The First Ingredient Counts: An Exploration into Carrier Oils



The First Ingredient Counts: An Exploration into Carrier Oils


Do you consider what comprises formula?

Carrier oils are usually the first ingredient on the listing, comprising from 70–90% of a product’s formulation. In Elle’s expert opinion, this is the component of a product that can make or break it. This is why she’s created a quick and easy guide to understanding carrier oils in their individual form, identifying the preferred ingredients that we should use in our Made with You range, considering everyone’s unique needs.

Did you know — we’re creating an unparalleled micro-range of activated essentials. Find out how you can co-design your own natural skincare range with leading experts – and get it free for an entire year.

There are a lot of misconceptions around carrier oils, understanding when and where they should be used in formulations and how they affect the skin can help you to get your skincare working best for your skin type. Carrier oils are oils used to dilute and carry more concentrated ingredients, usually essential oils on to the skin.

Carrier oils, in my opinion, make or break a product’s composition. If they are too heavy, they risk clogging the skin, undoing the hard work the active ingredient has done. If they’re too light they don’t provide enough moisturise to the skin leaving it requiring more. With all the different carrier oils being used in formulations, it is important for you to know the type and quality of the oils and how they are best used in order to get the best out of your skincare. I’ll go through the most common carrier oils used in body, haircare and facial products and their benefits.  


Coconut oil

This is probably the most commonly misunderstood carrier oil. In recent times it has become popular to use coconut oil as a multi-use product in your bathroom cabinet. However, most coconut oil that you can get your hands on, including most unrefined coconut oils, are registered as food grade and therefore have been processed in some way to make them safe. This reduces the benefits of the oil such as its anti-fungal, anti-microbial effects. For the most part coconut oil should be used sparingly in formulations as it is a heavy oil, that with prolonged use can stop the skin from being able to work efficiently, leaving you with congestion and breakouts. Coconut oil is probably best used in its saponified form meaning used in a soap. This reduces the residue is produces and allows it to work its magic on the skin. Coconut oil is best used in cleansers, diluted into hydrating body products and in some shampoo and conditioner formulations.

Sweet Almond oil

Sweet almond oil is one of the more traditional carrier oils, usually used in formulating massage or body oils, its lightweight and highly absorbent formulation make it a great base for body moisturisers, oils and balms. Having variety in the types of oils in different formulations is important to ensure that a product penetrates deeply in to the skin, changing the skin’s hydration levels. Sweet almond oil is a great oil for this as it is sits between medium and lightweight, providing variation in a formulation.  

Jojoba oil

If you have been reading Noèma for a while now you will definitely have read us talking about jojoba oil. This handy little seed oil is technically a wax, the closest oil to our skin’s natural sebum, making it perfect for acne prone or sensitive skin. Jojoba is used in many formulations for skin, both face and body due to both the ability of the skin to recognise it as its own oils and because it is light enough to penetrate deeply into the skin to provide oil-based moisture. Jojoba oil is best in formulations such as facial oils and creams as well as oil-based body products.  

Argan Oil

Argan oil is beautiful mid-weight oil that provides skin and hair with vitamins A and E as well as essential fatty acids. Argan oil acts as a nutrient dense base to formulations for body and hair care. Due to argan oil’s medium weight it should be used in facial products sparingly. If you are someone who tends to get clogged pores or is prone to congestion and breakouts, keep this oil in your body and hair care products rather than your facial products.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil is actually a by-product of the wine making process, making the sourcing of grapeseed oil that little bit more sustainable. Grapeseed oil is a lightweight oil that absorbs deeply in to the skin, making it perfect for delivering actives such as vitamin A in to the skin. This beautiful oil has naturally high levels of vitamin E and no scent, perfect for most skin types and great for adding variation to facial oil formulations.  

Olive oil

Olive oil is an underrated oil, rich in fatty acids and plant sterols, it is a perfect oil for creating rich body products for moisturising dehydrated skin. One of the best ways that olive oil is used in skincare and body products is through saponification, formulated in to cleansing products. Olive oil creates a luxurious non-stripping base for soaps bars, liquid soaps and facial cleanser that leaves the skin feeling clean and hydrated, maintaining the skin’s mantle barrier.

Rosehip oil

Rosehip oil is derived from the hip, the seed or fruit, of the rose plant. It is a lightweight, dry oil that can improve the texture and elasticity of the skin. The vitamin A content in the oil helps to increase skin cell turnover and pigmentation. This beautiful carrier oil is best used in facial formulations in products such as facial oils and moisturisers.


Key Takeaway

The main thing with carrier oils is making sure that they are of a high quality, cold pressed and unrefined. In terms of formulating, having variety in carrier oils, lightweight, medium and some heavy weight, will give the skin hydration at different levels. The amount of the carrier oil present in the formulation is also important to balance out the effects of the carrier oil and the actives and other oils in the formulation.


Co-Design Your Activated Essentials —

Here at Noéma, we’re busy researching the best ingredients - so that we can make the best activated essentials for you, with you. We’re taking a radically new direction in skincare; we use you as the key ingredient.

By collaborating with industry experts such as naturopaths, biochemists, product specialists and formulators, our aim is to create an Activated Essentials product range with the best ingredients, formula and design.

We’re taking applications from our diverse community to contribute to co-designing an essential micro-range of products right for them. Get involved in upcoming events and workshops covering wellness, self-care and design.


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