Using oils for health has been a passion of mine ever since I discovered herbal infused oils. Soon after, when I began to look more closely at what was in my cosmetics and skincare products, I started to incorporate them into my daily routines and creating facial oils as well.
In this article, I share some valuable info on carrier oils and my favorite six (+2 bonus oils) for natural skincare. Read on to find out which ones!
Carrier Oils vs. Essential Oils
A Carrier Oil is a botanical byproduct that is created by pressing the nuts, seeds, or other dense areas of a plant. They are comprised of various fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial phytochemicals. Oils are incredibly emollient, meaning they soothe, soften, and moisturize bodily tissues, and have been a staple beauty ingredient since ancient times.
Essential Oils are the concentrated, volatile oils of a plant. They are highly potent and could be potentially damaging if not used properly - plus they take a lot of resources to make.
Carrier oils are often pale in color and scent and contain a broader range of constituents, such as vitamins and minerals. Because of this, they are generally much safer for use than essential oils on their own and even lend themselves as the perfect vessel to dilute and "carry" essential oils to the skin.
Now, essential oils are not all bad and certainly have their benefits, as shown by their immense popularity. Still, I much prefer to use carrier oils because they gently extract the more elements a plant has to offer. I especially like to use them to make herbal infused oils. (link to article)
Expeller Oils vs. Cold Pressed vs. Solvent Extraction
Cold-Pressed oils are produced by grinding or crushing plant material at a slow rate and low temperature (though heating limits are not regulated here in the United States) and results in the purest and least processed extraction.
Expeller pressed oils are extracted similarly to cold-pressed oils, but with much more compression, power, and low heat. Many believe that this method's use of heat renders the oil less effective or not as valuable. Personally, when it comes to determining the value of an ingredient I use in my skincare products, I also consider the environmental impact it has.
Turns out, cold-pressing a plant is a relatively ineffective method for extracting oils, leaving a large percentage in the pulp. Expeller pressed oils are often utilized as a "second pass" at spent plant material to draw out as much oil as they can, thereby diverting a ton of unnecessary waste.
So, while you could make the argument that it is *best* to use cold-pressed oils in terms of quality, it certainly isn't wrong to use expeller-pressed oils. When considering the environmental factors at play, I would say they are just as stellar.
Finally, solvent extracted Oils are produced by adding a chemical solvent, or petroleum distillate, to release the oil from the material. These oils are then refined further with bleaches and deodorizers. They are the cheapest oils to produce, therefore make up the majority of oils in our cosmetic and skincare products, as well as in the majority of processed foods we eat. While It is the fastest and most economic extraction method (pulling out up to 99%), for obvious reasons, I avoid these oils at all costs.
How do you know which oil you are getting? Many will say on the bottle! So, unless explicitly stated, you should assume it is solvent extracted.
A Word on Hexane
One of the main chemicals used to extract oils via solvent is hexane, which is mostly broken down through the production process; however, a small amount remains in the final product. Hexane in low exposures is considered to be perfectly safe but has been shown to cause adverse reactions when it exposure exceeds maximum residue limit (the maximum acceptable levels of potentially harmful substances that are allowed to remain in a product manufactured in the US.)
So, if you're looking to avoid this potential irritant in your oils, be sure to purchase oils that say cold or expeller pressed. I like to get all my oils from Mountian Rose Herbs, because of their industry-leading standards on ethically sourcing their ingredients.
My Favorite Carrier Oils to Use for Skincare
Olive Oil - High in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been proven to aid in the skin's resistance to photoaging, or sun-damage. A deeply penetrating oil with a long shelf life and a staple oil for body use.
Avocado - A powerhouse of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help fight redness and reduce irritations. It has a high heat tolerance and is suitable for higher temperatures, or heated methods. On the heavier side, but is absorbed by our skin easily. Excellent for body use.
Sunflower - has emollient properties that help to soothe and hydrate the skin. High in Vitamin E and beta-carotene, it can improve complexion and skin condition. I like to use sunflower oil to cut the denseness of olive oil, which helps to lighten the feel a bit.
Fractionated Coconut Oil - Its pale color indicates that it is relatively low on vitamins, minerals & phytochemicals compared to other oils and lends itself well to herbal extraction as there is more room to draw out the plant's constituents. It is a very long-lasting blend that isn't too heavy on the skin — one of my personal favorites for facial oils.
Jojoba Oil - is touted for being the carrier oil that has the closest ph to the skin, and I can personally attest that it fits my skin like a glove. It is technically a wax ester, and not an oil (just like our skin's sebum), which makes it both easily absorbed by the skin, and have long-lasting moisturizing power that creates a protective barrier. Jojoba is my other top favorite for the face.
Castor Oil - is high in ricinoleic acid, which is not found in many other plants, making this oil a valuable source. It is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and wound healing, helping to defeat skin redness and irritation. It is also a main ingredient of the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM), as is especially excellent for use with oily or acne-prone skin conditions. Find out more about the OCM in my free At-Home Facial Guide.
While these next few oils could also be used as a carrier oil, they are much more expensive because they yield much less oil during production. Never the less, I wanted to share with you the They are ideal for use as a finishing oil, massing just a few drops onto your skin after a facial treatment, or as a smaller component or a formulation. Regardless, these four oils deserve mention.
Argan Oil - is high in vitamin E, antioxidants, and oleic acid, helping to support and maintain healthy skin, as well as minimize oxidative stress like aging and scarring. A medium weight oil that lends itself wonderfully to blends.
Rosehip Seed Oil - full of linoleic and linolenic acid, making it ideal for hydrating dry and itchy skin. It has also been shown to help boost collagen formation and reduce the signs of aging. Such a profoundly nourishing and pleasing oil, with its delightful pink hue. Rosehip seed oil works well in a blend, or even as all on its own. Just dab a few drops onto the skin for an instant glow!
Overall, these oils are incredibly versatile, while also being completely specific. Everyone's skin has it's own unique chemistry, so the relationship you'll build with a particular oil will be very personal. Try them all alone or in combination and see which your skin like the most! Let me know which is your favorite below.
Author Bio: My name is Katya Herb, owner of Fecund Herbals. I am an herbalist from Chicago with a passion for skincare, radical self-care, and all things plant-related. I first came to herbalism to address some unresolved pelvic issues but grew to love the vast healing, and nourishing potential plants have on our bodies and minds.
My goal with Fecund Herbals is to promote radical healing and self-care through my herbal product offerings, as well as through education. Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to know about new posts, promotions, and more!