The Guide of the vegetable oils in aromatherapy, natural cosmetics and nutrition

Food, cosmetics, therapeutic... Vegetable oils are fats represented in various fields of application. For many people, vegetable oils are first and foremost raw materials for daily nutrition. For others, they are cosmetic products, with nourishing, soothing and protective properties, while some use them mainly for their therapeutic effect, in addition to aromatherapy, for their medicinal properties. It is not possible to separate these different fields of application since the same vegetable oil can have different applications. This complete guide aims to provide a better knowledge of vegetable oils, their uses, their benefits, but also their intrinsic composition and quality, in order to use them correctly whatever the field of application.

Which vegetable oils to use in aromatherapy?

Vegetable oils are often used alone or in addition to essential oils for their numerous therapeutic properties. The fatty acid composition of vegetable oils allows the dilution of essential oils. Moreover, they are the main constituents of the skin, so they are easy to apply, penetrate the skin more or less deeply depending on the vegetable oil and are generally very well tolerated by everyone.

Top 4 herbal oils in aromatherapy:

  • The Arnica Oily Macerate: a must-have. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, Arnica soothes muscle and joint pain in addition to being circulatory. It is the most effective in cases of: Aching, Muscle cramp, Muscle pain, Tendonitis, Joint pain, Edema, Bruise, Hematoma, Contusion, Sprain.
  • The Nigella vegetable oil: thanks to its composition in thymoquinone, many studies have focused on its therapeutic properties. It is thus anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, immunostimulant, bronchodilator, anti-oxidant, etc. It is a full-fledged vegetable oil, very powerful. The most effective in cases of: Respiratory allergy, Asthma, Allergic asthma.
  • The vegetable oil of Calophylle Inophyle: also called Tamanu oil, it is known for its circulatory, tonic, blood-thinning properties, etc. The most effective in case of: Couperose, Redness, Rosacea, Varicose veins, Hemorrhoids.
  • The Argan vegetable oil: its composition similar to that of skin lipids makes it an excellent dilution medium for essential oils. It quickly penetrates the skin while providing a nourishing effect.
The best vegetable oil for each use

Which vegetable oils to use in cosmetics?

Vegetable oils are cosmetic ingredients in their own right and are increasingly used alone, as is, as the sole ingredient in a beauty treatment. This is because fatty acids are structural elements of the skin. Unsaponifiable matter is a powerful active ingredient that provides properties from a 100% natural product, for a complete cosmetic treatment with a single product. All vegetable oils are emollient and skin-protecting due to their biochemical composition and physical-chemical quality. Find out more about the cosmetic characteristics of vegetable oils.

Top 4 vegetable oils in cosmetics:

  • The Sweet Almond Vegetable Oil: Sweet Almond Vegetable Oil is ideal for sensitive and fragile skin due to its soothing properties. It is often recommended for sensitive subjects such as babies or pregnant women. The most effective in case of: Diaper rash, cradle cap.
  • The Shea Butter: it is essential in cosmetic care. Its butter texture confer nourishing, moisturizing and protective properties. The most effective in case of: Cracks, Chapped.
  • The Vegetable Coconut Oil: ideal for dry and brittle hair, Coconut oil will also be very effective for dry or sensitive skin thanks to its nourishing, hair strengthening, moisturizing and softening properties. The most effective in case of: Dry hair, Damaged hair, Frizzy hair, All skin types, Dental abscess, Teeth (whitening)
  • The Macadamia vegetable oil: as a neutral, skin-protecting, dry-touch oil, it is suitable for all skin and hair types so it is versatile for all cosmetic treatments.

For skin care

Dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, irritated skin or mature skin: each skin type has its own adapted vegetable oil. The fatty acids, but also the unsaponifiable matter and active ingredients that compose them provide this specific care.

Top 4 plant oils for skin care:

  • The Jojoba Plant Oil: ideal for combination to oily skin, Jojoba oil has the ability to regulate and maintain a perfect balance thanks to its sebum-regulating and pH-regulating properties. Softening and protecting the skin, it revitalizes dry skin and protects skin cells.
  • The Apricot Kernel Vegetable Oil: rich in carotenoids, vitamin E and omega 6 and 9, it is suitable for mature skin care, but also as a makeup remover. It is a neutral and protective oil suitable for all.
  • The Rose Hip Vegetable Oil: Rose Hip Vegetable Oil is ideal for all cosmetic treatments. Applied to the face as a day cream as well as a night cream, it is the ally of wrinkled and damaged skin thanks to its firming, skin regenerating and healing properties.
  • The Carrot Oily Macerate: orange in color, rich in provitamin A, it has a healthy glow in addition to its skin-protecting effect.
Which vegetable oil for my skin?

