Beautiful Seed Carrier Oils

Nut and seed carrier oils hydrate and protect your skin.

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Does your skin feel dehydrated even though you drink plenty of water and eat enough fruits and vegetables? It could be that your skin needs the fabulous lipid-based nut and seed carrier oils it craves. Afterall, we are lipid-based creatures, from our cell membranes to our hormones, and we benefit–inside and out–by caring for our skin with plant-based seed oils.

Many people love apply nourishing plant-based oils directly to their skin, and you may even incorporate them into moisturizing lip balm, cream, and face oil formulations. Beyond the most common options, like coconut and olive oils, there are several other unexpected seed carrier oils worth exploring for skincare, such as cranberry seed, raspberry seed, and pumpkin seed oils!

Why are there so many different botanical oils to choose from? Many nuts and seeds are byproducts of the food and beverage industries and recognized as valuable raw materials. Imagine all the seeds leftover from making cranberry and pomegranate juice!

What’s in a Name?

You may notice that skincare oils are categorically called different names, such as “carrier,” “base,” “vegetable,” and “fixed.”

  • Carrier and base are synonymous with an oil’s ability to hold and deliver lipid-based components, such as carotenoids, phytosterols and essential oils, to your skin. In many aromatherapy and body care recipes, you’ll dilute essential oils in a carrier or base oil to help reduce the concentration of the essential oil so it’s safer to apply directly on your skin.
  • Vegetable oils are made from vegetables like corn and soy – often as byproducts of the food industry.
  • Volatile oils are the non-oily feeling aromatics, like the lipid-loving essential oils used in aromatherapy that are also important parts of the flavor and fragrance industries.
  • “Fixed oils are…”

Consistency Matters

Have you noticed that some oils are either solid or liquid depending on the temperature? Saturated oils, such as shea and cocoa “butters,” are solid at relatively warm temperatures due to their high melting points; however poly-unsaturated oils, such as flax seed, freeze at -2 degrees Fahrenheit! These qualities are due to each oil’s fatty acid molecule (a.k.a., Long Chain Fatty Acids or LCFAs) composition of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

When you hear that an oil is “saturated,” it means that all carbons, in particular carbon chains of an oil’s composition, are saturated with hydrogen atoms.

So why does this matter? When it comes to carrier oils for skincare, oils with a greater number of saturated LCFAs (like shea butter) tend to be more shelf-stable and sit on the skin’s surface longer compared to less-saturated oils (like flaxseed oil), which penetrate the skin more quickly and have a shorter shelf life.

Seed Carrier Oils Podcast

If you want to learn more about processing your own cold-press seed carrier oils, listen to this two-part Mother Earth News and Friends podcast with Bevin Cohen and editor Jessica Mitchell.

Cold-Pressed Oils

You may notice that some nut and seed carrier oils have color and an aroma, take coconut oil for example. But what if you see coconut oil listed as a cream’s main ingredient but cannot smell coconut? This is where process-related words like “refined,” “unrefined,” “expeller,” and “cold pressed” come into play. Oils are often refined to increase shelf stability and give the product a neutrality, such as a lack of color or aroma that some customers may see as off-putting. Yet the more refined an oil is, the less nutrition and healing potential it has!

Unrefined, cold-pressed oils are a must for skincare as they aren’t degraded by heat or stripped of their healing fractions.

As a generalization, cold-pressed oils are emollient, protective, nourishing, and great for most people regardless of age. You may notice that several oils are indicated for “sensitive” and “maturing” skin. Unless there is a specific allergy, oils are beneficial for everyone!

Notice whether your skin loves oils with more saturated LCFAs (e.g., avocado and olive) or less saturated LCFAs (like flaxseed or hemp). From there, you’ll find that many oils are interchangeable.

Natural pumpkin seed oil

Seed Carrier Oils to Try

With so many oils in the world to know and love it can be daunting to find a starting point. Try a few oils from plants native to the Americas! Listed below are a few to consider incorporating into your skincare routine.

  • Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) is high in antioxidants and vitamins E and C. It supports healthy skin structure, absorbs rapidly into the skin, and is excellent for most skin types (Worwood, 2016).
  • Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a flowering annual plant native to Central America. Its oil is rich in tocopherols, which isan antioxidant (Ayerza, 2009 and zinc, which is indicated for tissue repair. Research indicates it may help with hyperpigmentation (Rana, 2018).
  • Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is related to blueberry and other plants that thrive in acidic soils. Suitable for most skin types, cranberry oil absorbs quickly and offers a unique balance of Omega 3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids not seen in other oils (Ahmad, 2019).
  • Meadowfoam (Limnanthes albais an annual native to the Pacific Northwest. High in vitamin E, meadowfoam is a powerful antioxidant and very shelf-stable. Thick but not greasy, it is protective and provides good slip (
  • Pumpkin (Curcurbita pepo) is high in carotenoids (Montesano et al., 2018 and …) which make it sun protective, and has a good representation of potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese. With a medium absorption rate, it’s ideal for normal to dry skin.

All of the above oils work very well on their own, but you can also consider blending several together to bring enhanced nourishment to your skin. Below is a seed carrier oil blend that I enjoy using for the way it softens and quickly absorbs into my skin.

Combine the following oils into a 1-ounce (30 ml) glass bottle with a dispensing top:

  • 15 ml cranberry seed oil
  • 8 ml meadowfoam oil
  • 8 ml black (or red) raspberry seed oil

I’m a firm believer of not needing separate products for different parts of our bodies. My body oil is also my face oil. Do what works for you, and happy oiling!

References:

Ahmad, N., Anwar, F., Abbas, A. (2019). Cranberry Seed Oil. In: Ramadan, M. (eds) Fruit Oils: Chemistry and Functionality. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-12473-1_35

Ayerza R., Coates W. (2009) Influence of environment on growing period and yield, protein, oil, and α’linolenic content of three chia (Salvia hispanica L.) selections. Ind. Crops Prod. 2009;30:321-324. doi: 10.1016/j.indcrop.2009.03.009.

Montesano, D., Blasi, F., Simonetti, M. S., Santini, A., & Cossignani, L. (2018). Chemical and Nutritional Characterization of Seed Oil from Cucurbita maxima L. (var. Berrettina) Pumpkin. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)7(3), 30. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7030030

Parker, S. (2014). Power of the Seed. Port Townsend: Process Media.

Ramadan, M. (2020). Cold Pressed Oils: Green Technology, Bioactive Compounds, Functionality, and Applications. London: Academic Press.

Rana Fawzi Salih et al. (2018). Radiological Evaluation of the effect of chia seed oil on skin wound healing. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research; Vol. 10, Iss. 11: 2929-2933.

Worwood, V. A. (2016). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. United States: New World Library.Zielińska, A., Kubasiewicz, K., Wójcicki, K., Silva, A. M., Nunes, F. M., Szalata, M., Słomski, R., Eder, P., & Souto, E. B. (2020). Two- and Three-Dimensional Spectrofluorimetric Qualitative Analysis of Selected Vegetable Oils for Biomedical Applications. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)25(23), 5608. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25235608

Amy Anthony is a certified clinical Aromatherapist, certified Aromatic Studies Method teacher, herbalist, gardener and artisanal distiller with a private aromatherapy practice based in Manhattan, NY. She is a graduate of the New York Institute of Aromatherapy where she earned her Level 1 and Level 2 aromatherapy certifications and is registered with the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

Her private practice focuses on one-on-one customized aromatherapy for individual clients. This focus marries the art and science of blending essential oils to meet an individual’s needs and preferences with the alchemy of product making. Amy studied under a lineage of great teachers from who she learned a lot, such as how the carrier and application of essential oils is just as important as the essential oils themselves. This is where making the right product for each client is essential; be that a handmade cream, aloe-based deodorant, bespoke perfume, and everything in between.

  • Updated on May 25, 2022
  • Originally Published on May 23, 2022
Tagged with: cold-press, cranberry, plant-based, pumpkin, seed carrier oils
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