How to Select Carrier Oils
Jojoba oil, almond oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil…the list goes on and on. There are a lot of carrier oils available nowadays. Which one should you choose and when should you use them? This post will help answer these two questions so that you can use carrier oils more confidently and effectively!
What are Carrier Oils and How Should They Be Used?
First off, let’s look at what carrier oils are and how they should be used. Carrier oils are base oils derived from plants (usually the nuts and seeds of plants). They can be used on their own or in combination with other ingredients to moisturize or to treat specific problems. They are also used to “carry” essential oils through the skin and prevent essential oils from evaporating quickly from the skin. They are also used to dilute essential oils so that they are safe to use.
When purchasing carrier oils, quality is key. Look for unrefined (unprocessed), cold-pressed (no heat has been applied to the oil), pure (no additives), organic oils. Note: the term virgin or extra virgin is also often used to describe oils such as olive and coconut oils that have been produced using the cold-pressing method. Oils that meet all of the above criteria will retain much more of its therapeutic properties and minimize your exposure to pesticides. They will have higher levels of antioxidants, and are richer and stronger.
You can also find fractionated oils, the most common one being fractionated coconut oil, on the market. These oils have been heated as part of their processing, to separate certain chains of fatty acids into components. This refines, clarifies, and deodorizes the oil. While these oils still have beneficial properties, I tend to stay away from them as they do not have as much therapeutic properties as their cold-processed counterparts.
Storing your carrier oil properly is also important. Once you have spent your hard earned dollars on quality carrier oils, you want to do all that you can to maintain its freshness and maximize its shelf life. To extend its shelf life, store your carrier oils in a cool, dark environment. Keeping it in the refrigerator is the best option, especially after it has been opened. If it solidifies in the fridge, you just need to let it come back to room temperature before using it. You can also add Vitamin E to your carrier oil to extend its shelf life (about 4 mL to 500 mL of carrier oil).
Choosing the Right Carrier Oil
Choosing the right carrier oil takes some experimentation and some knowledge of the different characteristics of each oil. Below, I describe some of the top carrier oils I use in my products. For each one, I describe:
- Their benefits,
- The skin types they are most appropriate for,
- The types of products I use them for, and
- Other note-worthy points.
This will give you a good starting point as you dive deeper into the world of DIY natural body care products and remedies.
- Benefits: The caprylic acid and capric acid in coconut oil make it antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It penetrates well into the skin and is a good moisturizer.
- Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly acne-prone skin, as it leads to fewer breakouts and clearer complexion.
- Types of Products: This is my top go-to oil. I use coconut oil in many of my products, including my lotions, creams, lip balms, salves, and acne treatment balm.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: As the melting point of coconut oil is typically 76 degrees Fahrenheit, it is usually solid at room temperature. That means it needs to be mixed with a liquid oil to maintain fluidity.
Sweet Almond Oil
- Benefits: Sweet almond oil is very nourishing. It is rich in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, proteins, potassium and zinc. It is good for the heart, skin, and hair. In particular, it is known for its ability to soften and re-condition the skin, which is great for dry-flaky skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It can also lighten skin over time, so it can be used under the eyes for dark circles. It goes on light and smooth and helps more solid or thick oils (such as coconut, neem, castor, and tamanu) penetrate more deeply.
- Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for dry, acne-prone skin.
- Types of Products: I use this in my massage oils and under-eye firming serum, and many of my lotions, creams, salves, and acne treatment balms. I also use it in my moisturizing baby shampoo / body wash / hand soap.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: If you are using it in a massage oil, note that it can stain sheets.
- Benefits: Avocado oil is very rich and nourishing. It contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, D, E, and Beta carotene. It is also rich in proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. It is a thick oil that absorbs deeply into the skin and helps increase collagen to keep your skin supple.
- Skin Types: Ideal for dry, mature, sensitive, and problem prone skin. Particularly great for the winter time as it is a deep moisturizer.
- Types of Products: Avocado oil is ideal for creams, soaps, and lotions. I also like to use it in my under-eye firming serum.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: Avocado oil is slow to go rancid and can be added to other carrier oils to enrich their vitamin and protein content.
- Benefits: Jojoba oil is actually not an oil, but a liquid wax, making it very stable. It contains proteins, minerals and myristic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory agent. It closely resembles our natural sebum, so it tricks your skin into producing less sebum. It is also rich in Vitamin E and is very light and absorbs quickly, and is non-greasy.
- Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for oily, acne-prone skin.