For hair care

Dry hair, brittle hair, curly hair, fine hair or frizzy hair: to each hair type and each hair problem its adapted vegetable oil.

Top 4 vegetable oils for hair care:

  • The Brocoli Plant Oil: it is particularly suitable for curly, frizzy, wavy hair.
  • The Vegetable Mustard Oil: it is a sheathing, hair strengthening and stimulating oil. It is ideal in cases of hair loss, fine hair, without volume and dull.
  • The Avocado Plant Oil: particularly nourishing and oily, it provides care for dry, brittle and damaged hair.
  • The Ricin Vegetable Oil: nourishing and fortifying, Ricin oil is widely used to strengthen eyelashes and hair but also to fortify nails. It will thus be ideal for dry, dull hair that tends to fall out.
Which vegetable oil for my hair?

To make your own soaps

Classical saponification is the following chemical reaction to obtain soap: fatty acid triglycerides + soda → soap + glycerin. During this reaction, a fatty substance, combined with a strong base, often soda, makes it possible to obtain soap, but also another product, glycerine.

Cold saponification is done with vegetable oils. It is a natural and artisanal method that respects and preserves both the properties of the oil and the initial plant, but also the skin. The glycerin produced after the reaction is natural, from the oil. In addition to this cold saponification, vegetable oils can be added in surplus, i.e. in "surgras" to bring an additional care. This addition will not be saponified.

Vegetable oils widely used for cold saponification:

  • Coconut vegetable oil: for its foaming qualities
  • Shea butter: for a creamier look
  • Olive oil: for a compact soap

Which vegetable oils to use in health nutrition?

From a nutritional point of view, when we talk about vegetable oils, it is the term "lipids" that echoes. Fatty acids are the basic units of lipids and can be classified into three categories: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fatty acids. They are ubiquitous in our diet, which is why it is essential to know how to distinguish them and their functions.

  • Saturated fatty acids: they are most often found in animal products such as cream, butter and cheese, although they are present in all vegetable oils in varying proportions. They should be limited in the diet because they promote cholesterol deposits in the arteries and therefore increase the risk of cardiovascular pathologies.
  • Unsaturated fatty acids: among them, we find the well-known omega-3, 6 and 9. They are mostly present in oils and plant products, but also in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines or herring. These are the fatty acids to be favored in the diet since they are essential for the proper metabolic functioning of the body. Moreover, omega-3 and 6 are said to be "essential" because our body is unable to synthesize them. They are the main components of our cell membranes and participate in the synthesis of certain hormones.
  • Trans fatty acids: unlike the previous fatty acids, trans fatty acids, also known as hydrogenated fat, are of industrial origin and not natural. More stable, they were created to promote better preservation of foodstuffs. Beware of hydrogenated oils that are used in the composition of industrial ultra-processed products, such as industrial cakes, cereals or even prepared or canned food. They are to be banned, because they pose a risk to the cardiovascular system. They reduce HDL levels (good cholesterol) and increase triglyceride levels, conferring an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

If we were to consider an ideal ratio of our dietary fat intake, it would be as follows: more than 50% omega-9, a ratio of 4/1 between omega-6 and omega-3 and a ratio of omega-9/omega-6/omega-3 close to 10/2.5/1. Saturated and trans fatty acids should be limited.

Top 4 vegetable oils in health nutrition:

  • Rapeseed oil: a very good student with regard to its ideal composition for health, thanks to a ratio close to the ideal. Moreover, it is a fairly stable oil, although its use in seasoning is to be favored over cooking. It is also an inexpensive oil. However, it is important to choose a virgin and organic oil, and not a refined oil to preserve the fatty acids.
  • The Perilla vegetable oil: for its richness in omega-3. It is currently known that the consumption of omega-3 is too low compared to other fatty acids. It is important to promote an oil rich in omega-3 in seasoning. In addition to Perilla, which is more than 60% rich in linolenic acid, we find Chia oil, Linseed oil, Sacha Inchi oil and Hemp oil, all of which are very rich in omega-3.
  • The Vegetable Peanut Oil: rich in omega-9s for use in cooking. Peanut oil is very rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-9s, which make it a very stable oil for cooking. Its smoke point, i.e. the temperature at which smoke is detected, is very high: 160°C for a virgin quality. Other oils such as olive oil or hazelnut oil are interesting for the same reasons.
  • The vegetable oil of Argan toasted: for an exquisite taste. The composition of an oil is essential, but in cooking, the important thing is also the taste. With seeds or fruits previously roasted, we obtain vegetable oils with unique flavors, very appreciated in gastronomy. The vegetable oils of toasted Argan, toasted Peanut or toasted Sesame are simply exquisite!

What is a vegetable oil made of?

