In some ways when we talk about ‘carrier oils’ we’re perhaps conjuring up a vision of rather bland oils which only exist to transport essential oils as part of an aromatherapy treatment. Whilst this is of course one very important aspect of these kinds of oil, it isn’t their defining characteristic. It would be more appropriate to call them vegetable oils, a name which doesn’t limit them to only one purpose in life.
Just like essential oils, vegetable oils vary widely in their properties. Careful selection, whether for therapeutic treatment or home use, can bring a wealth of benefits. The use of vegetable oils is a form of therapy in its own right and for anyone with an interest in aromatherapy or natural skincare it opens up a whole new area for investigation.
What exactly are vegetable oils?
The term ‘vegetable oil’ refers to oils derived from natural sources such as seeds and nuts. They are largely composed of fatty acids, which are very important to the body not only because they are an important source of energy but also because they are a component in the building and maintenance of healthy cells.
Many vegetable oils contain essential fatty acids (EFAs). These cannot be produced by the body yet they are a requirement for life and health and deficiency of EFAs can lead to a number of ailments.
Why give vegetable oils more thought?
The chemical composition of a vegetable oil is not as complex as that of an essential oil but a vegetable oil can be composed of a number of different substances. The presence and variation in levels of these different components can dramatically effect the qualities of the oil when used on the skin. Vegetable oils are therapeutic in their own right and for an aromatherapist, carefully chosen vegetable oils can not only carry the essential oils you want to use in your therapy but also offer personalised benefits for your client’s skin.
For home use vegetable oils offer a way to create safe, tailored skincare for you and your family. By blending your own facial or body oil you can be absolutely sure that you know what is in it (and more importantly what isn’t). Many of us have a bottle of jojoba oil in the cupboard but there many other vegetable oils and a small amount of research can yield a surprising range of options for different skin problems.
Create blends for your skin type
Different oils can be suitable for different skin types so it is good to do a bit of research before trying out your blend. For a good general purpose skincare oil try Wheatgerm, Sunflower, Sesame and Hazelnut. If you suffer from dry skin try adding 10% Avocado oil to Sweet Almond.
Irritated skin can benefit from the addition of Tamanu oil (Calophyllum inophyllum), which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Using Rose Hip Seed (Rosa rubiginosa) is said slow the effects of ageing, and this amazing oil can be used either on its own or as part of a blend. It is also recommended to help heal scars.
Jojoba (technically a wax, not an oil) is the most similar to the skin’s natural oils, absorbing easily rather than sitting on the surface so you can use this oil as the main ingredient of your blend if you want to create a non-greasy facial oil. If you suffer from acne then, surprisingly, Jojoba oil may help. Often skin deprived of moisture and natural oils due to the use of harsh cleansing products will work extra hard to replace the oils, causing congestion and breakouts. A small amount of jojoba can often help to remedy this over-activity.
For winter skincare try Argan or Andiroba oil to protect your hands and face against the elements, or Avocado oil for deep nourishment.
Oils for the body
If you want to convince yourself about the benefit for health and well-being that vegetable oils can provide in their own right, try self massage with warm Sesame oil every day for a week before a bath or shower, and see what difference you notice. (This is a daily prescription for good health that is recommended by Ayur Veda, the world’s oldest system of natural health care, and is said to prevent all manner of ailments, to balance the system, and restore health and vitality.)
And for your hair
Argan oil makes an excellent hair conditioner, especially for dry or fragile hair. Apply liberally to dry hair, then wrap in clingfilm and a towel and leave for at least 10 minutes (longer if you can). Shampoo out to leave your hair soft and silky. If you like a nutty, slightly toasty scent then use the roasted oil (usually just known as ‘Argan Oil’ as roasting is a part of the traditional extraction process for this oil). If you prefer a lighter scent then choose the unroasted type.