What Are The Best Carrier Oils for Your Formulas?
We're often asked which are the 'best' carrier oil. The answer of course completely depends on the application. There are a few very profoundly therapeutic carriers for healing the skin, and here we'll have a look at the four most important, along with how to use them and what their therapeutic effects might be.
'Carrier oils' are so-called in aromatherapy as they are used to 'carry' the essential oils into (or onto) the skin. Most essential oils work best for skin care and healing in very low dilutions -- on the order of 1-3% of the overall concentration of the formula you're producing. The essential oils for skin care, when not being used for anti-fungal or anti-bacterial action, work as chemical signalers, instructing processes in the tissues like regeneration or increased metabolism. The carriers will generally supply nutrients, in the form of vitamins and essential fats, which complement the activity of the essential oils.
The most important commonly used carrier oils for skin care are: Rosehip seed, Evening Primrose, Tamanu (also called Callophyllum) and Coconut oil. There are a few 'rare' carriers with excellent properties, though due to their cost, limited availability and specialty applications, we'll focus on the highly effective, therapeutic carriers.
Rosehip Seed Oil
Rosehip seed became very popular in the 1980's when it was the subject of numerous studies involving skin care in university settings in Chilie (the world's largest producer of the oil). It is especially helpful for aging skin, sun damaged skin, and skin healing in general. It can be used at 100% of a carrier base formula, or even used by itself. Typically, it is included as some portion of the base of a recipe, in the range of 10-25%. The oil does have a somewhat dry, herbaceous aroma. The following notes are from these studies, quoted from Rosabay.com:
"APPLICATION ON AGED SKIN: Changes produced on skin by the action of the sun, i.e., photoaging are very common in all countries of warm climate. Exposure to sun causes important morphological changes in skin. Dermatoheliosis appears in different ways and varying intensity ranging from surface wrinkles, active keratosis and variation in the distribution of the melanin granules.
For this test volunteers were selected among people who usually spend the 3 months of summer in resorts by the sea or who go to the beach every day. The tests were carried out on 20 women aged between 25 and 35 who were controlled and assessed during the summer of 1988. The most frequently noted cutaneous signs were surface wrinkles, brown spots, eyelids and, in some cases, only an intense tan. All applied rose hip oil on the face during four months (May to August, Autumn 1988).
Observations were made every eight days. Significant changes were noted starting on the third week. Firstly, surface wrinkles started to disappear, spots started to fade until, at the end of the fourth month, the disappearance was complete. Skin presented a smooth and fresh aspect and the spots had almost disappeared.
APPLICATION ON SURGICAL SCARS: For this test we used scars that had equal features. Ten women, aged between 45 and 68, were selected who had suffered unilateral or bilateral mastectomy.Applications of rose hip oil were made, starting on the day when the surgical stitches were removed. After washing the area with tepid water and soap and careful drying, the oil was applied by soft massage. After three months of applying twice daily (morning and evening) it was noted that the scars were less apparent, without lumps and that skin elasticity had improved and the colour of the area had improved significantly.
We carried out these observations until four months after the operations and the treating doctors indicated that the skin conditions were improving considerably, allowing implantation of prosthesis or plastic surgery in far better conditions than with patients who had not been treated.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose oil is noted as exceptionally high in essential fatty acids. These are unsaturated fats called 'essential' as they cannot be made by the body from other nutrients. Evening Primrose has been the subject of numerous studies regarding eczema and dermatitis, and has by itself been able to support significant improvements in these conditions. The essential fatty acids are well-known anti-inflammatory agents, having this action on the skin, and systemically when the oil is ingested.
The oil has been noted in scientific reviews as improving childhood eczema both topically applied and when ingested (though Hemp oil would be a better choice to achieve the same nutritive result). Like Rosehip Seed, Evening primrose can be used as 100% of the base formula, though is more often included at about 20% of the base recipe. Search Pub Med for more about Evening Primrose oil research.
Tamanu Nut Oil
Tamanu is a relatively obscure oil pressed from the nut of a tropical tree in Southeast Asia. It has a long history in the aroma-medicine literature, however. It is considered especially healing, nutritive and anti-inflammatory. It is mentioned in Kurt Schnaubelt's 'Advanced Aromatherapy': "People on the coasts of the Indian Ocean use calophyllum oil as a panacea". It is thought to help detoxify the skin by supporting the immune system on a cellular level. It is an excellent addition to any wound healing formula, in a 10-25% concentration. The oil is also called for in care of herpes lesions and fever blisters (often mixed with Ravensara, Hyssop, or Melissa essential oils).
Tamanu is included specifically in Dr. Schnaubelt's 'Weeping Eczema' recipe: 1ml Thyme Thujanol, 1ml Eucalyptus Citradora, 10ml Tamanu, and 30ml Rosehip seed oil.
Coconut oil has been a major component of healing programs around the world for much of history. For some time, due to its saturated nature, it was considered unhealthy -- yet nothing could be further from the truth. It is now considered an exceptionally healthy oil, eaten for cooking and taken alone as a supplement.
Coconut is exceptionally nutritive to the skin. It is moisturizing, soothing, anti-inflammatory, and may even help one's hair grow! Really, it can be added to nearly every skin care formula with beneficial effects. Because coconut is solid at room temperature, it should be warmed until fluid, then added to other base oils for a complete formula (though it certainly could be used at 100% of the base). Virgin coconut oil is the most nutritive variety, and should have a pleasant, soft aroma, indicating a fresh, high quality oil.
There are of course a great many other carrier oils -- we do highly recommend these four for all your aromatherapy skin care recipes.