Base oils, also known as carrier oils for essential oils, are the foundations for all of my homemade beauty products and home facials. Very few face creams, body lotions, serums and so on don’t have some kind of base oil at their core. This is because they’re very important for one key reason, which I’ll come on to shortly. But what are they, specifically?
The best carrier oils are extracted liquid from a variety of different plants, seeds, vegetables, fruits, flowers and so on. The exact process will vary depending on what you’re trying to extract, but the intention is always the same.
Now, if you’ve ever read anything about oils, you might be thinking ‘wait, that sounds a lot like essential oils’. Although the process sounds similar, an essential oil is very different from a carrier oil, and I’ll tell you why.
Essential oils are not safe in undiluted concentrations. They can cause irritation, they will burn your skin and they can trigger a whole host of problems. Now, this is where the base oil finds its key role in skincare.
Base oils, in contrast to essential oils, are safe to apply directly to your skin.
Their aromas, if they even have one, are extremely subtle, unlike the powerful smell we associate with essential oils. Their main function is to ‘carry’ essential oil and other ingredients onto the skin. This is why they are known as ‘carrier oils for essential oils’. This facilitates a whole host of wonderful properties that essential oils can gift us, whilst also keeping you safe and protecting your skin.
So if the base oil is used to expose your skin to other ingredients, it doesn’t really matter which one we choose. They’re otherwise completely inert, right? Wrong. Carrier oils can have their own properties and characteristics as well. After all, they’re extracted from a very natural source.
If you’ve spent much time on this site, you’ll know that I buy my base oils online, in my opinion, natural is always best, because nature is the pharmacy of our back yards, our forests and in our oceans.
Long Oils and Short Oils
How can an oil be long, or short? What does that even mean? Well, my friend, it actually means something quite simple.
When we refer to an oil as being ‘long’, this means that the oil takes a ‘long’ time to sink into the skin.
Generally, long oils are more suitable for various applications and are perfect for massage so you have plenty of ‘rubbing’ time before it dissipates. It’s also worth noting that some long oils will not totally sink into your skin.
An excellent example of a long oil would be castor oil. For me, this is one of the best carrier oils for essential oils to be used in massage, because you can keep going with it and it’s not going to go anywhere. But would I use it in a daily face cream? Probably not. But that’s okay, because that’s where other long oils and lots of short oils come in to play.
On the other side of the river, we have the ‘short’ oils.
You guessed it, these oils sink into the skin much more efficiently and leave only minimal or even no trace left on the skin. These oils are great for the use in moisturizers, lotions, serums and lots of different things.
If you’ve never experimented with using carrier oils for skincare, then you’d probably imagine applying oil to your skin to be a greasy, messy process. When it comes to short oils, this just isn’t the case. In fact, some of these oils are actually great at managing and balancing skin that is already naturally oily. Adding oil to reduce oiliness, crazy right?! It’s so crazy it’s actually true.
Hazelnut oil is a good example of a short oil. While it isn’t the quickest to absorb into the skin, it’s actually great for oiliness, possessing wonderful balancing properties and great toning as well!
What’s important to remember is that you’re looking for oils that work for you, and the rest of this article should help you narrow the endless list of carrier oils for skin down a bit. You’ll be able to find the right one for you.
Carrier Oils for Skin types
There are 3 main skin types; oily, dry and sensitive. Not everyone falls into a specific category, however, and there are levels of severity as well. Nonetheless, you probably have an idea of where your skin sits on this spectrum.
Now, why would we use different oils for different skin types. Well, certain oils are known to be beneficial to help manage the negative effects of whichever type of skin you have. If you don’t optimise your oils, will it make things worse? Probably not, or at least not radically. It’s more helpful to think of it as getting most out of your oils, and tailoring your skin care regime for you and your body.
Now, let’s get onto the different oils that are beneficial for each of the three skin types. If you are new to creating your own recipes and don’t want to experiment take a look at my 3 step natural facial at home page for specific recipes and tutorials for all skin types. It’s also worth mentioning that there are oils that are great for all skin types as well, so don’t forget to consider those as well!
Best Oils for Dry Skin
These oils are all known for their wonderful, hydrating qualities. They’ll also help soothe the pain and itchiness associated with dry skin, as well as helping skin that has broken or chapped heal more quickly. These really are the best oils for dry skin. To get you thinking about how you could combine your carrier oils with different essential oils, I’ve included some good essential oil combinations for these oils and will do this for the other skin types also.
