Getting to Know Carrier Oils

Choosing oil for massage can be confusing and somewhat overwhelming. There are a plethora of choices available from scented to non-scented, thin to thick, or colored to colorless to name a few. Today we will focus on carrier oils. These oils are considered base oils to which you can add other oils, like essential oils, to create your own unique blend. We will discuss a variety of carrier oils available along with their origins, characteristics, and benefits.

What are carrier oils? Carrier oils are vegetable oils that come from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels or nuts. Conversely, essential oils are usually derived from the aromatic portion of plants like the leaves, bark, or roots. Essential oils have many therapeutic benefits, but are very concentrated and are typically diluted with carrier oils before they are applied directly to the skin. Indeed the name “carrier oils” comes from the fact that these oils are used to dilute essential oils before applying the essential oils on the skin---carrier oils carry the essential oil into the skin. 

Carrier oils do not have to be blended with essential oils in order to be beneficial. Carrier oils contain fat soluble vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that replenish and nourish the skin. Some contain Essential Fatty Acids, fatty acids we must get from sources outside our bodies because our bodies cannot make them on their own.  Others have antioxidants which are substances that are capable of lessening the damaging effects of the biological process of oxidation in human tissue.

The quality of the carrier oil is partially derived from the method in which it was processed. If the carrier oil is considered “cold-pressed,” it means the oil has been pressed from the plant without the use of added heat. The temperature during the processing has to be below 120˚F to be considered cold-pressed. Conversely, when oils are processed without cool conditions, the high temperature of the processing method can harm the fragile nutrients in the oil. Why would a processor choose to use heat in the extraction process?  It is because it speeds up the process and produces a higher yield of oil. It is basically faster and cheaper.

There are several aspects to look for when selecting a carrier oil, like how well it is absorbed into the skin, how it feels on the skin, how long its shelf life is, what therapeutic benefits it has, and how much it costs. The following is a quick summary of some popular carrier oils:

Sweet Almond oil is a popular, affordable super moisturizer. It has a light nutty odor, a rather oily texture, a medium viscosity and absorbs semi-quickly into the skin. It contains protein, vitamin D, vitamin E, glucosides, and minerals and is best for dry, itchy and flaky skin. Its beneficial properties include lubricating, nourishing, reducing discoloration and softening of the skin. 

Apricot Kernel oil is similar to sweet almond oil in its properties and consistency, but it is slightly more expensive. It is especially good for sensitive, prematurely aged, dry, dehydrated, or delicate skin. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, Essential and Non-Essential Fatty Acids and it beneficial properties include soothing inflammation, relieving stress, and cooling and revitalizing the skin. 

Grapeseed oil is high in Essential Fatty Acids, has astringent qualities and has a relatively short shelf life. It is thin in viscosity and leaves a satiny film on the skin.  It is best for oily, acne-prone skin as well as prematurely aged skin. 

Sesame Seed oil is thick in consistency and is a wonderful detoxifier often used in Ayurvedic massage. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.  Sesame Seed oil detoxifies skin, acts as a natural UV protector and leaves an oily film on skin. It is especially good for anxiety, poor circulation, constipation, bloating, and excessive dryness. It is best for chronic dry skin, including psoriasis and eczema. Sesame Seed oil contains antioxidants, vitamin E, protein, lechitin and minerals.

Jojoba oil has an indefinite shelf life and is great for oily, acne-prone or inflamed skin. It has a medium texture, a slightly fatty odor and absorbs well into the skin. Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax. It most resembles the oil that our bodies create naturally. It is a little pricier than the other oils and is full of vitamin B and vitamin E. One drawback is that it is so quickly absorbed in to the skin you might have to keep reapplying it.

Sunflower oil has a sweet odor and a thin viscosity.  It penetrates well and does not leave an oily residue on the skin. It contains vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, vitamin D, Essential Fatty Acids, beta-carotene and lecithin. Sunflower oil has protective, detoxifying and purifying qualities and is best for mature, dry skin.

Camellia oil is popular in Asia and has a light, pleasant, herbaceous odor.  It is a wonderful moisturizer that is great for hair and nails too. It contains antioxidants including Vitamin E, Essential Fatty Acids and Non-Essential Fatty Acids including oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid. It is best for mature and aging skin as well as dry, flaky skin.

Carrier oils become rancid over time and must be thrown out if you detect a strong or bitter smell. Most carrier oils can be safely stored in the plastic containers they come in preferably in a cool, dark location.  For fragile carrier oils or for those that you will be keeping for a long duration, store them in dark glass bottles with tight fitting tops, and, again, store them in a cool, dark location. Many carrier oils can be stored in the refrigerator, and this can help prolong the lifespan of fragile oils.(Exception is avocado oil). If you do store carrier oil in the refrigerator you might notice that the oil turns cloudy or possibly solidifies. The oil is not damaged. You just have to allow it to come to room temperature before use. Adding pure vitamin E is another effective way to prolong the shelf life of carrier oils.

Unfortunately, most carrier oils stain sheets or fabric when left untreated. The best way to ensure stain-free sheets? Good old soap and hot water. Before running them through the washing machine, pretreat the sheets with a stain-fighting agent like Spray & Wash (or our favorite, Goop) or soak the sheets in hot, soapy water. When you do wash the sheet in the washing machine, use hot water and laundry detergent. After the wash is done, make sure that the oils stains are completely gone before throwing the sheets in the dryer because the dryer will set the stain into the fabric and your sheets will be ruined. Simply re-treat the stains and run through the washing machine once more.  As with any stained fabric, the sooner you treat it and send it through the wash, the less likely the stain will remain.

Carrier oils are an indispensable part of massage therapy. They are effective on their own, in a blend, or as a way to dilute essential oils. The best way to figure out which work for you is to try them all. Feel them, smell them, and even taste them!  Soon you will find your favorite.  BestMassage.com has a wide variety of carrier oils in both organic and natural formulas. Our oils are available in several different sizes in accordance with your needs. We are confident you will be delighted by the quality and price of our carrier oils.

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