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Essential Oil Basics | Choosing the Right Carrier Oil

Updated on January 18, 2016

Nature has a lot to offer to us. And plants make no exception from that rule. They’ve been used for their many effects for thousands of years.

We can’t really use essential oils without carrier oils as well. These two complete each other extremely well. And because of that, no specialist would recommend you use them in any other way. A very common question I often hear is “what is a carrier oil?”

People ask that question because there are not so many clear answers out there. We need a clear view over carrier oils to understand how to use them better.

And you should start first with their extraction methods. It is also important that we know their properties and how we can best use them to have a healthy and beautiful skin. I intend to give you details on each of these subjects in this article.

And I bet the five most uncommon and precious carrier oils that I will present here will also satisfy both your curiosity and skin needs.

A carrier oil is also known as base oil or vegetable oil. In the vegetable category we also have the edible oils like sunflower and extra virgin olive oil. Which are very good for our skin as well, if used unrefined.

Like I said, you must first understand the extraction process of a carrier oil. This fact will also help you buy only the best products.

Carrier oils extracted from seeds

rapeseed, grape seed, sunflower etc.

  • The seeds of a plant are full of precious oils. This method consists of first washing the seeds. Then they are ground and heated only a bit so that the oil can be extracted a lot easier. The first pressure always gives the purest oil. But after the extraction there will still be left some oil in the seeds. Somewhere around 12-15%.
  • This percentage of residual oil can be recovered through chemical processes. The carrier oil found in its crude state, from the first pressure will not be good for consumption though. It still contains some dangerous compounds that help it preserve better. Only after the carrier oil has been mechanically purified can it be bottled up and consumed.

Carrier oils extracted from fruits

hazelnuts, nuts, olives etc.

Fruits carry a lot of nutrients in their core and kernel. That's why the extraction method has to be cold pressed, so they don't ruin the  product.
Fruits carry a lot of nutrients in their core and kernel. That's why the extraction method has to be cold pressed, so they don't ruin the product.
  • The fruits are being cleared of impurities for the crushing process. The pressure used in this process separates the fruit material into a paste on one hand and the oil on the other hand.
  • If the pressure used did not exceed 120 F degrees, then the oil will be called “cold pressed”. If the pressure used to extract the oil was higher, it will be called “oil pressure”.

We use essential oils in combination with carrier oils. But what makes carrier oils really special is their natural ability of doing so much good to our skin. They’re not as powerful and toxic as some of the essential oils are. And they do have their own beneficial properties. They’re also very safe to use, even on babies older than 2 years.

When you choose a carrier oil, you want to go with a type you already know from others or you used before. That’s the safe part. But there are so many other precious carrier oils for skin out there, that it is a shame they’re not better valued.

But in this article I want to put a stop in talking only about the most common aromatherapy carrier oils like sweet almond, jojoba and coconut, and just focus on the more recent discoveries. Here’s a carrier oils list I’ve made with those less common and known oils:

The Tomato Seed Oil

  • The tomato stands on the fine line between being a fruit and a vegetable. Somehow the oils that are found in its seeds haven’t been properly valued so far. This is the reason why the tomato seed oil is so rare and precious.
  • It is among the best carrier oils for face. It’s very rich in phytosterols that can soothe the skin and make it glow.
  • Its richness also consists of a high level of carotenoids and lycopene. They’re great antioxidants and have enough power to protect against the sun’s UV rays.
  • It’s a seasonal oil therefore it will be a bit hard to find it throughout the year. Especially since a carrier oil’s shelf life is generally 1 year.
  • It’s also a fantastic anti-aging carrier oil.

The Cranberry Oil

Cranberries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties!
Cranberries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties!
  • This oil is a true gem. And it is so because it has antibacterial properties. It also contains antioxidants and good fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6.
  • This oil is very good as a treatment against premature aging caused by sun exposure.
  • It has the ability to soothe the sensitive or irritated skin.
  • And it’s a penetrating and gentle emollient.
  • Its nickname in the food industry is the “superfruit”, so there’s plenty of potential in this oil to become a great beauty oil.

Cucumber Seed Oil

  • This is another vegetable-fruit whose oil is undervalued.
  • It has soothing and softening properties and it can restore the skin’s protective film. This protective film helps the skin stay moisturized for a longer period of time.
  • Its characteristic green and fresh aroma makes it very useful and suitable for combination skin.
  • It is also suitable for sensitive and dehydrated skin types.
  • It can help with stretch marks and bring the hair back its brightness.

Desert Date Palm Oil

  • The name of this oil really sends you far away dreaming but it can do so much more than that. It can leave your skin feel really silky and soften it.
  • It’s very nourishing and hydrating without leaving that grease feeling on the surface of the skin.
  • It’s great for dry skin and for oily or combination skin types.

Chaulmoogra Seed Oil

  • It doesn’t have a very pleasant aroma but it can easily be masked with other essential oils.
  • It can help with dermatitis and other skin infections.
  • It evens the skin tone, particularly after sun exposure.
  • It is among the most effective carrier oils for hair, fighting against dandruff and hair loss at the same time.
  • It used to be used in treating leprosy before the antibiotics came up so it’s a pretty powerful carrier oil. That is why you need to do a lot more research if you want to use it. And make sure you’re not allergic to any of its substances.

There is another category of carriers that are great in oil blends for the skin. They are called vegetable butters. And they’re obtained from the fatty portions or “leftovers” of a vegetable oil. This type of butter is made of either the residual oil or the paste resulted from the extraction of the carrier oil.

The vegetable butter stays solid at room temperature and because of that, it is widely used in the making of soaps and balms.

Vegetable butters come from various carrier oils so they will have those properties as well. I find it really interesting how producers have found these ingenious ways to use all the plant. Including what’s left of it after the oil extraction.

They can soften the skin, protect it from sun exposure, and treat various skin conditions. They have anti-inflammatory properties and they can moisturize on a deep level.

Shea Butter

  • It contains vitamins E and A and it has anti-inflammatory effects.
  • It helps healing scars and burns, stretch marks, psoriasis and even dandruff.
  • It moisturizes the skin and diminishes the wrinkles.
  • It can also protect the skin against UV rays.
  • Even though it’s solid, the moment you spread it onto your skin it melts right away.

Jojoba Butter

  • It’s a non-allergic and non-greasy vegetable butter.
  • Protects the skin and the hair thanks to its properties that are very similar to our sebum.
  • The substances that make the jojoba wax are similar to collagen.
  • Suitable for all skin types and all types of conditioners and tanning lotions.

There are of course a lot more vegetable butters on the market. But these two are among the most common ones and they’re very efficient in almost any topical application.

You are now ready to choose the right carrier oil for your skin’s needs. Just remember to establish the exact needs of your skin so you can purchase the right product.

Since you also know what a carrier oil is, you can look at its label and see the method of extraction. That will be a good start. The next step is to make sure they don’t come in transparent bottles. Carrier oils are sensitive to light.

Fruits contain a lot of oils rich in beneficial properties.
Fruits contain a lot of oils rich in beneficial properties.

Have you ever used any of the above mentioned less common carrier oils? Would you like to try one? I personally would love to try the cranberry and cucumber oils. I’d like to find out your opinion as well, so please let me know in the comments below.


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    • Laura Sumner profile image

      Laura 2 years ago from Bucharest

      I am so glad Nancy! Thank you bunches. I also learn new things about carrier oils and essential oils every day :)

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 2 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Great article, full of facts like tomato and cranberry oil. I learned something new today.