Vegetable oils are derived from so-called oleaginous plants, i.e. plants whose seeds, fruit pulp or even nuts are rich in lipids and produce an oil. They are composed of fatty acids at 98%, free fatty acids at 1% and unsaponifiable matter around 1% depending on the oil in question. A fatty acid is a chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms, with a carboxylic acid function COOH at one end. Depending on the length of the carbon chain and the configuration of the hydrogen and carbon atoms, there are several types of fatty acids: unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Among the unsaturated, we find omega-9 (monounsaturated), omega-3 and 6 (polyunsaturated). The fatty acids confer numerous cosmetic, therapeutic and dietary properties to vegetable oils. Note that as fats, vegetable oils are not miscible in water or alcohol.

In addition to fatty acids, vegetable oils are composed of unsaponifiable matter: active principles derived from the initial plant, fat-soluble and conferring anti-oxidant properties to the plant. Among them, we find vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, including carotenes (provitamin A), but also tocopherols, sterols and other active substances depending on the oil in question; for example, thymoquinone in Nigella vegetable oil.

The composition of vegetable oils

The valuable properties of vegetable oils

There are thousands of oil plants on our beautiful planet, and as many potential vegetable oils. Today, about 50 of them (full list) are used on a daily basis for their multiple properties :

  • General or cutaneous anti-inflammatory (omega-3, sterols, etc.): Andiroba, Hemp, Camelina, Flax, Shea, Avocado, Argan
  • Anti-infectives (active principles specific to each OV): Neem, Nigella, Andiroba, Sesame
  • Anti-oxidants (vitamin E, polyphenols, vitamin A, etc.): Wheat germ, Pomegranate, Argan, Grape seeds, Moringa, Acai
  • Soothing (omega-3, active ingredients specific to each OIL): Calendula, Shea, Mango, Coconut, Apricot
  • Healing (vitamin E, omega-3, etc.): Rosehip, Prickly Pear seeds, Shea
  • Circulatory (active ingredients specific to each OV): Calophylla Inophyla, Arnica, St. John's wort
  • Make-up remover : Apricot kernels, Jojoba
  • Detoxifying : Milk Thistle
  • Emollients : All
  • Immunostimulants : Nigella
  • Laxatives: Ricin
  • Nourishing : Shea, Argan, Mango, Coconut, Ricin, etc.
  • Skin protectors: Carrot, Karanja, Buriti, Raspberry, Shea
  • Repellents: Neem, Andiroba
  • Tonic, astringent: Daisy, Borage, Evening Primrose, Musk Rose, Prickly Pear seeds

How to choose a good quality vegetable oil?

There are different qualities of vegetable oils. In order to guarantee the quality of your vegetable oil, whatever the final use, several criteria must be checked:

The endorsements and certifications.

In the context of therapeutic, cosmetic or nutritional use, be sure to use only organic vegetable oils, virgin, first cold pressed :

  • Virgin, unrefined: a virgin, unrefined oil is one that has not undergone any treatment before or after pressing, it is a pure oil that has simply been filtered to remove any impurities.
  • 100% pure and natural: this means that the oil will be the only ingredient. This is a true quality guarantee: no perfume or other additive can bias the quality of the oil. There is however the particular case of virgin vegetable oils with a "living" character. Some are sometimes added a preservative, vitamin E, to limit the oxidation of the oil and promote its conservation. This is generally the case of oily macerates for example.
  • First cold pressing: this is a simple, mechanical extraction method where the oil-bearing fruits and seeds are pressed to extract the oil directly. It is possible to press by heating the raw material and pressing repeatedly to obtain more oil, but the quality would be diminished (loss of some vitamins for example).
  • BIO: certifications guarantee that the plant from which the oil originated was produced according to precise specifications excluding phytosanitary products in particular. According to the mode of use of the vegetable oil, food or cosmetic, we will find two types of certifications: AB and Cosmos.
  • Organoleptic analysis: the color, odor or even the appearance of the vegetable oil are essential criteria to check upstream, before using the oil. For example, a refined rapeseed oil will generally be lighter than a virgin rapeseed oil.
  • Analysis of fatty acid composition: a vegetable oil is characterized by its fatty acid composition. For example, a pomegranate vegetable oil has the characteristic of being more than 60% rich in punicic acid. A variation in the fatty acid content can be the reflection of an oil cut with another oil...
  • Checking the low oxidation of the oil : the fatty acids that make up vegetable oil can degrade in contact with oxygen, air, light or heat. This is a criterion that is verified first by the smell; an oxidized oil is rancid. Secondly, by measuring the peroxide value of the vegetable oil; this is the quantity of oxygen bound to the oil, which indicates its oxidation. Thirdly, by measuring the anisidine number, which is an even more advanced way of determining the level of rancidity of an oil.

The product packaging.

