Plant-based oils – essential, carrier, infused?

I regularly get questions about the oils I use in our skin-loving products and I realise there is a lot of confusion regarding the types of oils used in skincare. So I thought I would dedicate an entire post to this topic.

What is an essential oil? What is the difference between carrier oils and infused oils? Steam-distilled, cold pressed, solvent extracted, CO2, fragrance oils? I hear you, it is quite complicated to navigate confidently through this web of notions.

Let’s go through them one by one:

* Carrier oils are vegetable oils, cold or heat extracted from oil-rich nuts, kernels, seeds or fruits – we have here the olive, coconut, macadamia, avocado, jojoba, sesame, rosehip, almond, hazenut, grapeseed, castor, sunflower, neem, safflower oils. And the list remains open. They are also called base oils, fixed oils or fatty oils. The term of carrier oils comes from their purpose in carrying an essential oil since this is not supposed to be used undiluted onto the skin.

* Essential oils are concentrated oils containing volatile compounds from plants. They are also called volatile oils right because they have a higher evaporation rate (depending on this, they are classified as top, middle and base notes). They are obtained through steam-distillation or solvent extraction of plant material such as flowers, leaves, bark, roots, twigs, heartwood. The essential oils contain all the water soluble compounds found in plants. Citrus oils are the only essential oils extracted mainly by cold pressing their peel, however the solvent extraction method is also used in the industry. Essential oils are not fatty oils, thus not greasy to the touch. They are NOT to be used straight on the skin as they can be highly irritant or cause an allergic reaction.

* CO2 (carbon dioxide) oils are similar to essential oils in the way that they are a concentrated extraction of the plant compounds. Pressure and carbon dioxide are used to separate the plant material and extract most volatile compounds.

* Infused oils are herbal oils obtained through infusing the plant material into a vegetable/carrier oil which gets to extract all the oil soluble compounds. They are also called macerated oils and are obtained through either hot (on the stove) or cold (solar) infusion. As you know I only employ the slow solar infusion method as it is the gentlest way to extract the natural goodness of the plants. It takes between 10 to 18 weeks to obtain a good quality herbal infused oil which can be used straight/undiluted on the skin.

* Fragrance (aroma) oils are synthetic oils which simulate the aromatic profile of natural oils. Steer clear of them (though it can be challenging as they are widely used in cleaning products, perfumery, personal care products, candles, food flavourings, beverages).

I hope this puts some light into the notions of plant-based oils. Feel free to add a comment below if you have any questions or would like to share more details on this. Thank you ūüĆĽ

Bad eggs + nice strawbs? Not my kind of pavlova


Would you put bad eggs in a pavlova base thinking the fresh strawberries going on top would make up for that?

The same goes with skin-care products. Adding plant-based ingredients to a base of nasties (read synthetic alcohols, polymers, ethers, amides, parabens, sulphates, etc) doesn’t make much sense, does it? That trace of apricot kernel oil or green tea extract is not going to compensate for the effects of any SLS, PEG, PPG, DEA, TEA, MEA, DHT or DHA on the skin. These short names may sound acceptable, but what if you see the full names, such as: Sodium Laureth Sulphate, PolyEthylene Glycol, PolyPropylene Glycol, TriEthanolAmine, DiEthanolAmine, MonoEthanolAmine,¬†Butylated Hydroxytoluene, Butylated hudroxyanisole. All these synthetic chemicals¬†can not rejuvenate or nourish the skin. And mixing them with natural ingredients is not going to change the end-result.

It makes me sad to see lovely, natural compounds wasted in cocktails of nasty chemicals, just to make a product more marketable. Why not using ONLY natural ingredients?!? If the synthetic chemicals are so great, then what’s the need for embellishments like “enriched with natural ingredients” or “natural extracts added”? If a product is plain good, there is no need to add anything to it. But obviously the chemical traders have realised that consumers were not stupid and they have asked their marketing guys what to do to keep selling their dirty chemicals. Sad, isn’t it?
Excuse my ramblings, this is just a way of urging you to read the full list of ingredients on all products you buy and consume.
Nature does have everything we need. Enjoy the nature’s goodness!

How natural is natural?

Now that I carefully look at ingredients list on the packaging, I must admit I sometimes get confused when reading product labels. What is natural? And what is safe?

Unfortunately the use of “natural” on many products is so misleading that discerning between truly natural and so-called natural becomes quite difficult. Would you call Phenoxyethanol natural? How about¬†PEG 120 Methyl Glucose Dioleate? Or Sodium Laureth Sulfate aka SLS? Or Tetrasodium EDTA?

If you see these ingredients along with other synthetic preservatives on a skin-care product labelled “95% ingredients of natural origin” and called Organic Argan oil Facial Mousse, how would you feel?!?

Take a look at the full snapshot of the ingredients list:

ingredients list_natural product


If on the front label you see “95% ingredients of natural origin” and “organic argan oil” without reading the full ingredients list, you would think it is actually a safe skin-care product.

It’s misleading and it makes consumers think synthetic compounds are okay. I beg to differ!

Don’t let the marketing fool you – always read the full ingredients list before you make your decision to buy.¬† If an ingredient doesn’t sound right to you, then most likely it isn’t safe. And remember whatever you put on your skin will get into your bloodstream straight away.

To be sure, you can check the safety of different ingredients here:


Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Thank you.