Almond Oil: Sweet almond oil has been used for centuries as a dermatological cure-all. Rich in vitamin E, A,D and B as well as minerals such as magnesium and calcium, the fine texture of almond-oil is ideal for dry irritated skin as it penetrates the dermis easily and then continues to moisturize for a long time. This is a light nourishing oil that soothes dry itchy and inflamed skin. It is an excellent carrier oil due to its clear colour and smell, and also because the shelf-life is quite long.
Apricot Kernel Oil: As the name suggests, this oil is pressed from the kernel of the apricot fruit. It is a clear, fine oil, with slightly nutty, or no smell. If you ever open up the kernel of a stone fruit you will notice that it looks like an almond – and the oil is indeed similar to almond oil, or any other kernel oil. As with almond oil this oil is rich in vitamin A and E, and also contains vitamin C. Composed wholly of unsaturated fats, apricot kernel oil is an excellent moisturizer and is often used in lip balms, and scalp treatments, because it penetrates the skin easily and is quickly absorbed. This oil doesn’t solidify when refrigerated so since the shelf-life is somewhat short, I suggest keeping it in the fridge.
Avocado Oil: This oil is highly prized as a therapeutic, healing oil, especially suited for mature and dry skin. It is full of vitamins (A, E and D) and amino acids – just like the fruit it originates from. Avocado oil is an excellent moisturizer, emollient and skin re-generator. A rich, greenish oil, it does tend to spoil quicker and has a shelf life of about 6 months. I keep mine refrigerated. Avocado oil has a high amount of unsaponifiables, meaning much of this oil will not saponify but remain unchanged in your soap: as such, it can be a good oil to superfat with, but too much of it can also lower the shelf-life of your soap.
Beeswax: Beeswax is not an oil or a butter, it is of course, a wax, created by the worker bees in constructing the honey comb, and for that reason, it is not considered vegan. Nutrient-rich and non-toxic beeswax has been used since before antiquity for its healing, medicinal properties and as a beauty product. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic with antioxidant properties, beeswax is a miracle substance that helps wounds to heal. The wax provides a protective healing coat, locking in moisture and providing a barrier against damaging factors. As a skin-emollient beeswax moisturizes and softens the skin. Beeswax is used to “set” or hold oils and butters, making them more solid and thick. You don’t need a lot of wax to set a butter, but if you add oils, wax is probably a good additive if you are making lipbalm or balms in general. Beeswax is also used to bind water and oils when making lotions and creams, and beeswax never goes bad, so it’s a good thing to add to your balms!
Cocoa Butter: Cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa bean, which is endemic to the Americas. The history of the cocoa bean gives us an insight into how valuable this bean it. The Latin name of the cocoa plant means “food of the gods,” (easy to understand since it produces chocolate) and the cocoa bean was used as a currency by the Aztecs, who also used it in their ceremonies, ground down as a drink. Grown mostly in South America, and now also in West Africa, the cocoa bean produces a very smooth, ivory butter, which is solid at room temperature, and has a melting point of about 35 degrees Celsius. For this reason, it is a great butter to use in for moisturizing- , exfoliating-, and massage-bars, because it will stay solid until you rub it on your skin (or eat it, if you are making chocolate). Of course, the sweet smell doesn’t hurt. You can also buy deodorized cocoa butter, which doesn’t smell like chocolate. Personally, I like the smell. Composed of mostly saturated oils, cocoa butter has an unusually long shelf life. Because of its high melting point, cocoa butter can be hard to cut and is usually sold in pellet form.
Coconut Oil: This nut oil is another multi-tasker that you can both eat and turn into body products. High in saturated fats, it is mostly produced in Africa and Asia either from copra (dried coconut kernel) or from the fresh meat (Virgin coconut oil). Usually, it is recommended that you buy the higher grade virgin oil to ensure that it doesn’t contain contaminants. When you see coconut oil in the store it is rarely in liquid form because it melts at 24 degrees Celsius. At temperatures just above 20 C the oil tends to be solid but soft-ish. When refrigerated it will be solid and hard, but melts and is absorbed very quickly when handled. When I made the deodorant it was 30 degrees in Montreal, so I didn’t even have to turn my stove on. I just poured the oil over the dry stuff, blended – and done! In its liquid state coconut oil is very slippery and clear – it is an ideal moisturizer and is often used in soaps because it retains moisture and increases yield. This oil tends to be easy to find, in either ethnic or health-food stores, and usually pretty inexpensive.
