We find carrier or base oils in many aromatherapy products as well as cosmetics. I always check ingredients carefully when purchasing since we are bombarded with chemicals in every facet of our lives. I want to know what I am putting on my skin and what is being absorbed into my body. Recently I visited several of the popular aromatherapy body care stores in the mall to check out the quality of their ingredients-and found some pluses and some minuses. One popular hand cream listed a petroleum derivative as its first ingredient. Mineral oils derived from petroleum products are drying to the skin because they destroy the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, F, K) when they are metabolized. Look for good quality vegetable or seed oils (cold pressed, if possible, to retain their natural qualities) in body care products. These excellent oils store energy for their plants and will benefit the skin with their nutrients and fatty acids and impart their own therapeutic properties. When used with essential oils, carrier oils contribute to the absorption of the essential oils into the skin. Without fatty acids in the diet, the body loses important sources of energy and building blocks for healthy cells. Here are some of the more common carrier oils in the products we use.
Sweet Almond Oil (Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis)
Sweet Almond Oil is expressed from the seed of the sweet almond rather than the bitter almond, has a faint aroma, and is very close to the natural oils found in the skin. It was first used by the Romans in skincare preparations. Current uses are for chapped, irritated skin, eczema, cradlecap, and to soften wrinkles. Taken internally, it is twice as effective as olive oil in reducing cholesterol, per clinical trials.
Apricot Kernel Oil (Prunus armeniaca)
Apricot Kernel Oil is expressed from the seed of the apricot. It is heavier than Sweet Almond Oil but more easily absorbed into the skin and, therefore, an excellent moisturizing oil for face, hands, and hair. It is high in Vitamins A and C and especially good for mature, dry, or sensitive skin. This oil is best stored in the refrigerator because it is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Like essential oils, carrier oils should be stored in colored glass (amber is best) away from light and heat.
Avocado Oil (Persea americana)
Avocado Oil is one of the most penetrating oils. Technically, the avocado is a fruit; and the oil is mechanically pressed out of the dehydrated, thinly sliced fruit. Avocado Oil, if unrefined, is a pale or olive green. Clear Avocado Oil has been bleached; pale yellow Avocado Oil has been refined. Unrefined Avocado Oil will have a strong, green aroma and is rich in Vitamin A and D as well as lecithin, potassium, and chlorophyll. It is a very moisturizing oil and especially beneficial for rash, eczema, mature skin, parched skin, and aging skin.
Borage Oil (Borago officinalis)
This is a powerful oil obtained by pressing the seed of Borago officinalis. It is oily with a faint aroma and is best refrigerated. I would like to note that this oil is relatively expensive-about five times the cost of Sweet Almond or Apricot Kernel per ounce! It is high in gamma linolenic acid and the essential fatty acids, which must be supplied by the diet. This oil may be taken internally for epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, PMS, cardiovascular disorders, benign breast disease, and hyperactivity. Externally, it is excellent for hair, skin, and nails.
Coconut Oil is semi-solid but melts easily when put on the skin. It is prepared from the endosperm of the coconut fruit. This is an ingredient in many cosmetic products, especially shaving creams, soaps, and some shampoos, as it lathers well. It can be used as an ointment base and is good for the scalp. Coconut oil is best stored in the refrigerator as it becomes rancid when exposed to air. When used on skin, coconut oil forms a barrier against infections, softens, moisturizes skin, and prevents wrinkling, sagging, and protects skin from damaging UV rays.
Pressed from the inner kernel of maize, Corn Oil has a faint aroma and is a little lighter than Olive Oil. It is effective for all skin types.
Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)
Evening Primrose Oil can be used interchangeably with Borage Oil and is also best stored in the refrigerator. The plant is biennial and blooms only in the evening, thus the name. Native American medicine men recognized its healing properties for wounds and brewed the seed pods to make an infusion. Like Borage Oil, it is also very expensive to produce as it takes about 5000 seeds to make one capsule of oil! Internally, Evening Primrose Oil is effective for PMS, benign breast disease, cardiovascular disorders, multiple sclerosis, aging, epilepsy, and hyperactivity. Externally, it may be used for dandruff, sun-damaged skin, eczema, problem skin, aging skin, rheumatoid arthritis, or wounds. Evening Primrose Oil is particularly rich in gamma linolenic acid, which affects enzyme activity in the body and, ultimately, production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandin deficiency may result in eczema, reproductive problems, circulatory system problems, compromised immune system, and poor wound healing.
Grapeseed Oil (Vitis vinifera)
A solvent, hexane, is used to extract Grapeseed Oil, so it is important that no hexane be left in the final product. This oil is mildly astringent and especially suited for acne or oily skin. Because it is primarily polyunsaturated, it is best refrigerated if it is to be kept for any length of time.
Jojoba is a liquid wax ester quite similar to the natural restorative esters produced by the sebaceous glands for our skin. Also, pure jojoba contains all natural forms of the antioxidant Vitamin E--alpha, delta, and gamma tocopherols. Usually, it is pressed but can be solvent extracted. For better stability, it is best to use natural Jojoba that has not been decolorized, preferably certified organic or pesticide free. Botantist H. F. Link recorded the jojoba plant in 1822 in Baja California and named it after a fellow British botanist/explorer, T. W. Simmonds. Jojoba is naturally moisturizing, healing, and beneficial for all skin types; it is an excellent scalp treatment. The best claim to fame for Jojoba is that it has been accepted as a substitute for sperm whale oil, formerly often used in the manufacture of cosmetics (the U.S. Government banned whaling in the early 1970's)!
Jojoba is extracted from an edible seed, not a nut, and is non-allergenic and can be used on the most sensitive of skin, including baby skin. It does not clog pores and is preferred by massage therapists because it does not stain; rather it washes out with hot water and detergent.
