Friday, June 18, 2010

What Beauty is Made of: Base Oils

Ok, I admit it: I'm addicted to reading labels. Be it clothing, food or cosmetics in particular, I can't help it; I passionately decypher the ingredients' list and pretend to be all the wiser. I'm sure at least some of you share this obsession with me, but how often do we actually know what the ingredients that make up our cosmetics really are? Most of the time, I don't. Do you?

I've been thinking about this recently while browsing natural skincare lines. I've noticed that I'm much more drawn to the products which the producer supplied with not only an ingredients' list, but also a detailed description of what each ingredient is supposed to do for my skin. Maybe it's just me, but I love knowing what it is that I'm putting on my face and how it is supposed to work to my skin's benefit.

Pursuing that train of thought, I decided to start a new series 'What Beauty is Made of', in which I'll try to break down the most common (or the coolest :) skincare ingredients for you, explaining what they are and what they do. Sounds interesting? Keep reading; if not, come back later.

So today we're going to devote ourselves to the study of base oils, which are also called carrier oils, fixed oils or vegetable oils (do I sound like a teacher? That's probably because I am one). Base oils are commonly used in natural skincare to dilute and carry essential oils into the skin. They differ from essential oils in that they usually have a delicate scent, aren't volatile and are derived from the fatty portion of a plant (seeds, kernels, nuts) and not from leaves or flowers as in the case of essential oils. Similarly to essential oils, base oils have many benefits; they contain vitamins, minerals and Essential Fatty Acids which are indispensable for our skin. To preserve all these fragile nutritients, base oils should be produced using cold-pressing, cold expeller pressing or maceration method.

Let's take a closer look at some of my favorite base oils:

Olive (Olea europaea) oil - The most readily available and universally beneficial oil. It's quite heavy and has a distinct scent, but works miracles on the skin: it's a great moisturizer (it's rich in omega-9 fatty acids and antioxidants), works a treat as a cleansing oil, can be used in a bath or combined with sugar for a great natural exfoliator. Try Spa Goddess's DIY lavender honey salt scrub recipe - it's good enough to eat!

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) oil
- This oil is produced from a beautiful flower which blooms at the sunset, hence the name (how romantic!). Rich in omega-6 and other acids, it has an anti-inflammatory effect and helps to reduce swelling and irritation. It's beneficial in the treatment of various skin conditions including acne, eczema and psoriasis. Softens and hydrates the skin.

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinesis) oil - In fact, it's a wax produced from leathery leaves of a desert shrub of jojoba. Its composition is similar to that of skin's natural oils, which makes it a perfect treatment for oilier skin types: it mimicks the sebum so that your skin doesn't have to produce that much of it. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well and a very long shelf life.

Rose Hip (Rosa mosqueta) oil
- This expensive oil hydrates the skin and retards the appearance of skin-aging signs, photo-aging included. It also reduces scars, helps strengthen broken capillaries and can be used to treat damaged, brittle hair or sunburns.

Meadowfoam (Limnathes alba) oil
- Rich in Vitamin E, which helps to combat the signs of aging. It moisturizes the skin, protects it from sunrays and adds shine to lifeless hair. It's very stable and soaks in easily without leaving a greasy residue.

Have you tried any of these oils? What are your favorites? I hope you enjoyed this post and the concept of the series and stay tuned for a new chapter next week: we're going to experiment with hydrosols.


  1. This post was great! I actually just received some Rosehip oil from a lovely girl on Youtube. It smells vile, but I hadn't done any research on it. I'm excited to give it a go now :)

    I actually like Vitamin E oil - I have no idea which category it falls into though, but it's good for massaging into dry skin, and for your insides too, as you can slather it on yourself or eat it. Multipurpose is always key :)

  2. This is such a great idea for a post series!!

    We love a good bit of Rose's our favourite!


  3. @Cami: I'm glad you liked it! Hmm, if it smells really bad it's possible the oil's gone rancid, the smell should be mild and slightly earthy.

    I think Vitamin E oil is just some kind of base oil (not necessarily vegetable, it can also be mineral oil based) with added Vitamin E, which is oil soluble. I've heard many peeps recommend it, but I think the key is to make sure it natural!

    @The Beauty Bite: I love the smell of wild roses and can't wait to get my hands on this oil and use it on my scars! xxx

  4. i love these educational posts! it makes me want to go fhrohmugh some of my products to see which base oils i use most often!

  5. @fantastic: Oh, do let me know when you check that, it'd be fun to compare! xxx

  6. I'm just like you, I like to read the ingredients' list, especially for skin care and hair care products and food. I try to use as much organic products as I can, except for makeup.
    Thanks for your post, it will be usefull for a lot of beauty addicts ;)

  7. @Mademoiselle C.: I'm really happy that you find it useful! I have many more planned to come in the following weeks :) xxx

  8. Reading ingredients is so me :)
    I like those educational posts and I appreciate you are writing them, because it takes time and some research, so it is not as simply as writing reviews and suchlike posts.

  9. @Liene: Another happy customer ;) Thank you for your sweet words, hun. These do take a while to write but I enjoy learning about things I'm obsessed with, so here goes :) xxx

  10. What a wonderful, informative post. I love evening primrose too and have just discovered Sisymbre which is very pungent but really rather lovely!

    Thank you for teaching me something today x

  11. @Lipglossiping: I've never heard if Sisymbre, I'll have to check this one out! Glad to be of use :) xxx

  12. great post! im an ingredient junkie as well, and love ingredient glossaries where they put the big words into terms i understand! I love oils, did you find these were the oils in your favourite products or do you just use them in their pure form?

  13. @A Certain Vintage: I use some of these in my products, like Jojoba or Argan oil (which I didn't include...) and the rest are the ones that sound the most interesting to me and I'd love to get them one day! I have to limit my collection for now though as I'm moving this Saturday :) xxx

  14. This is a great post! Glad I found your blog. I write similar educational posts about makeup and skincare and I also love reading them!
    New follower here for sure. Hope you can check out my blog and return the favour!

  15. I am also a fan of natural oils. I have about 7 different types and use them at night to moisturise my skin. I haven`t bought face creans in ages as theses oils keep my skin beautiful. I`m 50 and people comment on how lovely my skin looks! I always had dry patches of skin on my face when using well known face never!! Lucinda

  16. These base oils helps to improve skin. After using these oils skin looking very glow and attractive.

    Recycled Oil