of maturing. The seed oil has a low viscosity and holds an alluring history spanning centuries in Japan and China, and is often marketed as a 'miracle' oil for hair. Indeed, due to its antioxidative power, it is thought to be the secret behind the immaculate and youthful beauty of the women of East Asia. The Geishas of Japan and their apprentices (Maikos) in particular were believed to use Camellia Seed Oil in their meticulous hair grooming practices, applied directly onto dry strands for radiance, softness, and styling.
Camellia Seed Oil is composed predominantly of Oleic Acids (roughly 68-78%) and is also rich in Squalene and the antioxidant compounds Vitamins E and A. Thus, in terms of texture and nutrient profile, it is remarkably similar to Olive Oil. When applied to the hair, the oil softens the hair fibers and smoothens the cuticles to give rise to glossy, frizz-free, and lustrous locks. It is also wonderful at helping to detangle and style the hair without causing stress or breakage.
Camellia Seed Oil is excellent in: Hair serums, hair oils, moisturizing shampoos, conditioners, masks, as well as hair smoothing and styling products.
Olive Carrier Oil
Olives (Olea europaea) are rich in nourishing lipids and naturally contains Squalene, an oil that is also released by sebaceous glands located on the skin and scalp. Olive Oil is mostly composed of Oleic Acid (up to about 80%), along with smaller amounts of Linoleic Acid (up to about 20%) and Palmitic Acid (up to 20%). Its abundance in phenolic constituents and tocopherols also contributes to its powerful antioxidant qualities, helping to rein in the aging process of hair by reducing the destruction caused by free radicals.
Olive Oil is a popular carrier oil featured in scalp and hair massages due to the perception that it boosts hair growth, eliminates split ends, and tames dandruff. When added to the hair, it helps the strands feel soft to the touch, adds shine, and assists with manageability. Like Coconut Oil, Olive Oil has been reported to adequately penetrate the hair shaft, thus providing protection from the effects of hygral fatigue. It is therefore an excellent ingredient in strengthening, reparative, or restorative hair applications.
Olive Oil is excellent in: Deep conditioners, pre-wash/pre-shampoo hair treatments, hair serums, protective shampoos, and other restorative hair products.
Interested in discovering the history, uses, and varied applications of these popular Carrier Oils beyond hair care? Learn more by reading our in-depth guides on Coconut Oil, Argan Oil, Castor Oil, Jojoba Oil, Camellia Seed Oil, and Olive Oil!
New to Carrier Oils? Explore our technical guide to know everything about these nourishing oils, including the various types, extraction methods, and storage tips!
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR CARRIER OILS
As with all other New Directions Aromatics products, carrier oils are for external use only. They 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 the specified carrier oil to check for sensitivities. An absence of an allergic response within 48 hours suggests that the oil is safe to use.
The topical application of most carrier oils is generally known to be safe with responsible use, but irritations, allergies, rashes, and other side effects are possible. In the 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.
Carrier oils must never be used near the eyes, inner nose, and ears, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin.
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