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Fixed (Carrier) Oils and Uses


What’s a Carrier Oil and Why Do I Need one?

By Rehne Burge

We love our essential oils. However, many, if not most, have components within them that can irritate, even burn, your skin. Simply put, although therapeutically valuable, essential oils are irritants on the skin. Carrier oils, also referred to as lipid or fatty oils, are used in conjunction with essential oils in Aromatherapy. They are blended with the essential oils to a safe topical level to protect the skin. The percentage of blending is based on the safety guidelines of each essential oil.


Our skin is most receptive to these oils when it is warm and damp. You can also use a hydrosol to moisten the skin. So many great ones include Beautyberry, Rosemary, Neroli, Spearmint and more.

Carrier oils do not moisten the skin themselves. When applied, they block the moisture in the skin, keeping the skin from drying out. If applying after a shower, our skin is receptive, allowing a faster absorption rate. Absorption rates vary, depending on which carrier you use.

Carrier oils are also ingestible and often used in cooking and food preparation. An example is olive oil. They do not have the safety concerns that come with essential oils. They are non-volatile, the opposite of essential oils. A volatile organic compound (VOC) is defined by the EPA as “any compound of carbon” and includes essential oils. Although few essential oils constituents have been implemented, long term exposure to moderate mixtures of terpenes entails possible health risks. (1)

Many carriers have remarkable therapeutic properties externally and internally. Not only do they keep our skin safe when using essential oils, they also enhance the therapeutic effect of essential oils on the skin.

Should I buy Refined or Unrefined carrier oils?

Carrier oils can be purchased unrefined or refined. This defines the amount of processing the oil will go through.

Unrefined oils are the most sought for carrier oils. There is minimal processing involved which ensures a higher quality oil rich in nutrients. Unrefined gives the true color and flavor of the oil as well as the aroma.

The downfall to unrefined oils is often they are less stable than refined oils. This means that your oil will go rancid more quickly. This could shorten the shelf life of the final product you make. The shelf life is based on the ingredients in your product. The ingredient with the shortest shelf life, be it essential oils or the carriers, will be the shelf life of the product.

Some oils that are unrefined carry a strong color or smell (ex.: Avocado, Neem) and overpowers other ingredients including essential oils when blended. Some don’t care for the strong aroma. Unrefined Shea butter has a very distinctive aroma that some people like and some don’t care for. It’s unique to the individual, as is essential oils.

Because of the further processing that refined oils go through, there are fewer active compounds in the oil than unrefined oils. The further processing removes and damages some therapeutic compounds. I’ve found that refined oils are often less expensive, and they have a longer shelf life.

When deciding to purchase your carrier oils, look for cold-pressed, expeller-pressed, unrefined or virgin oil. These are the least processed oils. Depending on what you plan to use your oils for will have a bearing on your decision. Unrefined is the best for therapeutically effective facial products. Unrefined oils can be used for overall body products.

“While the chemical composition of vegetable butters and oils has been studied in detail, there is limited knowledge about their mechanisms of action after application on the skin. To understand their dermal effects better, 27 clinical studies evaluating 17 vegetable oils (almond, argan, avocado, borage, coconut, evening primrose, kukui, marula, mustard, neem, olive, rapeseed, sacha inchi, safflower, shea butter, soybean and sunflower oils) were reviewed in this research. The reviewed studies focused on non-affected skin, infant skin, psoriasis, xerosis, UVB-induced erythema, atopic dermatitis, molluscum contagiosum, tungiasis, scars, striae and striae gravidarum. We conclude that in inflammation-affected skin, vegetable oils with a high content of oleic acid, together with the lack of or a low linoleic acid content, may cause additional structural damage of the stratum corneum, while oils high in linoleic acid and saturated fatty acids may express positive effects. Non-affected skin, in contrast, may not react negatively to oils high in oleic acid. However, the frequency and duration of an oil's use must be considered an important factor that may accelerate or enhance the negative effects on the skin's structural integrity.“ (26)

When using essential oils in my products, I want the aroma of the oils to be dominant. In this case, it is best to use refined carrier oils as the aroma is less dominant.


Let’s review some carrier oils. There are many others, but these are some of my top picks.


1. Allanblackia floribunda Butter

The Allanblackia butter is a genus of flowering plant in the Clusiaceae family. Allanblackia seed oil contains on average of 52-58% stearic acid, 39-45% oleic acid and 2-3% palmitic acid. There are five species. It has similar characteristics to Shea butter, and meets the stringent outlines set by the cosmetic industry. The heated oil extracted from the seeds is used as a liniment to treat rheumatism, rubbed into sore joints, or dabbed on wounds and rashes. (2) The butter can be used alone or in products. Internally, it's been used in Africa to treat hypertension. Try the following blend with anti-inflammatory and analgesic essential oils known to be effective of joint and muscle pain. This butter is used best for inflammatory issues.

