Few people are familiar with the term carrier oils, yet they are a vital part of aromatherapy. Aromatherapists use essential oils in their treatment, and they provide the natural benefits for which this form of therapy is famous.
However, these essential products are highly distilled and diluted forms of the plant - in order to apply them they must be mixed with carrier oils.
Carrier oils are very versatile. They provide a perfect form of lubrication, allowing the hands to move easily over the skin, while also transporting the key ingredients into the body. To be effective they must be light and non-sticky, and with minimal odour.
However, to think of them as simply the vehicle to transport the main ingredient is to underestimate their role in aromatherapy, for they actually offer a wealth of health-giving benefits of their own - indeed, in a typical mixture, they will make up 98% of the aromatherapy treatment.
Typically derived from nuts and seeds, they contain a range of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids of their own. They can thus be very beneficial for the skin, whether it is simply softening it, or, as some can do, helping with conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Other people also find them helpful in reducing wrinkles and scar tissue.
For the best quality look for those that have been extracted using 'cold pressing' - while this is a slower, more expensive method of extraction, it helps to preserve the quality, the vitamins, minerals etc.
The alternative method, 'hot extraction', uses temperatures of up to 200? C, and can destroy the important vitamins and fatty acids.