Base oils are the carrier oils in which the essential oils are diluted before massage. Largely composed of fatty acids, the base oils used in aromatherapy massage are all of vegetable origin.
Most of these oils are extracted from nuts and seeds. They are easily absorbed into the skin, and many base oils have therapeutic properties. The best quality base oils are cold-pressed and unrefined and you should try to purchase these ones.
Sweet almond oil
Sweet almond oil is pale yellow, almost odourless and has excellent emollient (soothing) properties. It is rich in minerals vitamins and proteins, and is used extensively in cosmetics for its therapeutic properties. Sweet almond oil is especially suited to dry, sensitive and irritated skin. It is softening, revitalizing and nourishing to the skin and an excellent lubricant. It is probably the best multipurpose base oil for massage.
Apricot kernel oil
Apricot kernel oil is a slightly darker yellow than sweet almond, and has a light, silky feel and texture. It is absorbed very easily and quickly into the skin, making apricot kernel oil suitable for facial massage, as well as for body massage. Apricot oil is especially suited to mature, dry, sensitive and inflamed skins.
Avocado oil is a deep vibrant green and has a slightly nutty aroma. It is viscous, but deeply penetrating, and for massage up to 25 per cent is usually mixed with a lighter base oil such as sweet almond. Avocado oil is very rich and nutritious and is suited to under—nourished, dry, dehydrated and mature skins and it can help to treat eczema.
Calendula oil is an infused oil, meaning that the relevant plant parts are infused in a base oil, transferring their active properties to the base oil. Calendula oil has excellent healing qualities, aids tissue regeneration and is used on skin rashes, chapped and cracked skin, bruises and sunburn, and very gently on varicose veins.
Carrot oil is also an infused oil, made from the root of the carrot. It is not to be confused with the similarly named carrot seed, which is an essential oil. Carrot oil is a beautiful bright orange and is rich in beta-carotene and vitamins. It is excellent for slowing signs of ageing, and for dry, itchy and inflamed skins. It is normally used in a 10 per cent dilution with a lighter base oil.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature in its natural, unfractionated state, and is used to make skin creams and to add gloss and shine to lacklustre hair. Fractionated refined coconut oil can be used as a very light, quickly absorbed massage oil.
Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil may be more familiar as a gamma linoleic acid oral supplement. However, it is also a useful base oil because it has excellent moisturizing qualities. Golden-yellow and viscous, it is best used in a 20 per cent dilution in a lighter base oil for dry, ageing skin and to treat psoriasis, pre-menstrual tension and eczema.
Grapeseed oil is only available as a refined oil, but it is a popular massage oil because it has a fine texture that is easily absorbed by the skin. It is pale green and can be mixed with a heavier, more nutritious base oil for greater effect on the skin.
Hazelnut oil is pale yellow with a strong nutty aroma. It is light, easily absorbed and mildly astringent, which makes it a good choice for oily skins. Hazelnut oil is also good for inflamed skin, and can be mixed with another base oil to reduce its nutty aroma.
Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax, not an oil, although it acts like the other base oils. It is light-textured and deeply penetrating, making it a valuable base oil for all skin types. The chemical composition of jojoba closely resembles sebum, the skin’s natural lubricant. This gives jojoba oil excellent moisturizing and emollient properties, making it a popular choice as a base oil for aromatherapy purposes.
Rosehip-seed oil varies from pale yellow to rich orange and is an increasingly popular base oil due to its tissue-regenerating properties which can help slow the signs of ageing. Especially suited to dry, mature, sunburned and lacklustre skins it is best used in a 20 per cent dilution with a lighter base oil.