Pain Relief

  • One-ounce Allanblackia butter

  • 6 drops of Siberian Fir Abies sibirica

  • 3 drops of Juniper Berry Juniperus communis

  • 2 drops of Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus

  • 4 drops Lavender Lavendula angustifolia

Blend your essential oils. Add the oils to the butter and mix well. Apply to achy joints 3-4 times a day. Store in closed glass container.

2. Almond Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis Oil

Almond oil, known as Sweet Almond, is cold pressed, subsequently refined then mixed with a soft Shea stearine. It assists with protecting the moisture of the dermis. (3) Almond oil contains minerals and vitamins including A, B1, B2, B6 and Vitamin E. Sweet Almond is an emollient and has sclerosant properties. Based on research, it’s shown to ease itching from dry skin, smooth and rejuvenate the skin, as well as treat psoriasis and eczema. (4) Almond is especially effective on dry, aging skin. Wonderful on burns and inflammation. I find this works best as a base oil.

Try in the following recipe with sweet almond at 40% and Black Currant oil at 60%. Or use the carrier of your choice.

Skin Healing Oil

  • One-Ounce Carrier oil

  • 6 drops Carrot seed oil

  • 3 drops Bergamot Citrus bergamia

  • 6 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini var. motia

  • 6 drops Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana

  • 3 drops Ho Wood Cinnamomun camphora ct linalol

Directions: Blend and apply as needed.

3. Aloe Vera

With several types of Aloe vera available, using what is not water based is important since, as we know, water and oil do not mix. The aloe leaf extracts that do not blend are Aloe gel, jelly, juice or liquid. None of these work as a carrier "oil" for blending with essential oils for bath water. These will simply separate in the bath water, risking skin irritation.

However, if using for the application on the skin, Aloe Vera Jelly with added thickeners and preservatives, may be used with proper dilution rates per the essential oil(s) you use.

Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. There are around 250 species of this wonderful healing plant. Aloe is an evergreen perennial and originated from the Arabian Peninsula. It also grow wild in tropical, semi-tropical and arid climates around the world. It is raised for agricultural and medicinal uses. It grows outside but also grows successfully indoors as a potted plant. Here on our property, we grow several species of this beautiful plant.

The plant is used for both internal and external applications. The taste is quite unpleasant. My recommendation is if using it internally, add to juice or to lessen the taste. The lower part of the leaf has many curative functions. The gel from the leaf is used to treat many skin ailments including but not limited to dermatitis, burns and various other skin disorders.

After having three big babies naturally, I developed hemorrhoids. At that time, choices of ointments were limited and did not ease the inflammation and flair ups nor heal them completely.

Thankfully at the time, I had my first Aloe Vera plant and applied it liberally several times and day and was able to get my hemorrhoids under control. I continue to use this plant for that and other issues. I located ten studies on Aloe Vera. Some studies have shown that aloe vera might be a useful adjunct for lowering blood glucose in diabetic patients as we as reducing blood lipid levels in patients with hyperlipidemia.

One study concluded that Aloe Vera, used as a topical application was not an effective preservative for radiation-induced injuries. (28)

However, from my own personal experience of using this on a relative on a very moist personal area where she had severe radiation burns, and after trying prescriptions gels and such failed, the aloe healed her burns quickly.

In a more recent study, radiation-induced Proctitis was treated with Aloe. The study showed that Aloe vera topical ointment was effective in prevention of symptoms of ARP in patients undergoing RT for pelvic cancers. (29)

The therapeutic uses include as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, anti-cancer, wound healing and as a skin protector. These uses have attributed to the presence of many active compounds within the juice. These compounds include anthraquinones, anthrones, chromones, flavonoids, amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. (30).

4. Apricot Prunus armeniaca Kernel Oil

Apricot kernel oil is cold pressed from the seeds of apricots. This carrier oil is a favorite of massage therapists, due to its fast absorption rate and many therapeutic properties. Its therapeutic properties include gentleness on inflamed, aging or sensitive skin. It absorbs quickly, leaving your skin feeling moisturized and silky smooth.

When taken internally, it can help reduce cholesterol levels and help lower hypertension. (5) The main constituents within the oil are Linoleic acid between 21.9% – 31.6%, Oleic acid between 62.1% – 71.8%, Palmitoleic acid between 0.4% – 0.8% and Palmitic acid around 4.6% – 7.6%.

