Field Notes – Natural Oils 101

Oils are used in many beauty products from facial moisturizers to botanical perfumes and body scrubs – but they’re not all created equal.

When it comes to crafting your own beauty products, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of different oils, and what they’re used for.

Essential oils in your beauty products actually necessitate the use of other oils as a carrier oil to dilute them, as most a too concentrated for it to be safe to directly expose your skin to them.

When it comes to deciding which oils you want to use you have to consider multiple factors.

There are oils are a lot thicker than others that will linger on the skin’s surface, while some oils absorb easily into skin and hair – consider what you are using the oil for, and what your needs are. Often the solution is a blend.

Some oils, particularly ones packed with vitamins, nutrients, and other valuable constituents have a much higher price point than others and it may make sense to dilute these with a secondary less costly oil.

One also has to consider the desired effects the oil has – some oils are touted for their ability for fighting acne, while others are praised for their high antioxidant content. Do your research to find out what you’re looking for.

While it’s important to do your own research, here are a few quick notes on some common oils I’ve found through trial and error in my own experience.

Coconut Oil – Since it has a lower melting point than a lot of other oils, it is useful for including in balms and salves. It is extremely thick – useful in lotions, though for deep moisture I pair it with other oils. I’ve found it to be more occlusive – effective at keeping moisture locked in, but not great for absorption on it’s own. It’s anti-fungal and makes a great carrier oil for any scalp treatments, or deep conditioning hair.

Avocado Oil – An excellent deep moisturizing oil, this one is a winner for sure. I would probably only use it during the winter on my body, and sparingly if at all in facial oil. It permeates the skin and hair – I use it only in situations where I need an oil chock full of fatty acids and Vitamin E.

Jojoba Oil – A lighter oil with a fantastic absorption rate – chemically, it’s the naturally occurring oil that’s closest to the ones your skin produces on it’s own. It’s one of my go-to bases for facial oils, and it carries a scent beautifully and is very cheap so I tend to use it when experimenting with essential oil fragrance as well.

Sea Buckthorn Oil – This oil is one I would use in a blend – while it’s safe to apply to the skin directly it is an extract – and not a very cheap one. It’s chock full of Beta Carotene and Vitamin E as well as various fatty acids and antioxidants, making it an ideal anti-aging ingredient – plus, it’s supposed to help fight off acne and eczema. It’s a good overall facial serum ingredient.

Olive Oil – While this thicker oil can be used in a pinch, I would probably avoid using it as it carries a strong scent of it’s own. I know plenty of people that adore it – but I prefer to use extracted Squalane instead, one of it’s most useful constituents. If you don’t mind smelling like an Italian kitchen, it can do wonders for your hair and skin. Because of it’s high heat tolerance it makes a really great carrier oil for an infusion – for example, I have some nettle infused olive oil I use in facial oils.

Grapeseed Oil – Everyone’s skin is different and so oils affect them differently to an extent. For my skin, grape seed oil is a must. It’s my holy grail base for body oils and facial scrubs – it’s probably the thickest oil that my skin can still absorb right away, which means deep, lasting moisture. It’s high in linoleic acid and Vitamin E. It’s light enough for the summer, but thick enough for the winter – a great all around oil.

Rosehip Oil – 
All the Vitamin C you’ll ever need, this oil is also full of antioxidants. People say it helps to smooth their face and fight off fine lines. It’s easily absorbed into the skin, so if you have oily or combination skin you don’t need to worry. Rather than a stand-alone moisturizer I would use it as a nourishing addition to a thicker oil or lotion, though many people swear by using it by itself.

Shea Butter – While not technically an oil, I really couldn’t leave this one out. Often I use oils for a body moisturizer, but if I want to make a lotion I go with butters. They keep moisture in for longer than oils do, as they are much, much thicker. I generally add a few other lighter oils like almond oil to the blend that will absorb immediately, and the butter works to seal them in and provide even deeper moisture.  Shea butter is probably the easiest to find, but cocoa butter or mango butter work as well.

Evening Primrose Oil – I adore this oil for keeping redness and inflammation at bay – it’s fantastic for keep skin calm. It’s purported to treat hormonal imbalances and I’ve found it helps provide a buffer to rogue breakouts – so if you’re making a facial oil that targets skin conditions you may want to include this one. It also contains Vitamin E and C – and smells kind of nice, as well – all around a solid oil for facial serums.

There are countless oils to play with – almond, carrot seed, hazlenut – the list goes on, and on! Oils are exciting – there’s a lot to learn about how you can use them at home.

In addition to plant extracts, many herbs can be put into an oil infusion – calendula may be the most common, but there are many others. With cold pressed plant oils, herbal infusions, and essential oils all at your disposal, you’ll have to research for yourself to find which oils might be the right ones for your own needs!

I may do other more in-depth entries in the future as there is so much to cover, but for now I hope I’ve at least inspired you to get started reading about oils on your own!

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