Essential oils are useful and beneficial for mixing into skincare oils, creams, or salves because of their high absorbency and many benefits for the skin that can amplify the benefits of the fatty carrier oil. Generally speaking, you would use these very potent essential oil concentrates diluted in a carrier oil such as jojoba, evening primrose, argan, or rosehip seed (as you can read about in our article on Carrier Oils for Healthy Skin), in a skin cream base mixed in, or mixed into a balm or salve. The reason is that essential oils are drying and can be irritating when applied directly, and because they absorb into the bloodstream at varying rates through the skin, the internal effects can be strong if not properly diluted. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you dilute essential oils to 0.5-3% dilution for applying to larger areas of the skin, like in a massage or body oil, for example. This means that you would would use approximately 5-25 drops/fluid ounce of carrier. Use the lower amount if someone has particularly sensitive skin, or you are applying to a baby’s skin. For smaller surface areas, like treating acne on the face, or treating a rash or infection in a particular area, you can go up to a 5-10% dilution, which means you would use approximately 45 – 75 drops/fluid ounce.
Here are some of the most useful essential oils for applying to the skin.
Blue tansy – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cooling, soothing, antipruretic (anti-itch)
Cedarwood – balances oil production from the skin and scalp, astringent, tonifying (normalizing)
Frankincense – considered a good oil for dry/mature skin types, it is used to help reduce wrinkles & promote tissue repair.
Geranium (rose geranium) – astringent & tonifying, anti-inflammatory, oil-reducing and balancing, insect-repellent – good for skin inflammation, bruising, broken/weak capillaries
German chamomile – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic (pain reducing) – good for generally irritated or sensitive skin, inflamed skin conditions.
Helichrysum – vulnerary (wound healing), tissue regenerative, anti-inflammatory – good for any number of inflamed skin conditions and scarring, as well as muscular aches/pains, strains, & rheumatic pains.
Lavender – anti-inflammatory, vulnerary (wound-healing), antimicrobial, antispasmodic – a good general skin-healing herb for all skin types and inflamed skin conditions.
Lemon – astringent, acid-mantle balancing, oil balancing, antimicrobial
Melissa (Lemon balm) – antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, insect-repellent
Palmarosa – soothing to all skin types; detoxifying and regenerating; useful for dry, irritated, or lifeless skin
Rose – astringent, soothing, anti-inflammatory – good for tonifying skin and strengthening capillaries; good for mature skin.
Tea tree – one of the best broad-spectrum antimicrobial and antifungal essential oils, as well as having healing benefits for the skin. Great for acne, fungal infections (athlete’s foot, ringworm), head lice, etc.
Ylang ylang – oil-balancing, antimicrobial, promotes healthy hair growth, general skincare
Here I list some of the most common carrier oils or base oils. These are the fats pressed from nuts and seeds of plants that provide fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that are useful for nourishing the skin and/or hair. These oils are often used alone or in combination to apply to the skin as body oils, massage oils, and facial oils, and are also used to make skin creams, salves, and balms. Essential oils are diluted into these oils to be safely applied to the skin, which is why they are often referred to as “carrier oils” to distinguish them from essential oils which have a very different chemical make-up.
Most oils should be stored out of heat and light and should ideally be used within 6-8 months, as the shelf life can be hard to determine. If you store these oils in the refrigerator, you will get a longer shelf life.
Almond (sweet almond) oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of 12-14 months out of heat & light. One of the most useful, practical, and commonly used oils for massage oils and body oils. It is great for all skin types as an emollient and is best known for its ability to soften, soothe, and re-condition the skin. Good for all skin types, but not typically used on acne-prone skin.
Apricot kernel oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of about 12 months out of heat & light. Similar in its properties to sweet almond oil, but more suitable for sensitive and prematurely aged skin. Used regularly for facial oils and skincare products.
Argan oil – cold-pressed from the Moroccan Argan tree kernels with a shelf-life of 12 months, this oil is high in tocopherols (vitamin E), carotenes, squalene, and fatty acids beneficial to the skin. It is a well-absorbed, light oil that is useful for “normal,” dry, and oily skin types, as well as for smoothing and treating hair.
Avocado oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of about 12 months. A relatively unstable oil that is best kept out of heat and light and refrigeration is recommended but not required. An ultra rich oil containing high amounts of Vitamin A, B1, B2, D, and E. It also contains amino acids, sterols, pantothenic acid, lecithin, and other essential fatty acids. Highly prized to those with skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions, as well as those with sensitive skin and other irritations that require vitamin rich oil. Can be poorly absorbed, so leaving an oily texture, but is very good for conditioning the skin and hair and great in combination.
