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Understanding Carrier Oils

Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are more than just vehicles for essential oils, as they often have health-giving qualities of their own. Choosing the appropriate carrier oil will add considerably to the dynamic nature of massage and can have specific benefits, such as helping to guard against heart disease or inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. They can also help to boost the immune system.

Carrier oils are made up from essential fatty acids and contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. Some carrier oils also contain large amounts of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), useful for treatment of PMS. The fatty acid compounds help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and strengthen cell membranes, thereby slowing down the formation of fine lines and wrinkles and helping the body resist attack from free radicals.

Heat treated oils lose some of their nutritional value, so always use cold pressed, unrefined carrier oil as a base oil for the dilution of essential oils. Likewise, use a certified organic carrier oil as this guarantees that no chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or fungicides have been used in its production. The darker the colour and stronger the odour, the less refined the oil, so it will be richer in health-giving properties. The following oils can be used on their own, or as a carrier oil for essential oils. Once they are opened, keep them in the refrigerator.

Sweet Almond oil

Sweet almond oil is one of the most popular massage oils among massage therapists. Extracted from almonds, sweet almond oil is pale yellow in colour.

It is slightly oily, which allows hands to glide easily over skin. Sweet almond oil is absorbed fairly quickly, but not so quickly that you need to keep reapplying it.

Compared with other oils, sweet almond oil is reasonably priced. It usually does not irritate skin. People with nut allergies should not use almond oil.

Is a good source of vitamin D. it is suitable for all skin types, but is especially good for dry or irritated skin.

Grapeseed oil

A good basic carrier oil, which leaves the skin feeling silky smooth without being too greasy. It has little-to-no odour, it has a smooth, silky texture without being greasy and suits all skin types. May be used on its own or more usually enriched with other carrier and essential oils. It has mildly astringent qualities which help to tighten and tone the skin, which makes it useful for acne and other skin complaints.

However, most grapeseed oil is extracted from grape seeds using a solvent (rather than being pressed from the seeds), which some aromatherapists say make it an inferior oil for aromatherapy massage. It is most readily available in a refined state, so it is best to mix it with almond oil to enrich the blend.

Apricot kernel oil

Apricot kernel oil is similar in texture and colour to almond oil, but costs slightly more. It is rich in vitamin E, a quality that gives it a longer shelf life than the typical oil.

Like almond oil, apricot kernel oil is absorbed into the skin, so it won’t leave people feeling greasy afterwards making it a good oil to use for aromatherapy massage.

Apricot kernel oil is a good alternative to sweet almond oil for people with nut allergies.

It is particularly helpful for dehydrated, delicate, mature and sensitive skin, and it helps to sooth inflammation. This finely textured oil spreads easily and is particularly rich in both oleic acid and linoleic acid.

The moisturising, nourishing and revitalising properties of apricot kernel oil combine well with your selected essential oils, to give a superb facial massage.

Peach kernel oil

Peach Kernel Oil is similar to apricot kernel oil. It is a light, penetrating oil. Peach Kernel oil can be used as a substitute for sweet almond, apricot kernel, and grapeseed oils. It has been used for its moisturizing, regenerative and restructuring properties in nourishing and moisturizing products.

Peach kernel oil is a great oil for lip balms because it absorbs easily and does not leave a greasy feeling, it is also especially useful for mature skin, lip balms and massage oils.

Peach Kernel Oil is almost odourless, it is nourishing, and slowly absorbed into the skin, and is said to relieve itching skin, such as caused by eczema for example as it is highly nutritious in its unrefined state, but this is rarely available. In its refined form it makes a good carrier oil for massage purposes, but it is best to enrich it with a more nutritious oil if you want it to be more than just a slippage medium.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba is actually a wax extracted from the seed of the jojoba plant. Jojoba is a good option for most people prone to back acne because it is thought to have antibacterial properties and contains long chain wax esters that closely resembles skin sebum.

Jojoba has a very long shelf life, so it’s a good choice if you don’t use it regularly. It is very well-absorbed, which makes it a favourite carrier oil for aromatherapy. Jojoba is usually not irritating to skin and penetrates more easily than other oils. Because it is rich in vitamin E it is excellent for massaging faces and sensitive or oily complexions.

One drawback: jojoba oil is so silky and quickly absorbed, you may need to reapply it often or mix it with other oils listed here. It is more pricy than sweet almond oil.

Avocado oil

Avocado oil is pressed from the avocado fruit. Deep green in colour, avocado oil is a heavier oil and is usually mixed with lighter massage oils such as sweet almond oil.

Avocado oil is roughly double the cost of sweet almond oil. People who are sensitive to latex may be sensitive to avocado oil. Is easily absorbed into the deep tissues and is therefore excellent for mature skin. It can help relieve the dryness and itching of psoriasis and eczema. Although this oil blends well with others, it has a distinctive fruity smell, so choose essential oils with complementary fragrances.

Coconut oil

Although you may think of coconut oil as being a thick, white solid oil, fractionated coconut oil is actually a light, non-greasy, liquid oil.  It is called fractionated coconut oil because it contains only a fraction of the whole oil. The long-chain triglycerides have been removed, leaving only the medium-chain triglycerides.

Fractionated coconut oil is less pricey than many other oils (it’s comparable to sweet almond oil) and like jojoba oil, has a very long shelf life. But perhaps the top feature of fractionated coconut oil is that it tends not to stain sheets, a problem with most massage oils.

Olive oil

Most people are familiar with olive oil as a cooking oil, but it is occasionally used for massage. It is a heavy oil with a greasy or sticky texture and recognizable aroma that many associate with cooking, so it’s usually not used on its own for massage but makes an excellent addition to a blend for mature skin.

One study compared topical olive oil with sunflower oil and found that olive oil had no effect on epidermal barrier function, whereas topical sunflower oil resulted in significant improvement in the skin barrier.

Sesame oil

Sesame oil is prized in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. According to Ayurveda, sesame oil is especially useful for nourishing and detoxifying and for ailments associated with the vata type, such as anxiety, poor circulation, constipation, bloating, and excessive dryness.
Sesame oil is a rather thick oil that may leave skin feeling oily, so it can be blended with lighter massage oils. The unrefined oil has a strong aroma.

Made from untoasted seeds is good for skin conditions. It has sun screening properties and is used in many suncare preparations.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil is a light, non-greasy oil that won’t leave skin feeling oily. The oil, extracted from sunflower seeds, is rich in the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, as well as palmitic acid and stearic acid, all components of healthy skin. The amount of linoleic acid in skin declines with age and can be stripped by harsh soaps and cleansers.

Sunflower oil can go rancid quickly, so it should be purchased in small quantities and stored in a dark cool area. Squeezing one or two capsules of pure vitamin E oil into the bottle may help to extend the shelf life. It can be enriched by the addition of more exotic oils. People with allergies to the sunflower plant family should avoid sunflower oil.

Wheatgerm oil

The oil is very high in vitamin E and essential fatty acids and because of its high vitamin E content, a natural antioxidant which helps to prevent rancidity, it is often added to other carrier oils to help lengthen their shelf life and to prevent them going off.

When it is applied topically on to the skin it helps promote the formation of new cells, improve circulation, and to help repair sun damage to the skin. It is also used to help relieve the symptoms of dermatitis.

Because the consistency is far too sticky and heavy to use on its own, it is suggested to mix it with another carrier oil. Using it for massage may be too heavy on its own, but with its great nourishing qualities, it is a good choice to include a small percentage when mixing a massage oil or preparing a carrier oil blend.

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