Oils. Cooking oils. Salad dressing oils. Skin care oils. Carrier oils. Essential oils. Oils as supplements such as Vitamin E and fish oil. Oils are a part of our everyday life. And since we eat them and slather them on our body’s largest organ, the skin; selecting the right oils is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Yet, most of us have never been taught about oils, and we typically use what our mothers or friends use without really understanding which are the best oils for us. We have grown used to using the health depleting oils in our food and on our bodies without really knowing how to change the pattern. Today, we are going to lift that curtain of mystery by delving in to the world of carrier oils. We are going to learn what a carrier oils is and what makes the best carrier oil. We are going to take a step in to changing what we put on our bodies so that we are no longer unknowingly poisoning ourselves with toxic chemicals. Instead, we are making the choice to nourish our bodies inside and out.
This will just be a start to our oil exploration, Reader. We will be talking more about healthy oils for cooking, for skin care and for supplementation in the weeks to come. Oils are a broad topic that affect many aspects of our wellness; so I will be dedicating the next few Self Care Sundays to the topic.
What is a carrier oil?
The term “carrier oil” is meant to refer to natural oils that are used in conjunction with an essential oil to “carry” the essential oil. Carrier oils are typically vegetable oils like olive oil, or are pressed from a seed or nut like sweet almond oil.
While essential oils are volatile, meaning that they want to leap in to the air and escape; carrier oils are not, they want to stick around and be absorbed where they are put. This is what makes the two such great companions.
Essential oils contain therapeutic constituents; carrier oils do not. Carrier oils may contain some vitamins, fatty acids and nutrients.
Why use a carrier oil with essential oils?
Essential oils are very powerful and strong, and learning to use carrier oils to dilute them is a safety practice for essential oil users. More essential oil does not equal more effective. Using the smallest effective amount is what we are striving for with essential oils. Even just one drop of common essential oils like oregano and peppermint can cause irritation to the skin, and diluting them can remove that irritation.
Carrier oils make using essential oils on children possible. Essential oils should always be heavily diluted when it comes to use on children.
Carrier oils can be partnered with essential oils to slow the absorption rate of essential oils, which is important if you are using the essential oil for something on the skin – you want to keep that essential oil in place where it can be most effective.
Carrier oils can also be used to allow an essential oil to be spread over a greater area. If you want to massage an area, then a carrier oil will allow you to spread a drop of essential oil on a large area of the body. Remember, that essential oil wants to leap in to the air, it won’t allow you to spread it over skin.
Carrier oils helps us to waste less essential oils. As I mentioned, the goal is to find how little essential oil can be used to be effective – then no oils are wasted. More is not better. More is wasted oil.
What is the best carrier oil?
Let’s start with a look at some of the carrier oils that are the most common, the easiest to find and perfect for beginning essential oil users.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Here is the one I found to be the best price for the quality.
Why fractionated? Because fractionated coconut oil has had the long-chain fatty acids removed through steam distillation or hydrolysis. So what? Well, long-chain fatty acids have more carbon atoms, meaning that they require higher temperatures to melt. In regular coconut oil, the temperature must be at least 76 degrees for the oil to melt, which is why coconut oil is solid in most homes.
However, once the coconut oil is fractionated, it remains in a liquid state at room temperature. A liquid state is what we want for roller bottles and easy mixing.
A downside to fractionated coconut oil is that in the fractionation process, the lauric acid naturally found in coconut oil is removed. Lauric acid is what gives coconut oil many of its health benefits and cleansing properties. Without it, the fractionated version is not as therapeutic. (Source)
However, the fractionated version does still contain the medium-chain fatty acids of caprylic and capric acids, which have antibacterial and antifungal properties. It also contains natural antioxidants, which helps to prolong the shelf life of oils.
Fractionated coconut oil used for skin care purposes should not be confused with MCT oil. Products labeled fractionated coconut oil should not be considered food-grade. Their use is for the skin, hair, beauty products, etc. MCT is food-grade and a great option for eating, but we will get more in to that in a later post.
Fractionated coconut oil is also much more absorbable and lighter on the skin than regular coconut oil. It will leave a soft and moisturized feel, but not a greasy one.
Pros – Odorless (won’t taint the aromatherapy of essential oils), colorless – will not stain!, light & silky feel, very absorbable, liquid, long shelf life
Cons – Processed & no longer contains lauric acid, not found in most homes or all grocery stores, not food grade
My favorite is Tropical Traditions brand.
