How To Choose Carrier Oils
Very little is written about this subject in most aromatherapy books, so unless you enrol on a training course, knowing how to select them can seem like a bit of a black art.
But actually, it is exactly the same as selecting an essential oil, – you just choose the carrier oil that contains the properties that you need for your particular requirements in aromatherapy. Therefore, all you need to do is decide how and where you want to use them, and then look up the properties, actions and viscosity of the carrier oils used in aromatherapy and the choice becomes really easy.
Carrier oils – for body or face?
For example, if you need a carrier oil for a simple body massage then sweet almond oil would be an ideal choice, but it would not necessarily be the very best carrier to use for a facial treatment.
Why? Because some carrier oils contain more of the essential fatty acids and vitamins which are needed to nourish the skin and keep wrinkles at bay. For example, moringa and jojoba oils contain large amounts of essential fatty acids and therefore make great facial treatment oils, but you might not want use them alone for aromatherapy massage since they are a little too heavy in consistency for massaging large areas of the body.
Mix and blend
Carrier oils like unrefined avocado, black seed and wheatgerm are packed with skin-enhancing nutrients too, but they are also a bit too rich to use alone in massage treatments – plus they also have a strong odour that some people do not care for. But there’s an easy way for you to make use of their unique therapeutic qualities in aromatherapy massage for wide range of treatments.
All you need to do is mix a small quantity of these heavier oils together with a lighter carrier (that has no fragrance) such as sweet almond, apricot or peach oil at around 15% or 20%. This way you can enjoy all of the therapeutic benefits of the heavy carrier oils in both body massage and revitalizing facial treatments – without their characteristic smell.
This same tip also applies to other richer and more costly oils such as borage, evening primrose, and rosehip, even though they don’t have a prominent aroma. All of these carrier oils are the very finest that you can use for intensive, moisturising facial treatments, but it is usually more cost-effective to mix them together with a lighter carrier if you want to use them in a body massage.
Carrier oils are often mistakenly thought to be of less importance than essential oils, but it would be foolish to think this. Usually, an aromatherapy treatment consists of 2% essential oil and 98% carrier oil, and in facial treatments that ratio falls to around 1% essential oil and 99% carrier oil! Think about that for a minute.
Carrier oils provide many amazing benefits for your skin – especially when a synergy is formed between the essential oils and the carrier oil you have chosen. When the correct oils are blended together in the correct proportions the results can be absolutely spectacular, helping to soften wrinkles and bringing softness, suppleness and radiance to your skin.
Here are some of the best and most versatile carrier oils;-
- Almond Sweet oil With its smooth feel and nourishing properties, this is often the oil that aromatherapists prefer for body massage. Sweet almond is both protective and nourishing to skin when used regularly.
- Argan oil Rich in proteins, argan oil strengthens the protein bonding structures which tightens skin and improves its elasticity whilst at the same time it has a regulating effect on sebum, promoting production of this vital substance for dry skin or reducing its secretion with oily skin.
- Apricot Kernel oil and Peach Kernel oil Apricot and peach kernel oils are almost identical in their chemical constituents, and both oils are perfect for facial applications due to their light consistency, leaving the face feeling beautifully soft and supple.
- Avocado oil (unrefined) Deeper penetrating than most other carriers, unrefined avocado oil conditions, moisturises and softens dry and mature skin. Add avocado oil to another carrier if you find the smell a bit too strong, or use it undiluted to enjoy its full-powered benefits.
- Black Seed oil This oil is particularly rich in unsaturated and essential fatty acids which makes it perfect as a skin food, and despite its deep moisturising qualities it does not leave skin feeling greasy. When used in massage black seed oil delivers an energising boost and excels with everyday muscle and joint aches.
- Borage oil This is the richest source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) in all carrier oils, containing up to 25%, and clinical trials have shown that GLA helps to encourage healthy, mobile joints, and used regularly on facial skin it helps to soften fine lines and wrinkles. Mix borage oil with a lighter carrier for massaging.
- Coconut oil Perfect for moisturising both hands and body, coconut oil is light and easily absorbed into the skin leaving it satin smooth. It can also be used as an intensive treatment to moisturise and condition brittle, dull or dry hair. Although you do not read about it very often, coconut is a great massage oil.
- Jojoba oil Due to its molecular structure, jojoba oil mimics the action of sebum, which is the skins own natural lubricant. This versatile oil deep cleanses blocked pores, moisturises and promotes a healthy, glowing complexion, making it another ideal facial oil. jojoba oil can be mixed with another carrier for massage.
- Macadamia oil This highly nourishing oil is rich in palmitoleic acid which promotes young looking, soft and supple skin. As we get older our bodies produce less palmitoleic acid, so regular use of macadamia oil may help in the fight to prevent premature aging skin. This is another excellent oil for facial treatment.
- Moringa oil Rich in oleic and palmitic acids plus vitamins A and C, moringa oil has excellent moisturising and nourishing qualities for skin. It is a very stable carrier which is highly nutritious to the skin and similar in composition to olive oil, but is much lighter. Moringa oil is a powerful natural antioxidant with excellent skin smoothing properties.
- Rosehip oil Studies have shown rosehip oil to be a powerful skin cell regenerator that also helps to actually prevent premature skin ageing whilst softening wrinkles. Produced from the seeds of rose hips, this oil is excellent for use with stretch marks, scar tissue or problem skin types. This oil is an unbeatable overnight treatment to help soften wrinkles and scars.
- Sunflower oil Both softening and moisturising, sunflower oil can be used for facial treatments and body massage in aromatherapy. This is the ideal oil to use if you have any concerns about nut-allergy reactions since it is extracted from the seeds of the flower.
- Wheatgerm oil A highly nourishing oil containing vitamin E which makes it the perfect oil for dry, mature and lifeless skin. Wheatgerm oil is too heavy to use as a massage base alone, so add it at 15% to your massage blends to provide extra nourishment to the skin.
When you are applying a facial treatment, remember to avoid the delicate under-eye area and don’t apply too much oil because a little goes a long, long way on the face. Gently work the blended oil into the skin until it has all been absorbed, and your skin will be left feeling soft and silky smooth all year round. That’s the power of aromatherapy carrier oils!
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2001. Written by Sue Charles