Jojoba: Jojoba is actually a liquid wax, produced from the seeds of a bush that grows in the desert areas of the US and Mexico. The clear golden oil is liquid at room temperature, but will go solid and opaque in the fridge, or below 10 degrees. It has been heralded as a magic for the skin, since chemically, the wax esters in jojoba closely resemble human sebum – the oils in our skin. This means that the oil penetrates the skin deeply, and can also soften and dislodge impurities trapped in your skin (in your sebum actually). You can use the oil directly on your skin and hair, or add it to your balms, hair tonics and lotions. A lot of people tend to use it in hair products because of it’s ability to penetrate the scalp. Jojoba is also a natural fungicide. This oil tends to be pricey, but it is worth it. For my money, I would rather get Jojoba than Argan oil. But that’s me.
Olive Oil: I won’t spend too much time on Olive oil, because I think we all know it and use it. Don’t we? It’s worth mentioning that it is full of anti-oxidants. It is often used for soap making, and makes a soft slippery soap. The chemical composition and relative long shelf life of olive oil makes it an excellent carrier oil for macerations and infusions. But sometimes certain kinds of olive oils have a strong, distinctly fruity or nutty smell that can overpower the herb you are infusing. So for mild herb infusions, like chamomile or other flowers, make sure the oil you are using isn’t overpowering in smell. Stronger herbs or roots will soon dominate the oils however. I have used it to infuse green tea, juniper, peppers, hot peppers etc. with good success.
Rosehip Oil: In French it is called huile de rose musquée, this oil extracted from the red button fruit of the musk rose. Typically grown in South America, but also found all over the world, the musk rose is a wild shrub with white or pinkish five petaled flowers. This oil is so packed with vitamins and antioxidants that it is used on its own as an anti-age serum. Speaking with my local supplier about this oil the sales lady called it an “anti everything” meaning: anti-wrinkle, -age, -dryness, -irritation and so on. Specifically, rosehips contain a lot of vitamin C (so much in fact, that it has been a staple in Scandinavian daycares where it is served as a juice or soup especially before orange juice became readily available. In fact, it has more vitamin C than an orange.). Rich in fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9, this oil is especially suited for treating skin ailments like psoriasis and eczema. Rosehip oil should be kept in a dark bottle (like all oils really) and refrigerated, because the shelf life is short and to protect those regenerative properties. Typically pricey, a 200 ml bottle of organic rosehip oil can set you back 30-40$. If you see it sold for less than that, be sure to check that it is not an infusion or maceration of rosehips.
Safflower Oil: Safflower is extracted from the seeds of the yellow safflower. It is used in cooking and also for body products. Kind of like olive oil. Safflower is a clear yellow oil, and has a distinct smell which is not unpleasant. It has excellent moisturizing properties and is described as a light highly absorbent oil, that protects the skin. However, I don’t find it particularly light. Maybe it’s because I have the food grade version of the oil. Organic and virgin, but nonetheless. I have used it for infusing calendula to great success though, so maybe it doesn’t make a difference. One thing about safflower is that it contains lots of vitamin E.
Shea: Shea butter is extracted from the shea or karite-tree nut, which grows in the African Savannah belt, where its use ranges from culinary to cosmetic. High in anti-oxidants, vitamins A and E, this rich buttery substance high in fatty acids is an intense moisturizer that helps soothe and heal damaged skin, and chronic skin conditions, such as rashes, eczema and psoriasis. Shea also helps protect from sun damage, ideal for sensitive skin, new tattoos, scars and wounds. Shea butter is a solid ivory butter, sticky and yet smooth to the touch. Shea melts at body temperature (37 degrees C) which means that like cocoa-butter you have to melt it in a double boiler when making your products.