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Essential Oils vs. Fixed Oils

Essential Oils

What is a fixed oil? What is an essential oil?

Each has their place in the formulation of handcrafted soap and cosmetics. Understanding the difference between them and how they are used can help you formulate great products!

It is obvious that oils are making a name for themselves in the cosmetic industry. Strolling down any hair care or skin care aisle at the drugstore will prove this trend quickly. However, before jumping in and formulating with oils, we need to know a few things first.

What is a Fixed Oil?

A fixed oil is often referred to as a carrier oil and does not evaporate. These can be blended with essential oils. Some common fixed oils include Coconut, Olive, Argan and Jojoba.

What is an Essential Oil?

These are volatile oils that evaporate. It seems as though we throw the words “essential oil”around quite a bit in the cosmetic industry without a full understanding of what they are. Although they sound like ideal ingredient, remember that these oils should not be applied directly to the skin. They should be diluted first — with a carrier oil perhaps — to help prevent irritation and allergic reaction. Some examples of essential oils are Tea Tree, Rosemary and Peppermint.

Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, roots, bark and other aromatic portions of a plant/botanical. These oils, as previously mentioned, evaporate, and have a concentrated aroma. Fixed oils are pressed from the fatty portions of a plant or botanical, such as the seeds, nuts or kernels.

So to quickly summarize, if you are looking to use an essential oil, you will surely need a fixed/carrier oil. Carrier oils offer different therapeutic properties, allowing the formulator to choose what types of benefits they would like to promote in their product.

Shelf Life

Fixed oils can go rancid over time. Essential oils do not go rancid, rather they oxidize and lose their therapeutic benefit

Picking a Fixed/ Carrier Oil

Formulators should shop for carrier oils that have been cold pressed, which means they were processed without heat. A processing method using heat can harm oils and can damage the fragile nutrients in them. Also, formulators should look for carrier oils that contain naturally high levels of tocopherol (Vitamin E). This antioxidant will help extend the shelf life of an oil while also providing protective benefits to the skin. Carrier oils also contain Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) which are not readily produced by our bodies. When topically applied, EFAs nourish the skin, aiding in moisturization and improving the barrier function of our skin.

Avoid mineral oils as a “carrier oil.” Not only do mineral oils detract from brand differentiation, they are not natural or botanical in origin. Although it’s an inexpensive addition to a formula, mineral oils can clog pores, prevent the skin from breathing naturally, block essential oil absorption, keep toxins in the body and block vitamins and minerals from being properly metabolized.


Check out the Papaya Oil offered by Formulator Sample Shop. It comes from the seeds of the papaya fruit which grows easily in most tropical and subtropical environments across the globe. The oil from papaya seeds is most widely used to condition and moisturize the skin and hair. This fruit contains the enzyme papain, which has wonderful exfoliating properties - removing dead skin, and specifically damaged skin. Products made from papaya, including papaya oils, are rich in nutrients, essential fatty acids, and anti-oxidants because of papaya’s naturally high vitamin A, C, and E concentrations.

Once you’ve chosen the fixed/ carrier oil you’d like to use, select an Essential Oil that capitalizes on the marketing and known skin benefits of the carrier oil. Using these two oils in conjunction with one another can enhance the marketability of your product.


This article was provided by Formulator Sample Shop (, suppliers of specialty ingredients for the personal care and cosmetic industries at both large and small quantities.

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