Welcome to the letter C post in my #AtoZChallenge on aromatherapy. Today, I will be discussing carrier oils.
Carrier oils, also sometimes called base oils, are the oils used to dilute essential oils into when using essential oils in skincare products. After all, undiluted essential oils are irritating to the skin. Please note the following differences between essential oils and carrier oils:
- Essential oils are derived from the aromatic components of the plant, such as leaves, bark and root. Carrier oils come from the fatty portions of the plant, such as the seeds.
- Essential oils retain the characteristic odor of the plant. Carrier oils do not, at least not very strongly.
- Essential oils evaporate easily (hence producing their characteristic scent). Carrier oils do not evaporate as easily.
- Carrier oils can go rancid over time. Essential oils do not, but they will oxidize and lose their therapeutic benefits.
Carrier oils are natural vegetable oils derived from the fatty portions of plants, usually the seeds, kernels or nuts. The name “carrier oil” comes from their function in carrying the essential oils onto the skin. Aloe vera gel can also be used as a carrier, but it isn’t an oil. I will be focusing on oils here. Below are some examples of carrier oils.
1. Sweet almond oil. One of the most commonly-used carrier oils, because it is widely available in organic form. It is relatively affordable, all-purpose and has a shelf life of 1-2 years.
2. Grape seed oil. A relatively all-purpose oil in skincare or massage. However, it is not often available in pure, organic form. It also has a rather short shelf life of only 6-12 months.
3. Coconut oil. This comes either in a virgin form or as a fractionated oil, which means it has been distilled to contain only the medium chain triglycerides. Fractionated coconut oil is odorless and highly stable. Virgin coconut oil still contains the aroma of coconuts and can, as a result, be used to create this scent.
4. Apricot kernel oil. This is an oil that is in many ways similar to sweet almond oil. However, it is lighter in texture and viscosity and is absorbed into the skin relatively quickly.
I have so far only used sweet almond and apricot kernel oils.
In addition to carrier oils, butters can also be used in skincare products, such as body butter or lip balm. Butters include mango butter, cocoa butter and sometimes coconut oil can be thick enough to be used as a butter. I love to combine cocoa butter, coconut oil and sweet almond oil into a body butter.