Apricot kernel has a suppressive action on 5alpha-Androst-16-en-3-one generated by microbial metabolism. What does this mean? Androsterone was the first human sex pheromone to be identified by researchers. It is found in many mammals, and in humans it is primarily found in sweat and can lead to unpleasant odors, especially in women. Apricot kernel was identified as one of the carriers to suppress androsterone. With this discovery, it would be an excellent addition to women’s deodorant products or used alone. (6) Apricot kernel can also be used alone or in facial blends. Helichrysum and Frankincense essential oils are cicatrisant (skin healers) and work perfect in a facial serum. Try using Apricot as a base oil at 10-50%. This blends nicely with Grape seed oil.

Try the following to soothe your skin. Blend and apply on clean, dry skin.

  • One-ounce Apricot Kernel CP (Cold pressed) oil

  • 10 drops Helichrysum Italicum (Corsica)

  • 5 drops Frankincense Boswellia sacra

*See “additional resources” below for research on the effects of Amygdaline from Apricot Kernel on transplanted tumors in mice.*

5. Argan Prunis amygdalus var. dulcis Oil

Argan oil is cold pressed from the pits or kernels found in the fruit of a tree endemic to the calcareous semidesert Sou’s valley of southwestern Morocco. The oil produced is a beautiful light golden yellow. This is a wonderful carrier oil with many therapeutic benefits. Argan has shown the following therapeutic properties: Anti-inflammatory, barrier repair, relieves itchy dry skin, reduce tiny veins, wound healing and possibly effective on skin cancer. (7) Argan is rich in protein and contain glucosides as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and vitamin E.

It has similar qualities to Sweet Almond in that it is great on all skin types, especially those prone to eczema or those with sensitive skin. I’ve used it successfully with Bergamot citrus bergamia essential oil in skin irritant formulas. It goes well with Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana essential oil for itchy, dry scalp. Although Argan has an average absorption rate, it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth.

Aside from topical, the benefits of ingesting Argan oil are quite remarkable. In a controlled clinical study, ingesting Argan oil showed the effectiveness on knee Osteoarthritis symptoms. (8)

*Unrefined carrier oils have a stronger fragrance than refined carrier oils. *

6. Arnica Arnica montana Oil

Arnica is an herbal tincture and is often applied externally on unbroken skin to treat sore muscles and joints as well as bruising, sprains and strains. Try making a salve for arthritic conditions. Arnica is a rubefacient meaning that it does it’s work by bringing more blood to the injured area causing a slight irritation. This is a normal reaction and part of the increasing healing process. However, Arnica has a high adverse reaction, especially with sensitive skin and is best used as a base oil. You can prepare it yourself or purchase Arnica oil.

This is my favorite way of using Arnica.

Arnica Salve with Plai

  • 1/2 cup dried arnica (or purchase Arnica)

  • 1 cup oil (olive oil works great)

  • 1 oz. Beeswax

  • 60 drops Plai Zingiber cassumunar

  • 40 drops Balsam Fir Abies balsamea

  • 10 drops Hemlock Tsuga canadensis

  • 10 Norway Pine Pinus resinosa

  • 10 Engleman Spruce Picea engelmanii

Directions:

If you choose to make your own infused arnica, follow the infusing arnica steps.

Prepare an arnica infused oil. This involves covering the arnica with oil and allowing it to infuse. This can take 30 minutes to 6 weeks depending on the method you choose.

Once you have your arnica infused oil, place the 1 cup of arnica oil into a small saucepan and add 1 oz. of beeswax. Heat over low until the beeswax is melted. Stir to fully incorporate. Remove from heat and add essential oils.

Transfer your salve to a container of your choosing; mason jars work great. Allow salve to cool before covering with a lid.

To Use:

Apply arnica salve to the affected area and massage into the skin. Remember arnica should not be used on open skin.

7. Avocado Persea Americana Oil

Avocado oil is an edible oil pressed from the fruit of the Persea Americana. Avocado oil is cold pressed from the flesh of avocados. Avocado oil contains minerals and vitamins A, B1, B2, B5 (Pantothenic acid), D, and E. Avocado also contains protein, lecithin and fatty acids and is high in gamma linoleic acid. Avocado has shown wound healing properties and possible anti-inflammatory properties. Avocado is a skin penetrator through the upper layers of skin. It smooths dry, damaged skin, eases eczema and improves elasticity of the skin. It works well as a 10% additive to other carrier oils. (5) (9) As noted above, Avocado oil is one of the oils with a stronger aroma. Although not unpleasant, it will dominate the aroma of your essential oils. Despite this, the therapeutic effect of the following blend is smoothing and healing to the skin. Avocado works well with other carrier oils.