Uses include: makeup removal, facial massage, scalp/hair conditioning, cuticle conditioning/softening, soothing relief from psoriasis, revitalizing skin before or after bathing, soothing skin after sun exposure, and serving as a base for essential oil blends.
Jojoba has an indefinite shelf life.
Kukui Nut (Aleurites moluccana)
Kukui Nut Oil is expressed from the nut of Hawaii's official state tree and is a well liked facial oil because it is light and moisturizing without being greasy. It contains Vitamins A and E and is used for eczema and dermatitis.
Macadamia Nut (Macadamia tetraphylla)
This oil is expressed from the rich macadamia nut, has a rather medicinal aroma, and is oily on the skin. It softens skin and is used in shampoos, conditioners, creams, and massage oils. This oil is recommended for dry and mature skin.
Fully ripe, hand picked olives make the best oil, which is produced by crushing the pulp of the fruit and not the seed. Olive Oil is heavy and used in cosmetics and soaps. It can be used for massage and is best blended with a lighter vegetable oil. While it is filled with skin nutrients, its aroma will dominate a blend. It can be taken internally for cardiovascular disease and constipation.
This is a nutty smelling, heavy oil but quite good applied externally for arthritis and rheumatism.
Plum Kernel Oil is beneficial to dry and mature skin because it is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and antioxidants and renews the complexion.
Pomegranate Seed Oil (Punica granatum)
Antioxidants, improves elasticity, protects skin, deeply penetrating, studies show strengthens the epidermis
Pomegranate seed oil is commonly used in cosmetic products to revitalize dull or mature skin, assist with wrinkles, and to soothe minor skin irritations. Without moisture, wrinkles become more abundant and pronounced, and the skin looks tight and lacks luster. Not only does pomegranate seed oil contain high levels of antioxidants that fight free radicals and skin aging, but the oil is also a potent source of punicic and ellagic acids. Because of these properties, pomegranate seed oil is used to renew, protect, and moisturize dry, cracked, mature, and irritated skin, and bring elasticity back to the skin.
Rosehip Seed Oil (Rosa rubiginosa)
This oil is produced in Chile and is popular for regenerating the skin. Usually, the oil is extracted by a solvent from the wild rose bush seeds growing in the southern Andes. Clinical research conducted in South America supports claims for tissue regeneration for burns, scars after surgery, stretch marks, and facial wrinkles, especially "crow's feet" around the eyes and mouth-probably because of very high levels of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids. Rosehip Seed Oil, like Borage Oil and Evening Primrose Oil, is best stored in a cool atmosphere.
Rosehip seed oil, which has only recently become recognized by the general public, is believed to be the best oil available for antiaging and skin rejuvenation. Numerous scientific studies have also taken place, which have yielded evidence supporting the use of this oil. Rosehip seed oil is extracted from the seeds of a native rose plant which grows wild in Chile. The oil has been used by native people in Chile for centuries, and has only been validated by scientists fairly recently. The first major confirmation of its capabilities came in 1983, when the University of Santiago conducted research on 180 individuals. These tests studied people with extensive facial scarring, acne scarring, deep wrinkles, UV damage, radiation damage, burn scars, surgical scars, premature aging, dermatitis, and other skin related problems. In these tests, rosehip seed oil regenerated the skin, reduced scars and wrinkles, prevented the advancement of wrinkles and aging, and helped skin to regain its natural color and tone. Since this time, other universities and labs have also completed studies, also yielding positive results.
Safflower Oil (Carthamus tinctorius)
Safflower Oil is produced from the seeds of the safflower plant and can be substituted for Peanut Oil and applied to bruises, sprains, and painful arthritis joints. It does not have a long shelf life when exposed to air. It belongs to the sunflower family.
Sea Buckthorn Oil (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Damaged skin, scar tissue, wrinkles, beta-carotene, tocopherols, skin repair & conditioning
Sesame Seed Oil (Sesamum indicum)
The Sesame herb is grown for its seeds and was used by the Chinese 5000 years ago! The Egyptians produced flour from its ground seeds, and Roman soldiers mixed the seeds with honey for an energy snack. It may be expressed or extracted and is also known as Gingelly or Teel Oil. If the oil is extracted from raw seeds, it is a rather light color compared to that extracted from roasted seeds. Sesame Seed Oil is a natural skin moisturizer, a good source of vegetable protein, rich in lecithin, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It is also a good laxative. Other uses are for rheumatic conditions, eczema, psoriasis, or dry skin.
Sunflower Oil (Helianthus annuus)
Sunflower seeds are expressed to produce this light oil which is high in linoleic acid, Vitamins A, B complex, D, and E, as well as calcium, zinc, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. Externally, it is used for bruises, dermatitis, and ulcers. The South American native peoples ground sunflower seeds to make meal.
Tamanu Oil (Calophyllum inophyllum)
Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, damaged skin, scars, fade stretch marks Traditionally used for shingles, arthritis, joint pain, sore throat, cracked skin, athlete's foot, infected nails, and severe burns. Powerful antioxidant for infections and scars.
Wheatgerm Oil (Triticum aestivum)
This oil has a nutty aroma and is extracted by pressing or solvent extraction from the wheat "germ." It is a valuable source of Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, and is more resistant to light and heat than vegetable oils. It helps relieve dermatitis symptoms, promotes skin cell formation, and improves blood circulation. Wheatgerm Oil is used to prevent and reduce scarring and speeds up healing of cuts and wounds. The wheat we know today is from a hybrid wild wheat that grew 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. The wheatgerm portion of wheat grain contains 25% of the protein along with many minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, this is the portion that is milled away to produce white flour!