Why a Carrier Oil
A Look at Carrier Oils
Essential oils are irritants on the skin. Carrier oils (lipid/fatty oils) are used in conjunction with essential oils in Aromatherapy to dilute essential oils to a safe topical level to protect the skin. Carrier oils are also ingestible and often used in cooking and food preparation. When we say dilute, to be clear, it does not dilute the actions of the oil(s). Carrier oils are non-volatile, the opposite of essential oils. They do not have the safety concerns that essential oils present.
Briefly, carrier oils are non-volatile. 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.
However, carrier oils are non-volatile, we use many in our cooking. Many carriers have remarkable therapeutic properties externally and internally. Not only do they keep our skin safe when using essential oils, they can also enhance the therapeutic effect of essential oils on the skin.
Should I buy Refined or Unrefined carrier oils?
Carrier oils, also known as fatty or lipid 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 there 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.
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.