When formulating natural skin care products, especially with essential oils, botanical oils are used as a primary ingredient. A botanical oil (or carrier oil as they are often called) is an oil that is taken from the nuts, seeds or fruits of plants. Some have a fragrance like coconut oil and some are fragrance free or have a softer fragrance like with grapeseed or almond oil. Botanical oils are are loaded with nutrients, essential fatty acids and vitamins that help nurture skin health and promote healing.
When used with essential oils they not only dilute the highly concentrated essential oils making them safer on the skin but they also help to increase the surface area for application.
When used in skin care products they nourish the skin with all of their powerful nutrients and vitamins as well as help strengthen the outer layer and prevent water loss. Whether using them to dilute essential oils or on their own they are an important part of any natural skin care routine.
Let's learn more about some of the most popular botanical oils:
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet Almond Oil is made from the kernels of sweet almonds. The oil is lightweight and absorbs easily, and is a great moisturizer for dry skin. It`s is one of the most popular botanical oils for skin care. Sweet Almond Oil in its natural form has a sweet, nutty scent. When treated with heat, the scent dissipates so depending on what you would like to use it for, choose the form that suits you best.
Grape seed oil is extracted from grape seeds. It contains high levels of vitamin E which means its rich in antioxidant properties. Grapeseed oil is lightweight, easily absorbed by the skin and has a neutral scent so it's a good carrier oil to use with essential oils.
Jojoba oil is known for its close resemblance to our skin’s sebum, the skin's natural oil. It's not technically an oil, but rather a liquid wax. It has soothing, penetrating and moisturizing benefits for all skin types. It offers high levels of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E. It can also be used to balance oily skin and heal breakouts as it does not clog pores. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, jojoba oil can help with mild acne. Pure Jojoba oil has a delicate, nutty aroma.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot kernel oil is made from apricot seeds, also known as kernels. It’s an emollient oil high in fatty acids and vitamin E. It absorbs easily into the skin and helps soften and calm irritated skin. It has a slightly sweet nutty scent.
Rosehip oil comes from the seeds of the Rosa rubiginosa bush or the Rosa moschata bush. It is a non-greasy oil loaded with antioxidants, vitamin A, C, and all three essential fatty acids (Omega-3, -6, and -9). Vitamin A is a natural retinoid that helps fight aging. Rosehip oil supports the regeneration of mature skin, helps even skin tone, supports the healing of scarring and burns, helps reduce redness and dark spots. Rosehip oil doesn't smell like a rose, though it has a nutty, earthy scent. Pure Rosehip oil will have a reddish tint to it.
Argan oil is made from kernels found inside the fruit of argan trees, which are native to Morocco. The oil is edible and is traditionally used to nourish the body inside and out. It has a nutty aroma and is rich in vitamins A and E, and monounsaturated fatty acids. Argan oil can help treat dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and skin inflammation. This makes it a terrific carrier oil for general skin and hair care.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is an edible oil made from the fresh meat of mature coconuts. Virgin Coconut Oil in its pure form retains its coconut aroma and flavor. Coconut oil contains skin-nourishing fatty acids and polyphenols making it an incredible moisturizer for the skin. It can also help keep your skin healthy thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Rub it on your hands, legs or anywhere else on your body. I do not recommend to use it on your face as it can clog pores and cause breakouts, especially for those with acne prone skin. (Note that virgin coconut oil remains solid up to 24°C /75 °F.)
Fractionated Coconut Oil
If you`re wondering what the difference is to Virgin Coconut oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil is made by heating Virgin Coconut Oil above its melting point and the components that cause regular coconut oil to harden leaving only the liquid part. The result is a tasteless and odorless liquid coconut oil. It is an affordable and easy oil to use for diluting essential oils. I do not recommend it for face care although you can certainly use it on the body.
Avocado oil is a heavy, thick, edible oil made from avocado fruit. It has a nutty aroma.
Avocado oil is high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid thought to help dry, damaged skin. Avocado oil may increase sebum production, so if your skin is acne-prone it's better to choose another botanical oil.
One of the cheapest and most accessible carrier oils on the market, sunflower oil is high in linoleic acid, A, D, E and minerals and great at penetrating skin. It has a neutral odor. If you are using Sunflower oil it is best to buy organic to ensure it`s pure.
Olive oil comes from pressed olives and is packed with fatty acids and plant sterols, which make it great for cleansing and moisturizing dry skin. It often has a fruity aroma but the scent may vary as there are so many versions of olive oil available.
Recommended for burns, post-surgery incisions, scarring, and wounds, Vitamin E is a wonderfully healing oil. You can also add it to all oil blends to help extend their shelf life as Vitamin E is a natural preservative.
Problem Solving Botanical Oils
To address specific skin needs, certain problem-solving Botanical oils are also great to use.
Evening Primrose Oil is made from the seeds of the flowers of a plant native to North America. The plant is great oil for supporting hormone imbalances but when it comes to skincare it is a great oil to support the healing of acne and eczema.
Tamanu is extracted from seeds that grow on a tropical evergreen called a tamanu nut tree. Tamanu oil and other parts of the tamanu nut tree have been used medicinally for hundreds of years by certain Asian, African, and Pacific Island cultures. The oil is rich in fatty acids, which can help skin retain its moisture and it also contains antioxidants, which fight against damage from free radicals. It is also know to help treat acne, scars and wounds due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Pomegranate oil is made from the seeds of a pomegranate. It helps with eczema, psoriasis, and wrinkled skin due to extremely high level of antioxidants and punicic acid. It also helps boosts collagen production and elasticity. Pomegranate seed oil nourishes the skin with its high level of vitamin C, an important vitamin in skin care.
Prickly pear oil is made from the seeds of this fruit which is considered to be a superfood. It contain different types of fatty acids, phenols, nutrients such as vitamin E, phytosterols, and antioxidants which help with acne, dark circles and broken capillaries.
Black seed oil is made from the Nigella sativa plant. Although it’s lesser known than other botanical oils, it's full of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids as well as anti-inflammatory properties. It`s a great oil to soothe skin conditions including eczema, acne and psoriasis.
There are many botanical oils available so it can be hard to know which one is best for your individual needs. Once you`ve decided on how you will be using the oil, consider the following points to help you choose the right one.
Odor: A few carrier oils have a distinct odor. Something to consider depending on how you plan to use them. If using with essential oils they may alter the aroma.
Absorption: Your skin can absorb some carrier oils better than others.
Skin type: Depending on your skin type, some oils may irritate skin or worsen a skin condition such as acne.
Access: Not all oils are easy to buy, depending on where you live. It is always suggested to purchase the organic or bio version to ensure that you are not using an oil that contains pesticides or other synthetic ingredients. Do some research and find a supplier that has a good reputation and is one you can trust.
Most importantly, make the process fun. Experimenting with different oils is another way to bring you closer to nature and is a nice form of self care. Smell the oils, take your time when applying them and see which ones your skin respond best to. Knowing your skin and what it needs is the most important part of any skin care routine. Comment below if you have any favorite botanical oils that you like to use. Enjoy!