Carrier oils are extracted from fatty parts of a plant like the kernels of nuts or seeds. Essential oils need to be diluted with carrier oils to reduce their concentration for they can otherwise cause severe skin irritation. The name ‘carrier’ was used to denote that they ‘carry’ the benefits of essential oils to the skin. It is important to know the characteristics and properties of carrier oils so that the right blends can be used.
Carrier oil properties
The choice of carrier oils depends on the therapeutic benefit that is required. There is a range of excellent products available using carrier oils like creams, body lotions, bath oils, moisturizing creams, natural lotions, lip balms etc. The final color, aroma, therapeutic properties and shelf life of carrier oils will depend on the essential / carrier oil blend.
The source of essential oils is the leaves, roots and barks of a plant. These oils evaporate quickly and have a strong aroma. Carrier oils are extracted from the fatty portions of plants, do not have a strong aroma and do not dissipate. Some carrier oils have a faint nutty smell. In time, they can become rancid (one indication is a bitter, strong aroma).
Storage of carrier oils
Fragile carrier oils that need to be stored for a long period must be kept in dark glass bottles, with tight lids and in a cool dark place. Storing in a refrigerator can prolong the life span unless they are fragile oils – e.g. borage and avocado oils. Bring the oil to room temperature before use since it will be cloudy or even solidify. Some oils have Vitamin E added as a preservative.
Health Benefits of various Carrier Oils
The main benefits of carrier oils are for the skin when they are blended with different essential oils and used in aromatherapy. The most important skin care carrier oils are evening primrose, coconut oil, rosehip seed and tamanu.
Evening Primrose oil has fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid and it can be taken internally to improve digestion and reduce inflammation. It is said to help with various skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and premature aging of skin.
Rosehip seed oil is a lavish aromatherapy treatment for wrinkles, inflamed skin and to remove scars. You must blend this with other carrier oils using just 1 part of rosehip to 9 parts of other oils. Rosehip oil also has excellent regenerative properties for the skin especially with respect to curing conditions due to scarring and sun damage.
Tamanu or callophyllum oil has one of the best healing properties of all carrier oils. Experts recommend that at least 10-50% concentration of the oil is required to enjoy maximum therapeutic benefits. In medical aromatherapy, it is used as an anti-viral medication, for wound healing and for pain relief.
Coconut oil has long been used all over the world for its many therapeutic and other benefits to the skin. It has antiviral and antibacterial properties, a wonderful balance of saturated fats in its natural form and helps stimulate hair growth. Many aromatherapy recipes use coconut oil for the various therapeutic benefits it offers.
Borage oil offers some of the best plant sources of gamma-linolenic acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, it is used in the treatment of arthritis to reduce pain, swelling and morning stiffness. For the skin, borage oil benefits include help in treating eczema, itchy and dry skin, infantile seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, acne and psoriasis. Borage oil is said to help those with multiple sclerosis, female infertility, breast cysts, and endometriosis, protect hair from dryness, damage and hair fall.
Apricot kernel oil contains vitamin A and minerals and is soothing and nourishing for the skin since it can be easily absorbed. It is useful for treating dry, inflamed and sensitive skin types.
Avocado oil soothes itchy skin conditions, is highly penetrative and contains essential fatty acids, protein, lecithin, vitamin B, D and A.
Calendula oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can soften and soothe skin, therefore aiding in healing of skin conditions.
Grapeseed oil is free from cholesterol, suits all skin types and contains vitamin E, protein and linoleic acid.
Hazelnut oil helps in circulation as it has good penetrative qualities and astringent effect. It has vitamin E, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Macadamia nut oil is highly nutritive for in contains essential fatty acids.
Peach kernel oil – improves elasticity and suppleness of the skin. It contains vitamin E, A and small quantities of essential fatty acids.
Safflower oil suits all skin types and is rich in nutrients like vitamin E and fatty acids.
St Johns Wort oil is used for dry and sensitive skin and has anti-inflammatory properties. Its astringent effects help in healing and soothing different skin conditions.
Sweet Almond oil helps to relieve itching for it has a soothing and calming effect. It contains high levels of fatty acids, proteins and vitamins B1, B2, B6, A and E.
Wheatgerm oil soothes, nourishes and heals the skin and therefore is used for its anti-aging properties. Since it has high levels of protein and vitamin E, it is a natural anti-oxidant.
Jojoba oil is very stable carrier oil with a long shelf life. It is favored oil in aromatherapy because of the natural sebum it contains. It is useful for those with acne or oily skin and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Sunflower oil nourishes and conditions the skin and is used to treat dry, aged and damaged skin for it is easily absorbed.
Hempseed oil has the perfect fatty acid profile, possesses many therapeutic properties and reduces inflammation.
Olive Oil used for cooking, as a hair conditioner and a moisturizer. It is used extensively as anointing oil and to make soaps, body lotions etc, as it is very compatible with all skin types.
Here we have seen the benefits of a few carrier oils. Essential oils must be blended in the right proportion with carrier oils to enjoy many therapeutic benefits in aromatherapy and as a medication too. Having a good knowledge of the various carrier oils, the ways to blend and store them is necessary to make the best and right use of these oils.