There is a distinct difference between carrier (or fixed) oils and essential oils. The carrier oils used in aromatherapy are known as fixed oils because they do not evaporate. Plant essential oils do evaporate because they are volatile. Fixed oils are classified as lipids, this is a family of compounds that are found naturally in plants and animals. The definition of a lipid covers a large area, as it describes any plant or animal molecule that is not soluble in water but is soluble in organic solvents. Lipids are important for our good health, being concerned in cell structure, vitamins, bile action and are a reserve of energy (although not all carrier oils are suitable for internal consumption!)
Carrier oils are used extensively in aromatherapy and massage and can give the oil blend many of its properties. Carrier oils are basically used to carry and dilute the concentrated compounds in essential oils, help them enter the skin and render the health benefits. Every carrier oil exhibits a different set of properties and the aromatherapist or individual makes a choice or preference for a carrier oil depending on the therapeutic benefit, the feel or smell that the carrier oil provides. Carrier oils can also be referred to as base oil, fixed oils or vegetable oils. These oils are extracted from the fatty portions of the plant (often the seed, grain or nut).
Carrier oils do not have as prominent aroma like the essential oils have. Unlike the essential oils, they do not get easily absorbed although most do help moisturise the skin and are often the main ingredient (along with water) in natural skincare creams. There are many popular carrier oils including sesame oil, grapeseed oil, neem oil, wheat germ oil, almond oil and many more. Many of the oils that are found in the grocery stores are heated instead of being cold pressed and therefore deliver less healing benefits.
Here is some information about a few of the most common and popular carrier oils used, we have a much wider range available in our online shop above.
Description: A pale yellow oil, slightly viscous and very oily.
Source: Obtained through cold pressing of the kernels, then clarifying by filtration.
Properties: Excellent emollient, soothes inflammation, relieves dry scaley skin.
Description: A very fine oil that is tasteless and odourless.
Source: Obtained by washing, drying, grinding and pressing the grapseeds sometimes using heat.
Properties: A very good emollient, regenerative properties make it a key ingredient in face and eye creams.
Description: Coconut oil is a white solid saturated fat that melts at 24 degrees C, but it turns into clear liquid oil when fractionated.
Source: The oil can be obtained by cold pressing the flesh found inside the shell.
Properties: Very good emollient properties. Beneficial for dry skin and hair.
Description: It is not specifically an oil, but a light golden coloured liquid wax.
Source: It is extracted through mechanical pressing of the seeds.
Properties: Molecular structure very similar to skin sebum and contains myristic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial for chapped skin and nappy rash.
Description: Has a strong yellow colour.
Source: Oil extracted by pressing that takes place at 30-40 degrees so that the fatty acids and vitamins are not degraded.
Properties: Oil contains high levels of vitamin E, and contains many minerals, magnesium, zinc and sodium to name a few. Beneficial for revitalising dry skin and relieves symptoms of dermatitis.