In terms of carrier oils, coconut oil is more popular for its use in diy recipes like body butters, lotions and other personal care products, because it is solid at room temperature. The odor can vary by brand and quality, but you will probably have a light coconut smell.
Coconut oil is a heavy oil on skin; it can feel greasy.
Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, and it has a very long shelf life.
Pros – Long shelf life, tolerated well by most skin types, found in most grocery stores
Cons – Greasy feel, hard at room temperature
Olive oil is mostly a monounsaturated fat and is rich in antioxidants for fighting premature again. Its phenols have anti-inflammatory properties. It is enriching and known to provide a natural shine and glow on skin.
Olive oil is a heavier oil, and can leave a greasy feeling. Extra virgin olive oil has a distinct smell.
While most people already have olive oil in their homes and it is readily found at grocery stores, there is a significant problem with the quality of olive oil. Many studies have been done, including this one at UC Davis, that show that a portion of the extra virgin olive oil on the market has been adulterated with lesser quality, cheaper oils and have other oxidation and purity problems. It is very important to find a trusted source for extra virgin olive oil. This is mine.
Pros – Readily available and common, beneficial properties for skin,
Cons – May feel greasy, strong aroma, shorter shelf life
Sweet Almond Oil
This is a nut oil that has a light feel and is odorless. It is high in vitamins A, D and E.
Sweet almond oil does not have a long shelf life, and should be refrigerated.
Pros – Odorless, nourishing & moisturizing
Cons – Shorter shelf life, not a good option for those with nut allergies
The jojoba I have used.
Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax ester made from expeller-pressed jojoba seeds. It is a very light oil, and it closely mimics our skin’s natural sebum (oil layer). It contains vitamins A and E.
It absorbs quickly and is commonly recommended for oily skin types.
Jojoba has a slightly nutty aroma and a decent shelf life.
Pros – Closest match to our natural sebum, light & non-greasy feel, great for all skin types
Cons – Slightly nutty aroma
The sunflower oil I buy.
This is a light, versatile oil made from sunflower seeds. It has a very faint odor, but is high in oleic acid and lecithin.
Sunflower oil is an ingredient in my happy chappy that gives a nice light feel and shine.
Pros – Great for dry skin
Cons – Very faint odor
Cold pressed from the pulp of the fruit. It is a great source of vitamins A, D and E and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also high in antioxidants & sterolins, making potentially good for healing sun damage and inflammatory skin conditions.
It is a thick oil, and does not absorb as well as the other oils listed. It is great for dry skin and mature skin, as it is very hydrating. It is relatively odorless.
Pros – Can be found fairly easily, odorless
Cons – Thick and heavy, not very absorbable, pricey
I have not purchased argan oil, only used what was gifted to me. I do not have a product recommendation.
Pressed from the nut of the fruit, the argan tree is found in Morocco.
Argan oil is high in vitamin E, which is an antioxidant. It also contains saponins, which work by softening the skin to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
It does not leave a greasy feel, but it does have a distinct odor.
Pros – Very beneficial to skin, great for dry skin, non-greasy feel
Cons – Distinct odor
What to look for when choosing carrier oils to purchase
I have given you links to my favorites for quality and bang for your buck, but as you choose for yourself, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Ideally, when choosing oils, look for the following…
Cold –pressed – the oil should be raw and not heated over 110 degrees.
Organic – it should be organically grown and harvested.
Unrefined – the oil has been filtered to eliminate dust and small particles without comprising the oil’s nutrients, vitamins and fatty acids.
Extra Virgin – the oil comes from the first pressing.
Which are my favorite carrier oils?
I keep coming back to fractionated coconut oil and sweet almond oil. The first is so light, and perfect for faster absorption; while the other lingers longer but still feels great on my skin.
The easiest way to use carrier oils
Carrier oils may seem like a bit of a hassle at first, but there is an easy solution…the roller bottle. Most essential oil users premix/dilute their essential oils in roller bottles so they are ready to go and easy to take along to museums, on hikes in a national park, in the truck on towing days…or anywhere a RVer like me likes to go. This roller bottle is the best price & quality I have purchased recently.
Storing your oils
Carrier oils (as well as essential oils) should be stored in cool, dark places away from sunlight.
Most carrier oils can be refrigerated for freshness, but no need to refrigerate coconut oil or avocado oil.
Buying in bulk is not the best idea for carrier oils, as you will want turn over to keep your oils stable.
Well, that covers the main carrier oils. Join me next Self Care Sunday to learn about healthy oils for cooking and eating!
For further study:
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