- Types of Products: I use jojoba oil in products such as facial oil, and my moisturizing baby shampoo / body wash / hand soap.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: Jojoba oil can be added to other carrier oils to extend its shelf life. It becomes cloudy and thickens as the temperature drops, but will be clear again as it rises back to room temperature.
- Benefits: Olive oil is one of the most readily available and commonly known carrier oils. As it is derived from the fruit, it is a good option for people with allergies to nuts and seeds.
- Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for dry and irritated skin.
- Types of Products: I use olive oil in many of my products including lotions, creams, salves, and balms, particularly for people who have nut and seed allergies.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: Olive oil has a strong aroma and can therefore influence essential oils when used in a blend.
- Benefits: Grapeseed oil is high in antioxidants and can therefore slow down skin aging. It also has astringent properties so it can tighten the skin. In addition, it can help prevent and relieve sun damage and reduce wrinkles and stretch marks. It is one of the lightest carrier oils and absorbs easily into the skin.
- Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for oily, acne-prone skin. It is also beneficial for skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis.
- Types of Products: It is used in many skincare products, including creams, lotions, salves, lip balms. In particular, I like to use it in my moisturizing baby shampoo / body wash / hand soap, and as a carrier oil for my essential oil blends, as it carries the essential oils in the skin quickly.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: Grapeseed oil is a relatively economical carrier oil, and a good choice for people with nut allergies.
- Benefits: Sunflower oil has high amounts of Vitamins A, B, D and E, minerals, and also has beneficial amounts of lecithin and unsaturated fatty acids. It is deeply nourishing, is a wonderful skin conditioner, and helps reduce inflammation in the skin.
- Skin Types: Suitable for skin types, particularly for dry and damaged skin, eczema and psoriasis.
Types of Products: I like to use sunflower oil in my facial oil cleanser and lip balms.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: Sunflower oil is a very cost-effective choice for skincare products.
- Benefits: Castor oil has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It is also healing and cleansing.
Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for oily, acne-prone skin.
- Types of Products: I use castor oil as my primary oil in my oil cleansing routine. I also like to use it for my nails and calluses, and it can be added to shampoos and conditioners to treat split hairs and add volume.
Other Note-Worthy Points: Castor oil is quite thick, so it is usually diluted with another carrier oil. In addition to skincare, castor oil has many other uses, such as reducing inflammation and speeding up the healing of minor muscle or joint strains.
Benefits: Tamanu oil has a high content of essential fatty acids, making this oil very restorative. Known as a healing oil, it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibiotic properties. It can be used to treat a whole host of skin problems, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, burns, cuts, rashes and insect bites.
Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, especially for acne-prone and damaged skin, and to treat eczema and psoriasis.
- Types of Products: I like to use this super healing oil in my facial oil.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: Tamanu oil is solid at room temperature, so it is often used with a liquid carrier oil to maintain fluidity. It also has a rich, woody-spicy oil scent, which should be taken into consideration when blending into products.
- Benefits: Argan oil is a luxurious oil that is rich in antioxidants and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also very high in Vitamin E. It softens the skin and helps restore the skin’s water lip lipid layer, thereby minimizing wrinkles. It also absorbs quickly. It can also be used to ease cases of acne and eczema helping the skin to maintain a youthful, glowing appearance.
Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for acne-prone and damaged skin.
- Types of Products: I like to use argan oil in my facial oil and in my hair care products. It can also be used to manufacture soaps, creams, anti-aging creams and aftershave lotions for men.
Other Note-Worthy Points: It has a light nutty and earthy scent, which should be kept in mind when blending into products.
Hemp Seed Oil
Benefits: Hemp seed oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, and is a great moisturizer for skin and hair. It absorbs readily into the skin and helps prevent skin aging, and also brings relief to acne, minor abrasions, psoriasis and eczema.
- Skin Types: Suitable for all skin types, particularly for acne-prone oily skin.
- Types of Products: I use hemp seed oil in my acne treatment balm.
Other Note-Worthy Points: Hemp seed oil has a shorter shelf life (about a year), so ensure that you keep it in the refrigerator to maximize its shelf life.
- Benefits: Rosehip oil is extremely high in essential fatty acids and is known to help treat dry, irritated, weathered skin. It is also suitable for treating burns, scars and stretch marks.
- Skin Types: Ideal for dry, mature skin.
- Types of Products: I like to use rosehip oil in my facial products.
- Other Note-Worthy Points: When applied in high concentrations, it can aggravate acne conditions.
Do you have other favourite carrier oils not listed here? Comment below and share how you like to use them!