Dry Skin Relief

  • One-Ounce Avocado oil

  • 4 drops Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum

  • 4 drops Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile

  • 4 Patchouli Pogostemom cabin

Directions: After cleansing and drying skin, apply as needed.

8. Babassu Orbygnia speciosa Oil

This tree is native to Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia. Babassu oil, also sometimes called babassu wax, is a creamy white solid when kept cool and turns into a pale-yellow liquid at 76 degrees F./24 degrees C.

Babassu acts as an emollient and anti-microbial agent. It is obtained by cold-pressing the Babassu nuts. It contains lauric acid which offers anti-microbial actions. When it in contact with the body, it melts immediately. It provides a shiny, soft and smooth feeling to the skin. Although it has an average absorption rate, it leaves your skin feeling so lovely. Moreover, the melting process is accompanied by a slight cooling effect, which feels fresh on the skin.

Babassu is high in linolenic acids and is best used as an additive with other carriers. It’s often used in cosmetics and skin-care products. Using Babassu with Jojoba will help protect and heal the skin. The addition of essential oils that are also known for their antimicrobial properties will help to accelerate the healing actions of the Babassu oil. Try the following recipe for itchy dry skin irritations.

  • 1/4 -Ounce Babassu oil

  • ¾ -Ounce Jojoba oil

  • 4 drops Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia

  • 5 drops Lavender Lavendula angustifolia

Blend. Use on clean dry skin to heal dry itchy skin.

9. Baobab Adansonia digitata L., Malvaceae seed Oil

Baobab oil is cold pressed from the seed of the baobab tree.

The baobab is not just one tree, but nine species in the genus Adansonia. Two species are native to mainland Africa, six to Madagascar, and one to Australia. All nine inhabit low-lying, arid regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, you find baobabs rising above hot, dry scrublands and savannas. The animals rely on the Baobab tree for moisture and nutition. This is a main source of nutrition for the Elephants. Elephants love the spongy inside. Despite the big chunks that elephants eat on, the tree regrows (regenerates) which is why it has survived for many many years. The leaves are edible and the woody pulp. The African Baobab's angiosperm has set the age of the tree at approximately 1275 years old. Many people in the area where they grow rely on the trees for nutrition and herbal remedies. The fibers from the tree is strong and used to make ropes.

Baobab is highly penetrating, deeply nourishing and softens dry, damaged skin. It is known to restore and re-moisturizes the epidermis. It’s great for hair, absorbing quickly.

Baobab improves the skin’s elasticity and is a cell re-generator. It helps to relieves eczema and psoriasis. It has anti-inflammatory properties and relieves discomfort from burns and regenerates the epithelial tissue quickly. It’s a stable oil and goes well with other carrier oil s in formulas. Baobab is works as an anti-oxidant (10)

10. Borage Borago officinalis seed Oil

Borage, also known as a starflower, is an annual herb in the flowering plant family Boraginaceae. The oil is derived from the seeds of the plant. Borage oil contains high levels of the ω-6 series essential fatty acids that play an important part in the function and structure of the skin.

It’s high content of linolenic and linoleic acids is the highest source for GLA’s (gamma linoleic acid). It’s often taken internally to decrease cholesterol levels in the blood as well as assist with coronary heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Borage is a great addition during “that time” of the month, assisting with symptoms of PMS as well as menopausal symptoms. (11)

Topically, Borage has great regenerating properties which makes it quite effective on premature and damaged skin, psoriasis and eczema. A study was done on 37 patients with infantile seborrheic dermatitis. The linoleic acid in borage oil contributed to its therapeutic actions against ISD. It was shown to normalize the skins barrier functionality. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was performed to test clinical effects of undershirts coated with borage oil on children with Atopic Dermatitis (AD). In the group treated with borage oil, improvement showed with no side effects. Borage is best used as a 10% additive in your products. (12)

Eczema Oil Treatment

  • 1 teaspoon borage oil

  • 1 ounce’s jojoba oil

  • 2 drops Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum

  • 6 drops Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile

  • 4 drops Geranium Pelargonium roseum x asperum

  • 8 drops Lavender Lavendula angustifolia

1. OR

2. Since "one shoe" does not fit all, using the same carrier oils, here is another great blend that has helped many.

Above carrier oils

· drops Oregano Origanum compactum

· 6 drops Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile

· drops Neroli Citrus aurantium var. amara

· 9 drops Sandalwood Santalum album

Blend and apply to area 3-4 times a day. The essential oils used are cicatrisant (skin healing) essential oils.

