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What Is The Difference Between Essential and Fixed Oils?

Updated on December 23, 2015

Fixed Oils Defined

There are different categories of oil used in aromatherapy, each one serving its own purpose. Fixed oils is just one of those useful oils in aromatherapy, which is also known as base or carrier oils. They are also used in various applications in food and toiletry industry. For treatment using aromatherapy, fixed oils act as “carriers” that enable the properties of the essential oil to be easily absorbed by the skin and into the specific health system to provide immediate healing. On the other hand, it also helps to dilute the concentration of an essential oil to prevent acquiring skin irritation upon contact with skin.

Like essential oils, fixed oils are also derived using extraction methods. But fixed oils are more like fatty acids that are derived from either vegetable or animal region.

My Top Essential and Carrier Oils

Basic Properties

To make it clear, base oils or vegetable oils all refer to fixed oils. They are often called as such to refer to either the source of the oil or its purpose in aromatherapy application. Although fixed oils has seen diverse application in various industries, it had its strongest hold in aromatherapy. This is due to the fact that even fixed oils contain beneficial properties that offer natural skin protection and enhancement. This also explains why the cold pressed method is most popularly used in producing fixed oils in the hopes of preserving the oil quality.

Fixed oils are a good source of various nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals, and fat soluble vitamins. Depending on the type of fixed oil used, you will get different nutrients as well. A distinct characteristic of fixed oils is that their aroma is not as strong as most essential oils, if they do emit their own aroma at all. Hence, it is very ideal to combine with other essential oils to make aromatherapy blends.

Carrier Oils and Aromatherapy

Is It The Same With Essential Oils?

To optimize the benefits of using aromatherapy, it is important to differentiate fixed oils from essential oils. One of the most basic distinction that fixed oils from essential oils is that the former is not volatile. Hence, it is unlike essential oils that evaporate even when subjected to room temperature.

When it comes to aromatherapy, fixed oils serve as base or carrier oils that aid in the absorption of the vital properties contained by essential oils. Your ability to acquire the therapeutic properties of essential oils is crucial in ensuring the acquisition of benefits from the use of a specific essential oil.

Avoiding Mineral Oils

While it is important to identify or learn what fixed oils are, it is of equal importance to determine what is NOT considered as fixed oils. Some of the things you need to pay close attention to are mineral oils or petroleum byproducts. Many people commit the mistake of thinking they are the same as fixed oils. But mineral oils can be potentially harmful when exposed to humans.  It is unlike fixed oils that is made out of natural substances, hence you can only expect high quality therapeutic properties. One way to tell if you have a genuine fixed oil is the price. Mineral oils are less expensive as compared to fixed oils.

Best Known Fixed Oils

Most fixed oils are derived from a plant origin., hence they often lack odor on their own unlike their essential oil counterparts. If you want to use fixed oils during aromatherapy, you can take note of the following options:

  • jojoba
  • sweet almond
  • grapeseed
  • hazelnut
  • olive
  • borage seed
  • rose hip
  • pecan
  • sunflower
  • sesame
  • hemp seed
  • evening primrose
  • macadamia
  • fractionated coconut
  • apricot kernel
  • pomegranate

Tips When Buying Fixed Oils

With aromatherapy gaining more popularity in the field of alternative medicine, you will also notice an increase in bottled fixed and essential oils readily available in the market. But it is not wise to just go and purchase whatever you could find. You need to pay more attention to the factors you use to determine your choice of purchase. By doing your homework, you can possibly purchase fixed oils that are of high therapeutic value.

If you are a first-time buyer, make sure to seek the professional insight of the staff in the specific health shop you are buying the oils from. Make sure to inquire about the extraction method used to produce the fixed oil since it can be a good indicator of quality. After all, cold pressed method is the one determined to produce the best quality fixed oils. You might also want to look at the price rates for each fixed oils to ensure its authenticity and superiority.

Storing Fixed or Base Oils

As compared to essential oils, fixed oils are much more fragile and would therefore require proper storage requirements to avoid becoming rancid quickly. If you intend to store your oils over a certain period of time, you need to observe proper means of storage to preserve its quality for as long as possible.

When choosing storage containers to use, always opt for dark colored ones such as amber or cobalt. The same reasoning with essential oils apply here since you want to reduce light retention. Moreover, use tight-fitting caps to avoid being exposed to foreign substances that might spoil the oil, if not alter its chemical composition to produce something toxic. But unlike essential oils, you are allowed to use plastic bottles or containers in storing fixed oils but only for a given span of time.

Storing fixed oils inside the refrigerator for preservation is allowed, except for avocado oil. This will help prolong the oil's shelf life. But due to the extremely low temperature to which the oil is exposed to, it can turn into a solid substance so you need to take it out a few hours before you are to use the oil. This will enable the oil to react with the room temperature and return to its liquid form.

Protecting Yourself From Rancid Fixed Oils

Fixed oils are very delicate, hence they could easily turn rancid if you are not careful with your storage choices. This is mainly due to the presence of various natural substances such as fatty acids and tocopherols. These characteristics make fixed oils different from essential oils, which also explain why they are more exposed to rancidity.

Before using a fixed oil, always perform a sniff test. As mentioned above, most fixed oils lack aroma on their own and if they do, these scent is usually very subtle. Hence, you must avoid using fixed oils that emit a pungent and strong aroma because it is usually an indicator that the oil is spoiled and is no longer safe to use in aromatherapy.

Essential Oil DVDs on Amazon


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