I first studied Aromatherapy back in the early 90’s and it was all centred around Essential oils, their beautiful aromas and therapeutic uses. When I formally qualified as an Aromatherapist in 2002, I started to realise that the carriers we were using were equally as important and choosing the correct one led to an increase in therapeutic value. Nowadays us Aromatherapists have access to a lot more botanical extracts like butters, hydrosols or aromatic waters, CO2 extracts, clays and powders.
Today I want to focus on carrier oils and their amazing benefits in the care of our skin.
Carrier Oils, also known as Fixed oil or Vegetable and Nut oils are lipid extracts from Nuts and Seeds. They are packed with Essential Fatty Acids, the ones we can’t make internally. Nuts and seeds go through a process of extraction, either Cold Pressing or Refining.
The latter introduces heat into the extraction process which can alter the structure of the fatty acids in the oil and destroy the aroma. I try to source Organic Cold Pressed Oils where possible, however aroma needs to be considered as the cold pressed oils will still contain a nutty aroma.
So let’s think about oils in relation to our skin. The skin has many functions but one important one is protection. An oil and water barrier on the surface of our skin, called the acid mantle has a pH which gives a slightly antimicrobial function to the skin. When we are under stress or as the skin ages, the oil aspect of the acid mantle is reduced, leaving our skin dry and because the protective quality is now lower, the skin becomes sensitive. Anything else that adds to this dryness will increase sensitivity. Think about central heating, air conditioning, difference in weather patterns – too hot or too cold, medication or poor diet.
“Dry skin and atopical eczema typically always show up poor lipid barriers and low ceramide content in the Epidermis” (Kusmirek, 2002)
Now that we can see the benefit to dry and sensitive skin, what about our Oily skin types. Many of us are wary about applying oils to oily skin because we think it will make the condition worse. Some oils can actually benefit oily skin, if they are not too thick and viscous. I tend to use a combination of light oils which will moisturise the epidermis but not leave an oily residue on the skin. Some carriers have been known to balance oil levels on the skin because they resemble sebum, the skins natural oils.
It’s important to note that treating skin conditions must also take into account the diet and lifestyle. There are many internal factors to consider also. While we are focused here on the external application of oils to the skin, we must also look at getting these essential fatty acids through our diets.
When I started using oils in my skincare, it was a foreign concept but nowadays the Beauty market is saturated with facial oils and serums. Today’s formulation is quick and simple. A blend of carrier oils to suit your skin type. Use what you have at home or order a few that suit your skin. I wouldn’t order huge quantities unless you are making big batches. You can add some essential oils if you want but remember Know your oils. Know their effects on the skin, their contraindications, their cautions and make sure you like the aroma
This is a formula I use for my Dry and sometimes sensitive skin:
|Avocado||Can penetrate better than most oils. Really softening and moisturising |
to the skin. Recommended for dry skin types. Prevents premature aging.
|Rosehip Seed Oil||Regenerates the skin, reduces ageing, scarring, wrinkles. Light. |
Penetrates the skin well
|Argan Oil||Very high in antioxidants and Vitamin E. Very nourishing to skin |
and preserves its elasticity
|Jojoba||Balancing to the Acid mantle. Non-greasy.||15%|
|Vitamin E||Antioxidant to prolong the shelf life of your blend||1%|
|Essential Oil||Adds to the therapeutic value of the blend.|
Consider Contraindications to skin
Let me know how you get on or if this is useful. Below is a table of my favourite fixed oils, along with images from my favourite supplier of Organic Cold Pressed Oils Flying Wild This fabulous range created by Arno is everything you need when sourcing really good quality ingredients, not to mention the beautiful packaging. Please look him up. His blog is full of more great info on carrier oils. In the meantime, Please feel free to use the table below as a guideline for choosing your oils. Experiment and find what works best for you. Have Fun!
|OIL||MAIN EFA’s||BENEFITS IN SKINCARE|
|ALMOND (SWEET)||Oleic, Linoleic and Palmetic Acids||Nourishing to dry skin, soothes inflammation, irritation and prevents moisture loss|
|APRICOT KERNEL||Oleic, Linoleic and Palmetic acids||Very similar to Almond. Suitable to dry sensitive ageing skin|
|ARGAN||Oleic, Linoleic, Palmetic and Steric acids||High in Antioxidants and Vitamin E. Nourishing and protective to skin, nails and hair. Regenerative and Firming|
|AVOCADO||Oleic, Palmetic, Linoleic and Palmitoleic acids||Softening and moisturising to dry skin and skin inflammation. Can penetrate the skin a little more than most oils.|
|BORAGE||Linoleic, Gamma Linoleic, Oleic, Stearic and Eicosenoic acids||Useful for recreating and maintaining normal skin function. Regenerates the skin. Adds suppleness. High in GLA|
|CASTOR||Ricinoleic acid||Quite thick and viscous. Softening to the skin.|
|CHIA SEED||Alphalinolenic and Linoliec acids||High in Antioxidants. Light oil. Hydrating and strengthening to the skin.|
|COCONUT||Lauric, Myristic, Caprylic, Capric, Palmitic, Oleic and Stearic Acids||Softening and Lubricating for the skin and hair. Melts at body temperature.|
|EVENING PRIMROSE||Linoleic, Palmitic, Gamma Linoleic acids||Beneficial for dry scaly skin. Speeds up the healing process. Repairs skin tissue.|
|HAZELNUT||Oleic, Linoleic, Palmetic and Stearic Acids||Absorbs well into the skin, leaving a non greasy feel. Has a slight tightening and toning effect. Good for Oily skin.|
|HEMP SEED||Linoleic, Linolenic, Oleic, Plametic Acids||Strengthening to the skin and hair. Has anti-inflammatory benefits for hot irritated skin.|
|JOJOBA||Eicosenoic, Oleic, Decosenoic acids||Fantastic for sebum (oil) control on the skin. Leaves non greasy feeling on the skin. All skin types.|
|MACADAMIA||Oleic, Palmitoleic, Palmitic Acids||Protects the skin from ageing. Provides suppleness and moisture. Vanishes into the skin, leaving no residue.|
|POMEGRANATE SEED||Punicic||High in Antioxidants. Boosts the tone of the skin. Beneficial for inflamed dry skin.|
|ROSEHIP||Linoliec, alpha linolenic, Oleic acids||Skin Regeneration – scars, wounds, ageing. Very light, absorbs well into the skin.|
|SESAME||Oleic, Linoleic, Palmitic acids||Used in Ayurvedic trandition to warm and ground. Nourishes and Moisturises dry skins.|
|SUNFLOWER||Linoleic, Oleic Acids||Softening and Moisturising benefits on the skin. Beautiful yellow color.|
|WALNUT||Linoliec, Linolenic, Palmitic and Oleic Acids||Softening to the skin. Beneficial for itchy dry irritated skin.|
Davis, P. (2000). Aromatherapy and A-Z. Essex: The Bridgewater Book Company Ltd.
Kusmirek, J. (2002). Liquid Sunshine. Vegetable oils for Aromatherapy . Somerset : Floramicus.
Price, L. (2008). Carrier Oils for Aromtherapy and Massage . Oxford: Riverhead Publishing .
Righton, J. G. (2018). Handmade Spa. Natrual Treatments to Revive and Restore . London: Quarto.