The essential oils used in aromatherapy evaporate quickly when exposed to air. They’re also very concentrated, and should not be used undiluted. For these reasons, when using essential oils on the skin it’s best to mix them with larger quantities of “fixed oils”-oils that are more stable.
There are many different kinds of fixed oils that can be used to dilute essential oils. Here are a few of the most popular:
Sweet almond oil softens, nourishes, and lubricates the skin. It’s good for dry skin, eczema, and minor skin irritations-especially when it’s mixed with cocoa butter (which is solid at room temperature and needs to softened with heat before it can be mixed with anything else). Please note: This oil comes from the sweet almond tree, Prunus amgydalus var. dulcis, which should not be confused with the bitter almond tree, Prunus amygdalus var. amara. Only the oil from the sweet almond tree is used.
Apricot kernel oil is good for skin that has aged prematurely.
Castor oil is primarily used as a laxative, but it can also be used as a carrier oil. The ancient Egyptians used it for skin rashes as well as for embalming. It’s very thick, so it should not be used alone; it’s best to mix it with another, lighter, oil.
Grape seed oil is very thin and light. It’s absorbed easily into the skin, and is probably the closest to skin oil of all the plant oils. This also makes it the most hypoallergenic; if you have any concerns about skin sensitivity or allergies, grape seed oil is the best choice.
Jojoba oil contains protein, minerals, and a waxy material that acts like collagen. It’s very good for minor skin inflammations, psoriasis, eczema, and hair care.
Olive oil is used in hair care and cosmetics as well as cooking. It’s also been recommended as a soothing oil in rheumatic conditions.
Soy oil is yet another useful product of the common soybean. It’s been used in China and Japan, where it originated, for almost 4,000 years. Soy oil is thicker than grape seed but still absorbs fairly well into the skin.
Wheat germ oil is high in vitamin E, which is not only good for the skin (the pure oil of vitamin E is used to reduce scar tissue) but is also a natural preservative.
Other oils that can be used as carrier oils include avocado, borage seed, corn, carrot, evening primrose, hazelnut, peanut, safflower, sesame, and sunflower oil.
There are a few points to keep in mind when choosing carrier oils:
– Always use cold-pressed oils. These oils are purer and have a higher concentration of beneficial vitamins.
– Some of these oils are made from plants or nuts that can cause allergies. A person who is allergic to sesame seeds will probably be allergic to sesame oil as well. The same holds true for the nut oils.
– Some carrier oils have a natural fragrance that can affect, or interfere with, the fragrance of the essential oil(s).
– Many carrier oils should themselves be diluted, usually to a concentration of no more than 10% (1 part oil mixed with 9 parts of another oil). Some of these oils are avocado, borage seed, carrot, evening primrose, jojoba, olive, sesame, and wheat germ oils.
Oils which can be used full strength are sweet almond, apricot kernel, corn, grape seed, hazelnut, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils.
When you’re practicing aromatherapy it’s easy to focus on the essential oils and take the carrier oils for granted. But these oils are not just “carriers”-they can be valuable in their own right, and if chosen wisely can enhance the effect of the essential oils mixed into them.