11. Calendula Calendula officinalis (CO2 extract, infused) Oil

Calendula contains salicylic acid, carotenoids and phytosterols. It’s a skin regenerator, anti-microbial, antiseptic, great for wound and skin healing (cicatrisant), varicose veins, skin infections, cuts, chapped skin and lips.

In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, women of reproductive age were tested using Calendula officinalis extract-based cream versus metronidazole on bacterial vaginosis. All symptoms, including vaginal itching and burning sensation, odor, dysuria, and dyspareunia, were relieved with no side effects. This gives women a holistic approach versus using synthetic products (13)

12. Coconut Cocos nucifera Oil

Coconut oil is one of the most commonly-used carrier oils. It is cold pressed from coconuts which are harvested from coconut trees. Unfractionated (unrefined) Ccoconut oil is composed of many FFAs (fatty acids) including lauric acid (49%), myristic acid (18%), palmitic acid (8%), caprylic acid (8%), capric acid (7%), oleic acid (6%), linoleic acid (2%), and stearic acid (2%).

Refractionated (Refined) is mostly saturated fatty acids which is the closest to human sub-cutaneous fat and more compatible to the skin than vegetable oils. It’s a pure oil with no irritants present. Unrefined oil may contain irritants. Coconut oil has been found to be the best for wound caring and works well for conditioning, spot treatment for acne, and helps other carrier oils from going rancid which makes it a good carrier to add to your products. Cellular studies have shown that it is also anti-viral and anti-fungal. (14) Because coconut is comedogenic, which means it can be clogging, for some pores. Why some people and not everyone? Everyone’s chemistry is different and unique. Coconut oil can be used alone or as a soothing salve for the skin. Try the following beautiful skin loving recipe. It absorbs quickly, leaving your skin feeling moisturized and silky smooth.

Homespun Soothing Salve

  • 2-ounce Bees wax

  • 2-ounce Jojoba wax

  • 3-ounce Shea butter

  • 2-ounce Coconut butter

  • 81 drops essential oils (1%) *

  • 1 teaspoon Frankincense Boswellic acid powder (can be purchased at https://desrosiersintl.com/collections/absolutes-co2s-other-extracts)

Directions:

In a slow cooker, add and melt Bees wax. Once melted, add the jojoba wax. This will harden the bees wax a bit, but it will liquify again. Continue the same process with the Shea and Coconut butter. Once melted, turn off heat and add your skin friendly essential oils. Blend well and immediately add to glass jars and seal tightly. This tends to be a bit thick, more in line with a lip balm. To thin down, you could lower the Bees wax to perhaps 1-ounce.

*Try one or more of the following skin friendly essential oils in your product: Lavender Lavendula angustifolia, Juniper Berry Juniperus communis, Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana, Patchouli Pogostemom cablin, Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile, Basil (sweet) Ocimum basilicum ct linalool, Carrot Seed Daucus carota, Sandalwood Santalum album or Santalum paniculatum (or Patchouli Pogostemom cablin), Helichrysum italicum and/or Frankincense Boswellia carterii.*

13. Dandelion Flower & Leaf Oil

Aged skin becomes more transparent, loose, and fragile becoming more vulnerable to ultra violet rays. Dandelion extracts offer exceptional UV protection and is shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic activities. (add’l resource 8)

14. Grape seed Vitis vinifera Oil

Grape seed oil is a carrier oil that is often used in massage therapy. Grapeseed oil is extracted through hot extraction. Due to the small amount of oil in the seeds, a hot expeller technique is used. When oils are extracted using this method, the grapes are heat pressed to release the oil. There are no chemicals used in this process and it produces the best grape seed oil. There is another method called solvent extraction. Hexane is used to extract the oil from the seeds. However, this method leaves behind toxic residues.

Despite what you may have read, Grapeseed oil is not cold pressed.

Grapeseed contains a large amount of similar phenolic compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic acids, tannins, and stilbenes. Phenolic compounds are anti-oxidants. These compounds also play an important role in the oxidative stability of an oil. It contains linoleic acid, vitamins, minerals and protein. (15) Grapeseed oil is odorless, a skin penetrator and good for all skin types. Grapeseed oil is a wound healer, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It has a light, sweet-nutty fragrance. It absorbs quickly, leaving your skin feeling moisturized and silky smooth.

15. Jojoba Simmondsia chinensis Oil

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is a long-lived, drought resistant, perennial plant Jojoba