Part 5: The Appropriate Dose (Topical Application)-Carrier Oils
Carrier oils do just what their name suggests; they “carry” essential oils onto the skin for absorption. Although mixing an essential oil with a carrier oil dilutes its potency, it also increases absorption by slowing the rate of evaporation. It is preferable to use carrier oils that are 100 percent pure vegetable oils because they readily dissolve the essential oil and also preserve the oil’s delicate chemical profile.
Many varieties of carrier oils exist including sweet almond oil, walnut oil, macadamia nut oil, linseed oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and others. Most carrier oils contain long chain fatty acids that can oxidize over time. For this purpose, some carrier oils undergo a process of fractionation in order to prolong their shelf life. The most common oil to undergo this process is coconut oil, which in its whole form is a thick solid with a consistency similar to butter. Fractionation is a physical process (no solvents are added) that separates out the shorter length fatty acid chains. Because the final product, called fractionated coconut oil, has a higher proportion of short chain fatty acids, it has a much longer shelf life than other vegetable oils. This process also changes the texture of the oil from a solid fat to a liquid, non-greasy, and lightweight oil, ideal for topical application.