Castor oil – expeller-pressed & refined with a shelf life of 2 years. A viscous, shiny oil found used in cosmetics that act as barrier agents and protect against harsh conditions and extremes. It is soothing and anti-inflammatory to the skin. Is considered detoxifying and can be mildly drying. It is used on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes to stimulate hair growth. It is also one of the components of oil blends designed for “oil cleansing,” where oils are massaged into the face and neck and then wiped off with warm wash cloth.
Coconut oil – cold-pressed & unrefined (higher fatty acid content) or expeller-pressed & refined with a shelf-life of 2 years. This is a good oil for general moisturizing that acts as a protective layer, helping to retain the moisture in your skin. It is a mild oil for those with inflamed and irritated skin, and those with skin sensitivities. Contains caprylic & lauric acids that can inhibit fungus and yeasts. Coconut oil is the number one lather-producing agent used in soaps.
Evening Primrose Oil – Cold pressed from seeds of the yellow-flowering Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis; Onagraceae) and partially refined with a shelf life of 10-12 months (refrigeration recommended). Evening primrose oil is rich in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which constitutes an average of 8-10% of Evening primrose oil. Evening primrose oil can be therapeutically utilized for internal and external applications. It is a light, normalizing oil to the skin with little to no scent. It is useful for those who need a light oil, or have combination and/or acne-prone skin.
Grapeseed oil – expeller-pressed & partially refined with a shelf life of 12-14 months. A high antioxidant oil with a light, silken texture and great absorption rate. Grapeseed is especially useful for skin types that do not absorb oils well or who already have oily skin but need some moisture. It is also good for those with skin sensitivities because of its natural non-allergenic properties.
Jojoba oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 2-3 years. Jojoba oil comes from the beans of a shrub-like plant and is considered the most favored carrier oil family because of its molecular stability and low rancidity, as well as the fact that it has no scent. Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax and has properties similar to our own sebum, as has been traditionally used as a scalp cleanser and a general moisturizer for all skin types.
Olive (extra virgin) oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 10-12 months.
By far the most universal oil used for a multitude of purposes including cosmetics, as a carrier oil, for hair care solutions, and in cooking. It is a great moisturizing oil, but can be too heavy for many facial products and can clog pores. Commonly used to infuse herbs into because of its availability, universal application, and its generally good shelf life.
Pomegranate Seed Oil – cold-pressed and unrefined with a shelf life of about 6 months, this oil is high in flavonoids and punicic acid, which has numerous health benefits for the skin. This oil nourished the outer epidermal layer and acts as an antioxidant, for anti-aging, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriaris, protecting the skin from damage, & helping to reduce signs of aging and wrinkling. It is great as an eye oil for the delicate tissue around the eyes, as well as a healing oil for really dry facial skin.
Rosehip seed oil – cold-pressed & winterized with a shelf life of 8-12 months. This unique oil is high in essential fatty acids and is generally considered to be great for dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin, although it absorbs into the skin quickly as well. It works wonders on scars and is a predominant oil used for treating wrinkles and premature aging. Rosehip seed oil contains Vitamin A, which helps to delay the effects of skin aging, assists with cell regeneration, and promotes collagen and elastin levels to increase It also contains a high amount of essential fatty acid, in particular linoleic & linolenic acids, and Vitamin E, which further promotes healthy skin.
Seabuckthorn seed oil – cold-pressed and unrefined, with a shelf life of 8-10 months, this rich, orange oil is high in nourishing fatty acids (including Omega-7, which is specific for skin health), beta carotenes, vitamin E, and other antioxidant compounds that give it its highly protective, skin rejuvenating properties. Used mainly diluted into other oils or creams for the delicate eye tissue, for areas that re sun-damaged, and for preventing and treating wrinkle-prone areas of the face and body.
Sesame oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 12 months out of heat & light. Naturally active in vitamins A and E and essential proteins, this oil is used in skincare and as a massage oil. It is softening and nourishing to the skin and is often used in Ayurvedic formulas for skin and hair. It is a good base oil with a relatively long shelf life, but does have a scent that can be more difficult to hide with essential oils.
Tamanu oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 10-12 months out of heat & light. From the whole organic nuts of the Polynesian Tamanu tree, this oil is famed (and backed by research) for its ability to heal damaged skin. Its benefits are notable for the treatment for scarring, stretch marks, acne, minor cuts and abrasions, rashes, sores and much more. It is also antineuralgic (helps with nerve pain), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant. Tamanu oil has a rich, deep scent with a bold dark color and because of this it may alter the color and aroma of your cosmetic creations.
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