Best Oils for Oily Skin
If you have oily skin, you know what a nightmare flash photography or florescent lights are. Not only that, but there is some evidence to suggest that oily skin can cause pimples and even contribute to acne. Our skin naturally produces oil all the time, and when this sits on the skin and isn’t removed it can trap dirt, bacteria and clog pours. These oils should help to balance your skin, and are also some of the best carrier oils for acne.
Best Oils for Sensitive Skin
Sensitive skin can be a nightmare. Blotchiness, itching and tight, uncomfortable skin can appear out of nowhere, triggered by a whole host of possible things. But there are oils that can help soothe, heal and generally ease the symptoms of sensitive skin. So when it does flare up, it won’t be nearly as bad. There is no real ‘cure’ for sensitive skin, but managing it is important for good skin care.
Universal carrier oils for all skin types
There are lots of oils that will be beneficial for all skin types, and I’ve listed the most effective ones below. These are great if you’re trying to make a gift for someone, but aren’t sure which skin type they actually have. Everyone can benefit from these, and they can be used in combination with pretty much any essential oil.
Oils for Mature skin
Wait, isn’t mature skin just another skin type? Well, yes. However, mature skin can also be oily, sensitive and also dry. So I wanted to make a bit of a distinction. Here we’ll talk about how oils can turn back the clock and rejuvenate skin!
Mature skin is exactly what it says on the tin, skin that has matured over the course of a persons life. I’m not going to lie to you, and tell you that these oils are face lifts in bottles, because they really aren’t and few products can really promise you this. What you should expect is skin that is brighter, less tired looking, firmer and more torte than mature skin that receives no care at all (or perhaps the wrong kind of care).
So, what are the best oils for wrinkles? Which oils are good for rejuvenate the tired, dull complexion of mature skin?
How to store your carrier oil
Good storage practice is important, because it will save you money, minimise waste and keep you organised. It’s something you should start doing from day one to foster good habits, and if you haven’t then start right away. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Oils should always be stored in a cool, dark place. Sunlight will destroy the delicate, beautiful characteristics and properties of your oils. You could try and use dark amber bottles or jars to take this further, as you really don’t want any light getting to them at all. Next, you’ll want to make sure to minimise exposure to the air, otherwise you’ll find your oils will turn rancid much more quickly. Try to use airtight containers and bottles, they’re not that expensive.
You’ll probably notice that a lot of cosmetic grade oils won’t come with a shelf life. This is for one simple reason, producer vs. supplier and consumer disputes. People can become forgetful or complacent, and don’t store their oils correctly and then complain when they’re rancid before the use by date. The same goes for some suppliers as well. Only buy your oils (and all your other ingredients for that matter) from reputable sources that have high turnover, or directly from the producer. You don’t want old product that sits on a shelf for years.
So, knowing this, how can we tell when oils are rancid?
You can’t often tell by sight, as a rancid oil can sometimes look no different from a fresh one. If your oil has crystallised around the rim, this can be an indication but not all oils will do this. A much more reliable method is to go by smell. Carrier oils will have subtle to no aromas. If you start to notice a new aroma immerging, then this is a definite indication. Rancid oils can smell bitter, musty, metallic and generally off. I’ve read people compare it to used motor oil. But it’s difficult to describe to somewhat what rancid oil actually smells like, because really it just smells like rancid oil. You have to learn what rancid oil smells like for yourself.
How do we learn to smell whether oil is rancid?
Well, this will come in time. If you work with oils, you’ll get the hang of it eventually. To speed this up, try to learn the natural aroma of the different fresh oils you use. Smell them while they’re fresh, and smell them every time you use them. When you notice a change, providing you haven’t accidentally added anything to the oil (e.g. a drop of essential oil) then it’s probably time to throw it out. Use your gut. Trust your instincts. But keep in mind that if stored properly, depending on the type of oil they can last anywhere from 6 months to 5 years!
So there you have it, the best carrier oils for essential oils on the market! Remember that making your own skin products is, in a sense, a science. It’s all chemistry, and how chemistry interacts with biology. But few scientific fields don’t make use of experiments, and that’s what you have to do as well. Providing you’re not prone to allergies (e.g. if you know you have reactions to avocado, DO NOT use avocado oil), you can’t really go that wrong. See what carrier oils works best for you and your skin. Look to see if you notice any difference when you combine two different carrier oils, and vary up the different essential oils and other ingredients you usually use.
What are your favorite carrier oils? Which carrier oil and essential oil combinations get you excited? Is there a carrier oil I’ve not talked about that’s absolutely amazing for dry skin? Let me know all of this in the comments section below. I can’t wait to read your ideas and experiences!