Carrier oils remind me of those Indian winters and my mom applying these oils all over her body in the cold mornings. My mom still uses different types of carrier oils for her day-to-day skincare rituals, and I can see how her skin is still well moisturized and supple at her age.
Thankfully, I also inherited many of her beauty habits, in particular applying carrier oils to my hair, body, and face daily. But after studying at Formula Botanica, I learned a robust way to mix these different kinds of carrier oils to convert them into the best facial & body serums in the most affordable way.
For example, whenever I feel that my hair is not soft enough and is getting dry, I apply a mixture of pure amla oil and prickly pear oil before I wash my hair. The result is smoother and silkier hair. As per Indian culture, even newborn babies get coconut oil-massages from their grandmas. In ancient Vedic literature and Ayurveda, oil massages are considered an important wellness ritual.
That's why I always feel that I have a strong cultural bond when it comes to carrier oils. In today's blog post, I would like to share a little bit of knowledge about carrier oils. So, let's dig in.
All About Carrier Oils
In the area of natural skincare, carrier oils are popular as base oils. Mainly anhydrous (no water contained) skincare formulations use these oils as the main ingredient. These products include body butter, lip balms, cleansing balms, salves, and more. Carrier oils are by-products derived from the nuts or seeds of a plant. Since they are derived from the purest sources, and the basic chemistry of the natural source remains the same (for a better understanding check out this blog post), I consider them to be potent, sustainable, and clean beauty products. In general, you will see two types of carrier oils on the market:
2. Unrefined (Virgin, Cold-Pressed)
So what is the difference between unrefined oil and refined oil?
Unrefined oil is the purest form of the natural ingredient. It is minimally processed and retains more active compounds, while refined oil means further processed.
There are two methods of processing oils from nuts and seeds: 1) cold pressing and 2) hot extraction. In cold processing, the raw process is carried out at 80 - 90° F (yes, it is considered cold for this process). During the heated extraction method, which is also known as expeller-pressing, this process is performed through mechanical machinery at approximately 120 -200° F.
Please note that unrefined oils have a slightly shorter shelf life compared to refined oils due to the presence of more active compounds.
Whenever I make my DIY skincare products, I prefer to use the unrefined version. There are two reasons for this:
1) It is the purest form, and it contains active compounds, so it is beneficial for personal wellness and skin care.
2) I make it in smaller quantities, so its shelf life is not essential for me.
For a more robust study of carrier oil, I would highly suggest going over this link. Formula Botanica is my favorite go-to place, especially for information like this.
Chemistry of Carrier Oils:
The beauty market contains several beauty oils, and I am sure that when you buy those expensive oils, you will have tons of questions such as, what's the best facial oil for my skin type? Or what's the best hair oil for itchy scalp? If you have these questions, it is better to gain some understanding of the chemistry of carrier oils. Any carrier oil will contain tons of fatty acids (oleic acid, palmitoleic acid), minerals, Vitamin E, phytosterols, and many more.
Our skin and hair need these fatty acids.
The oil's chemical structure determines the physical characteristics of the oil. These characteristics include being hard (oil is solid at room temperature) or soft (oil remains liquid at room temperature). Oils can also have the qualities of fast absorption, slow absorption, and the list goes on. These basic terminologies will help us when we go and buy these oils.
So, there are three ways carrier oils can be incorporated into a skincare product:
1. Carrier oils/Base oils:
Carrier oils are vegetable oils such coconut oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil or apricot kernel oil. These are the mainstream carrier oils, but the choices are endless.
2. Infused Oils:
These oils are also known as oil macerations. In this method, various botanicals are submerged into the base/carrier oil for an extended period of time. During the submerging process, natural plant compounds and carrier oil compounds are slowly processed into each other, imparting the botanical benefits to the oils. Sometimes the finished oil retains the pleasant fragrance and color of the botanicals as well. The infused oil can be applied directly to your skin, as it is still considered to be a pure base oil with a botanical quality to it.
3. Essential Oils:
These oils are made from a well-defined process. These oils contain intense aromas and therapeutic values. You should never apply essential oils directly to your skin, as these oils are potent, and contain sensitizers. These sensitizers can irritate your skin as they penetrate to the deepest layer of your skin.
A lot to learn, right? I hope this is helpful.
So, this is my humble approach to providing you with vital awareness about beauty and wellness products and their ingredients. Sometimes, we just get carried away with phrases like: "made from refined almond oil" vs. "made from extra-virgin coconut oil."
I am sure this knowledge will help you when you purchase facial oil, hair oil, or body oil. Let me know your thoughts on this. Till then, I will see you next time for more fun content.