Castor oil, carrier oil, what’s the difference?
Carrier oils are a type of oil that you mix in with more potent oils, such as essential oils. Carrier oils are very important because they help to dilute the potent essential oil. Although essential oils are great for many reasons, they can be irritating to the skin when used in their pure form.
This likely leads many to wonder whether castor oil is a carrier oil. If it’s not, then does it need to be mixed with a carrier oil? I’m aiming to answer those questions here today.
What Is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is a vegetable oil that is naturally found in Eastern Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, as well as parts of Asia and India. The oil is pressed from the castor bean plant until is secretes a clear, thick, yellow liquid.
Locals have been using their native castor bean plants for centuries. It has most often been used for constipation, but it has many other uses as well. Some cultures are believed to have used castor oil to light their lamps.
Today, castor oil’s most common use is for constipation. Castor oil is safe to ingest in small quantities, and it is very effective at treating occasional constipation. However, the oil is also becoming more popular for other reasons.
It is an incredibly moisturizing product that can help with both dry skin and hair. It promotes healthy growth of new hair and skin, and you can see a difference after just a few days of using it.
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What Is A Carrier Oil?
Although many oils have great health benefits, they are often quite potent. When an oil is too potent, it can actually cause more harm than good if it is applied to the skin in its pure form.
Instead, these more potent oils should be mixed with something called a “carrier oil”, or a base oil. Essentially, a carrier oil is a type of oil that is much easier and gentler on the skin.
Carrier oils are great to mix with more potent oils because the carrier oil helps to dilute the more potent oil, reducing the likelihood of irritation.
The History Of Carrier Oils
They are processed from a variety of different products such as vegetables, seeds, kernels, and nuts.
Carrier oils have been used for centuries, all the way back to the time of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks used carrier oils in their baths, massages, cosmetics, and even in their medicine.
In modern times, carrier oils were used beginning around the 1950’s. Essential oils were used for the first time for therapeutic reasons. Marguerite Maury began combining different essential oils to achieve her desired results.
While experimenting with her essential oils, Marguerite began to dilute her essential oils with carrier oils. She would then massage the oil mixtures into the skin.
Its Moisturizing Properties
Carrier oils, or fixed oils, are great to use in combination with more potent oils because they stay within the skin for a longer period of time. The reason they are called “fixed” oils is because they stay inside the membrane of the skin for a long time, locking in moisture and preventing the potent oil from causing irritation.
You may be worried that if you mix a carrier oil with other oils, that the results of the oils may also be reduced. However, there is nothing to worry about, as you will receive the same benefits as if you used the pure form of the oil.
In fact, your results will be better with a carrier oil, because you are less likely to experience a reaction or any irritation. People who use the pure form of an oil — like castor oil — often experience symptoms like redness, rashes, and itching.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid this — just use a carrier oil!
Besides preventing irritation, carrier oils are great for another reason: they usually smell good. Many times, more potent oils do not smell very good. Castor oil, for example, has a strong odor. While not completely repulsive, castor oil does not smell that great.
If you’re using castor oil as a health care product, chances are that you don’t want to smell badly because of that product. Many people use carrier oils to help their potent oils smell better. This is one reason why carrier oils are so commonly used in massage therapy.
Carrier Oil Properties
Besides its diluting properties, carrier oils contain many components that make them great for your health. Not all carrier oils are the same, so you should choose whichever one is going to best suit your beauty-care regime. Carrier oils will vary based on their color, smell, how thick they are, and how well they penetrate into the skin.
Generally, they can help with the overall health of the skin and hair because they contain things like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Here is a list of essential components often found within carrier oils:
- Minerals: balances oil production, tightens skin, protects skin from stressors
- Vitamins: repairs skin tissue, hydrates skin, reduces swelling
- Sterolins: repairs sun damage, age spots, & scars
- Oleic Acids: maintains softness & shininess, stimulates growth, boosts immunity
- Linoleic Acids: Moisturizes, reduces swelling & promotes healing, prevents acne
- Vitamin E: prevents wrinkles, repairs damaged tissue
- Lecithin: hydrates, increases circulation, softens
- Phytosterols: relieves sun damage, promotes new growth, boosts immunity
- Essential Fatty Acids: hydrates, removes toxins, protects against bacteria, maintains natural oil barrier
- Selenium: prevents wrinkles, heals burns & wounds, contains anti-oxidants
- Medium-Chain Triglycerides: fights bacteria, fungi, & viruses, moisturizes, encourages growth
- Palmitoleic Acid: moisturizes, encourages growth, prevents the appearance of aging
Examples Of Carrier Oils
Now that you know what carrier oils are, you’re probably wondering which oils are classified as a carrier oil. Carrier oils are split into two categories: soft and hard oils.
Soft oils are called as such because they will be liquid at room temperature. They are the best oils for moisturizing your skin and hair. These are commonly used in products such as soap because it prevents it from cracking.
