Get your fix: carrier oils you should know

Lately it seems as if almost everyone is slathering their hair and skin in an array of fruit and vegetable oils to relieve almost every ailment. We break down a research article that reviewed some common carrier, or fixed, oils. These are the oils that come from the seeds, nuts, grains, and beans of various plants. They aren't as volatile or ready to evaporate as essential oils, the concentrated liquid aromatic compounds from plants. A few things to define before we start. When we talk about moisturizers, like oils, we see terms thrown around all the time, like "emollient" or "occlusive." What are these terms?

  • Emollient: ingredients that soften skin and give it that smooth feeling as it fills the tiny spaces between skin flakes, like grapeseed oil or cetyl stearate. 
  • Occlusive: ingredients that prevent or reduce water loss through the skin, like petrolatum or lanolin.
  • Humectant: ingredients that attract and bind water to help hydrate the skin, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Higher concentrations of humectants, however, can draw water from more areas of the skin and actually dry it out if it isn't kept in check by an occlusive.
Tamanu tree blooms (Image courtesy of

Tamanu tree blooms (Image courtesy of

Apricot kernel oil: a non-greasy emollient that's recommended for dry or more mature skin types

Argan oil: high in Vitamin E and fatty acids, it readily absorbs into skin to promote brightness and provide moisture

Avocado oil: a fast-absorbing oil that hydrates skin and is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, like oleic acid

Babassu oil: a non-comedogenic oil from Brazil that's high in antioxidants and Vitamin E, with phytosterols to protect collagen

Borage oil: an oil high in an essential fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid, making it a prize for dry skin and those with eczema and dermatitis

Camellia seed oil: a non-greasy oil that's easily absorbed and helps protect skin from environmental damage

Carrot oil: high in provitamin A and beta-carotene, it's extremely nutritious for your skin and is used in sun care products

Chia oil: it's as good for your skin health as it is for your nutrition, with vitamin b3 and zinc to help with clogged pores

Coconut oil: a traditional moisturizer found in tropical countries, but can be comedogenic for some. 

Evening primrose oil: another oil high in gamma linolenic acid, it's a favorite for moisturizers and helpful for those with atopic dermatitis

Grapeseed oil: high in linoleic acid, it's a fast-absorbing oil that contains phytosterols that can help with brightening

Hazelnut oil: its phospholipids allow it to have greater moisturizing power for much longer

Hemp oil: a rich oil high in arachidonic acid, an omega-6 unsaturated fatty acid that your body needs to function properly

Jojoba oil: a popular carrier oil, it's stable with a long shelf life and is similar to skin's own sebum, making it an excellent moisturizer

Kokum butter: one of the hardest natural butters, it contains oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid, making it an excellent emollient

Kukui nut oil: a panacea for Hawaiians to use on especially sensitive or dry skin to nurture and nourish even delicate infant skin

Marula oil: similar to olive oil in composition, it's an effective moisturizer for dry, cracked skin

Meadowfoam seed oil: a quick-absorbing and stable oil that gives you a silky, smooth skin feeling

Mongogo oil: an oil that is rich in phytosterols and natural proteins, it is revered especially for its linoleic acid to calm inflammation

Olive oil: safe and gentle for your skin and hair, with anti-aging antioxidants from olive oil squalene

Rosehip seed oil: once called "the fountain of youth", it's especially useful for dry, mature skin and has been praised for its regenerative properties

Sea buckthorn oil: an oil that is extremely useful for bruised skin to speed wound healing

Shea butter: crucial for the replenishment of dry, cracked, and dehydrated skin

Sweet almond oil: known to improve complexion and even out skin tone, it's a simple and effective moisturizer

Tamanu oil: a hydrating and soothing oil that also calms irritation, particularly from sunburn and rashes, and helps to regenerate skin cells