  • Quality of packaging: the choice of the container of a vegetable oil is not trivial in view of the previously mentioned criteria. It must respect as much as possible the intrinsic quality of the oil and therefore be as neutral as possible. In addition, it must be oxygen-tight and preserve the oil as much as possible from light and heat. Amber glass packaging with a sealed cap is the ideal packaging.
  • Label information: in addition to the previously described statements and certifications and the name of use of the oil, it is important to check the botanical name and the plant part used to obtain the oil. A batch number, a geographical origin and the manufacturer's contact details are a guarantee of traceability.
Checking the quality of a vegetable oil

How is a vegetable oil obtained?

Vegetable oils are most often obtained mechanically, following the pressing of oil seeds or fruits. The method known as "first cold pressing " is an ancestral and traditional technique, the most natural possible, which respects the quality of the raw material. The seeds and fruits are sorted before being subjected to a cold mechanical pressing, that is to say without heating, at room temperature. Several types of presses exist; the screw press, which pushes the seed or fruit into a cylinder, is the most commonly used. The oil comes out through the openings and the residues of pressing (called cakes) remain in the cylinder. The oil obtained is virgin, it does not undergo any chemical treatment, nor any refining, it is only filtered of potential organic residues.

It should be noted that cold pressing may be unsuitable for some seeds that do not contain enough oil. A long and inefficient pressing would increase the temperature of the oil during mechanical friction and would degrade the intrinsic quality of the oil. This is why there are other methods of extracting vegetable oils.

Another extraction method sometimes encountered is supercritical extraction of oil with CO2. Supercritical is the state in which CO2 is found: beyond a certain temperature and pressure threshold, it is in an intermediate state, between liquid and gas, making it a solvent of choice. It is a method presented as very natural, because in this state CO2 is neutral and respects the composition of active ingredients in the oil.

Vegetable oils, vegetable butters and oily macerates: what are the differences?

When we talk about vegetable oil (HV), we generally include, by abuse of language, all the fats of plant origin namely the oily macerates (MH) and the vegetable butters.

The vegetable butters have a texture and a solid appearance at room temperature unlike oils, particularly because of their higher content of saturated fatty acids. Among the best-known vegetable butters are Shea butter and Cocoa butter.

Not all plants are oleaginous, so they can't provide vegetable oil. To get around this obstacle and still enjoy their benefits naturally, producers have found an alternative: the oily macerates. The plant part of interest is immersed in a neutral oil, liquid at room temperature, often Sunflower or Olive oil. This complex of neutral oil and plant is subjected to light to promote the transfer of the active principles of the plant to the neutral oil. Once the maceration is over, the neutral oil is no longer neutral and is full of the benefits of the plant. The resulting oily macerate is therefore an organic oil loaded with the active principles of non-oleaginous plants. Flowers are generally used, as in the case of Arnica oily macerate, but it is also possible to macerate roots, for example Carrot. The plants are most often dried before maceration to avoid microbial development during maceration in oil. For more information: how to prepare an oily macerate?

Precautions for the use of vegetable oils

If essential oils are powerful products to be handled with care, vegetable oils are much softer, and therefore much simpler to use. They are generally very well tolerated by all. It is nevertheless advisable to respect certain precautions of use and to be conscious of the associated risks.

The main risks of vegetable oils:

  • Allergy: Although it depends on the user, some vegetable oils can cause allergies after application. It is recommended to do an allergy test on a small area before applying the vegetable oil to a larger area.
  • Comedogenicity: some oils are said to be comedogenic, meaning that they can promote the appearance of imperfections such as pimples or blackheads. Each vegetable oil has a comedogenicity index, 0 being "non-comedogenic" and 5 being "very comedogenic". It is advisable to check this index, especially for people with skin problems.
  • Phototoxicity: it concerns the St John's wort, it is disadvised to expose itself to the sun in the 8 to 12h following its application.
  • In case of anti-coagulant treatments: some vegetable oils are fluidifying, they should be avoided in case of anti-coagulant treatments. This is the case of Arnica, St. John's wort, or Calophylla Inophyla in particular.

The ways in which vegetable oils are used:

  • All vegetable oils are used by skin route, however, for some more powerful or fragrant, dilution is sometimes required: Neem, Nigella, Mustard, Borage for example.
  • By oral route, a large portion of plant oils can be used for their nutritional benefits but not only. It is also by this route of use that the therapeutic properties of vegetable oils can be interesting. However, some oils are not recommended for oral use because of their potentially toxic substances: mustard and broccoli for their erucic acid content, for example.

The users:

With some exceptions, vegetable oils are suitable for all users. Be sure to ask for information on a case-by-case basis for sensitive users (babies and pregnant women).

Precautions for the use of vegetable oils 48 vegetable oils How to use them...

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