Soft oils include:
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Sweet Almond oil
- Rice Bran oil
Hard oils are called as such because they will be hard at room temperature. If you want to use these oils as a liquid — for example, if you’re mixing them with another oil to create a moisturizer — then you’ll need to melt them.
Hard oils are also very important in a variety of products because they add firmness. Using the soap bar as an example again, without a hard oil, the soap bar would be too soft to even be considered a bar.
Hard oils include:
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
Is Castor Oil A Carrier Oil?
Can castor oil be used as a carrier oil? Is castor oil a carrier oil for hair? What about for skin?
Castor oil is not considered to be a carrier oil because it is quite potent. Although castor oil has a lot of amazing properties, it is not considered safe to be used in its pure form.
Is Castor Oil An Essential Oil?
So, castor oil is not a carrier oil, so that must mean it’s an essential oil, right? After all, I stated that carrier oils are usually used to dilute essential oils.
Well, this is not always the case. Castor oil is not an essential oil, but it is not a carrier oil, either. Either way, castor oil is a very potent product that should always be mixed with a carrier oil before using it.
Is Black Castor Oil A Carrier Oil?
Black castor oil is still a type of castor oil, therefore it is not a carrier oil and should not be used in its pure form.
The main difference between “regular” castor oil and black castor oil is the pH. Black castor oil tends to have a higher pH, making it a more basic product. Conversely, “regular” castor oil has a lower pH, making it more acidic.
Does Castor Oil Need A Carrier Oil?
Most people who use castor oil in its pure form are going to experience some unwanted symptoms. Most often, your skin is going to feel irritated and itchy. You may also develop redness, swelling, and you may even develop a rash.
If you ingest pure castor oil, you’re likely to develop even more severe symptoms.
Whether or not you should ingest castor oil has been debated for awhile. Ingesting too much of the oil can cause very unpleasant symptoms. However, castor oil has also been long known to effectively treat occasional constipation.
Because of these contradictions, it’s recommended to consult a doctor before ingesting castor oil for any reason. A doctor can tell you a safe amount to take to prevent developing symptoms.
If you ingest too much, you are likely to experience vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, and dizziness.
Fortunately, you can avoid all these symptoms by simply mixing your castor oil with a carrier oil.
Therefore, it is safe to say that castor oil is not a carrier oil. A carrier oil would not cause all these symptoms when used in its pure form.
Can You Use Castor Oil As A Carrier Oil For Essential Oils?
Castor oil does not work as a carrier oil, so it should not be used as a carrier oil for essential oils, either.
Yes, it is a great idea to mix essential oils with castor oil. Essential oils can add a lot of great properties to a product, so they can certainly enhance plain castor oil.
However, castor oil IS NOT a carrier oil. Castor oil and essential oils mixed together still need an additional carrier oil. If you skip the carrier oil, you’re likely to experience irritation.
Is Castor Oil A Good Carrier Oil?
As I’ve mentioned, castor oil is not a carrier oil and should not be used as such. Castor oil is a very potent product and can cause irritation on its own. When mixed with another potent oil, you’ll be even more likely to experience irritation.
So, simply make sure that you use a true carrier oil when using castor oil.
Castor Carrier Oil Benefits
Although castor oil is not a carrier oil, there are many carrier oils that you can mix in with your castor oil. Here are some of my favorites:
- Coconut Oil: this carrier oil is very light, so it makes a good companion to the thicker castor oil. Coconut oil also has antibacterial properties to help protect your skin and hair.
- Vitamin E Oil: this carrier oil is great because of its concentrated ingredients that are rich in antioxidants. This is the best oil to use to fight the signs of aging on skin, and can be used on your hair as well.
- Tea Tree Essential Oil: this carrier oil is great for protecting the skin from damage, particularly acne. It has antibacterial and antiseptic properties which are great for fighting infection and inflammation.
- Argan Oil: this carrier oil is the best for repairing skin imperfections. It can reduce the appearance of acne scars, stretch marks, and other blemishes. It can also help your hair to become softer and smoother.
- Lavender Essential Oil: this carrier oil is best for fighting infection and healing skin. It can cure dandruff, reduce acne, and promotes healing of wounds.
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So, what’s the verdict? Can castor oil be a carrier oil?
Castor oil is not a carrier oil, and it is not an essential oil, either. However, castor oil is very potent and can be quite irritating to the skin when used in its pure form. Because of this, it’s very important that you use a carrier oil in combination with your castor oil.
Whether you’re looking to treat constipation, make your hair stronger, or heal your skin, castor oil can be very effective. Combine castor oil’s properties with the properties of a good carrier oil and you’ll be golden. The carrier oil and castor oil will work together to make your skin, hair, or gut healthier while minimizing the risk of irritation.
Learn more about using castor oil on your face overnight here and here for how it works as a moisturizer. You can also find all our castor oil guides here.As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.