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Dr Shefaali Thanawala December 12 , 2014
Introduction
Carrier oils are natural oils derived from the seeds, nuts or kernels of plants. They find many applications in our daily life - some are consumed in cooking, while others have a long history of usage as cosmetic ingredients for maintaining healthy hair and skin.

In India, they are regularly used for body and scalp massage and for applying on hair. These carrier oils, which are a part of our households, are gaining more attention the world over as important natural cosmetic ingredients.

This article highlights such specific beneficial effects of few of the carrier oils used most widely in cosmetics.

Carrier oils – Basics
Though much less hyped than herbal extracts and essential oils, carrier oils play a key role in aromatherapy based cosmetics.

This is because, though essential oils are completely natural, they could exert harmful effects such as itching, burning, irritation and allergic reactions if applied in the undiluted form on the skin.

To prevent these side-effects, they must be used only after proper dilution, for which carrier oils are the best recommended vehicles. Carrier oils, also known as base oils, carry the essential oils deep inside the skin allowing faster absorption, as they offer better penetration into the skin.

Carrier oils have a positive influence on the skin and hair, and thus impart an added advantage when utilised to blend essential oils.

An appropriate blend of a carrier oil and essential oil can do wonders to the skin, imparting a younger, more supple, hydrated and lustrous look and shine.

As for the physical characteristics, carrier oils are stable or fixed oils, not volatile like essential oils, and therefore, do not evaporate and can be stored for much longer duration.

They generally lack a strong aroma and many are non-greasy, and yet provide excellent lubrication to the skin when applied topically.

When used for cosmetics, carrier oils are processed by a different method then when they are used for cooking, and are generally extracted through a process called as cold pressing, in which comparatively low heat is applied for extraction.

This helps the oil to retain the vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, which are essential for exerting a beneficial effect on the skin. Thus, in aromatherapy, generally such unrefined carrier oils are used to gain maximum benefits.

Also, apart from their utility in cosmetics, depending on individual therapeutic effect, carrier oils can be efficaciously used for skin disorders, for maintaining healthy muscles and joints, and for a relaxing body massage.  

Carrier oils in skin & hair care
Almond oil, grape seed oil, olive oil, sesame oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil and wheat germ oil are some of the most widely-used carrier oils for cosmetic purpose. Their cosmetic benefits are as follows:

Jojoba oil
Jojoba oil is actually a semi-solid wax present in the seed of the jojoba plant (Simmondsia chinensis), a woody, evergreen, perennial shrub.

Though native to Mexico and the southern states of the United States, it has gained worldwide acceptance for its outstanding cosmetic benefits.

Unrefined jojoba oil appears as a clear golden liquid at room temperature with a light odour. Refined jojoba oil is colourless, odourless, non-greasy and non-irritant.

It can be easily stored for long periods without getting rancid. The oil contains vitamins and flavonoids, which exert antioxidant effect.

Jojoba is found to exert excellent skin benefits on topical application. For example, it exerts a healing effect on skin lesions such as acne.

The regular application of jojoba oil also helps maintain the hydration of the skin, as it acts as an effective moisturiser.

It works as a potent vehicle for essential oils, as it penetrates deep into the skin and enhances skin permeability.  

Jojoba is used in a number of skin and scalp disorders. That has been confirmed or supported by various research studies that show its promising action as a skin emollient, anti-acne, antipsoriatic and anti-inflammatory agent when applied on skin.

When applied on hair and scalp, jojoba oil conditions the hair, hydrates and softens the scalp, and prevents and reduces hair loss and hair thinning. Thus, it helps add volume to the hair, imparting it a healthy shine and look.

Grape seed oil
Also called grape oil, it is obtained from the seeds of various varieties of grapes (Vitis vinifera), and is an abundant by-product of wine making.

Similar to jojoba oil, grape seed oil is non-greasy and odourless when not flavoured. It is a rich source of important nutrients such as fatty acids and phenols.

The linoleic acid present in this oil provides a therapeutic benefit in acne, as it helps reduce follicular inflammation.

Also, pertaining to the presence of Omega-6 fatty acids, grape seed oil is often used in face masks, as it helps in skin detoxification.

Grape seed oil is an excellent antioxidant, due to which it exerts anti-ageing effect. In research studies, it is also found to possess wound healing properties.

It is one of the preferred oils for application on the hair and scalp, as it is presumed to reduce hair loss and promote hair growth.

Olive oil
Derived from the fruit of Olea europea, olive oil is one of the most widely used carrier oils. It contains essential fatty acids, such as alpha linoleic acid.

When applied on skin, olive oil penetrates deep and provides a long-lasting moisturising effect, which helps to keep skin smooth and supple. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

When used on hair and scalp, it acts as a natural conditioner and also helps control dandruff. In research studies, olive oil is known to block dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone responsible for hair loss, and help prevent and reduce hair loss.

Wheat germ oil
Extracted from the wheat kernel, this oil is very high in vitamin E, the B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and calcium.

The regular application of wheat germ oil on skin is thought to improve blood circulation and maintain the glow and health of skin.

Also, it hydrates the skin and keeps it soft and supple. Due to its excellent antioxidant properties, wheat germ oil also helps reduce sagging and wrinkles of skin.

Passion Indulge
For gaining the beneficial results from carrier oils, it is imperative that these should be manufactured as per high-quality standards, and should be available in the purest and unadulterated form.

Passion Indulge Pvt Ltd promotes pure and natural aromatherapy-based cosmetics. Besides a range of pure essential oils, it provides two of the most important carrier oils (jojoba oil and grape seed oil) in their purest and highly standardised forms.

These two carrier oils serve as excellent vehicles for the entire pure essential oil range of Passion Indulge, and also have highly beneficial effects on skin and hair even when used alone.

Passion Indulge presents facial oil blends, which are unique combinations of pure essential oils and high-quality carrier oils, such as jojoba oil, grape seed oil, wheat germ oil and extra virgin olive oil.

These facial oil blends impart excellent skin shine and lustre and exert a revitalising effect when used along with the skincare range.   

Conclusion
Carrier oils have a unique place in the natural cosmetics industry. They are vital for diluting of the pure essential oils used in aromatherapy-based products or facials.

The carrier oils are advantageous in many ways. These include ease of storage; non-greasy and non-irritant characteristics; a simpler mode of application without needing any dilution; their healing and rejuvenating effect on skin and hair, and additional advantages, which they offer when blended in appropriate concentrations.

However, as is true with all cosmetics, high quality and standardisation are vital even for carrier oils in order to gain maximum benefit of these natural products.       m

[Footnote: This work is based on referencing of peer-reviewed articles available in the public domain, the list of which would be available on request to the author.]
[The author is AGM - Medical Affairs, Plethico Pharmaceuticals Ltd. She can be
contacted at shefaali@gmail.com]

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