Essential oils make excellent skin and body care ingredients. They’re easily absorbed by the skin, are compatible with our physiology, and have scientifically-backed therapeutic activities. In recent years, new distillation methods have changed vastly increased the number of oils available for skin care products. These new oils may even have more potent therapeutic properties for this particular aroma-therapeutic application. Here’s a look at these oils, and what they can do for your skin…
The new technology uses pressurized, liquid carbon dioxide (at high pressures, gasses can become liquid) as the “solvent” for distillation, instead of steam. The result is an extract with a greater range of oil-soluble molecules. Rather than just the most volatile aromatic compounds, all the lipid-soluble constituents are extracted from the plant. These “CO2 extracts” are not necessarily better than essential oils, but different. They have unique therapeutic properties, and some are made from plants that simply don’t do well under steam distillation.
Calendula is a great example. Calendula used to only be available as an “infused” oil. One would soak calendula flowers (also known as marigold) in olive oil for months, to extract the therapeutic properties into the oil. With the advent of CO2 distillation, there is now a calendula essential oil. Calendula is incredibly therapeutic for the skin — it is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Its deep orange color is indicative of its antioxidant compounds. Its aroma is exceptionally rich; its complex scent seems to instantly confirm its therapeutic value. Scientific investigation has shown its efficacy in healing injury to the skin; it is calming, soothing, and potentially regenerative to the dermis.
Chamomile extract is a very popular skin care ingredient, and a carbon dioxide distillation of German “blue” chamomile is available. It has a lovely blue-green color, unique among all these others which vary between red and orange. The color indicates the presence of a particularly potent anti-inflammatory constituent (which turns blue under the heat of steam distillation). The aroma is pleasingly cool and sweet.
We move from flowers to fruits: Sea Buckthorn oil has long been a favorite exotic skin care ingredient, considered a remedy for virtually every skin care need under the sun. It’s even been researched as a sunblock for Russian cosmonauts! It’s bright reddish-orange indicates a high level of carotenoids and related antioxidants. These compounds are known to be related to skin healing and regeneration.
Thus far we have extracts from the fruits and the flowers, so we look finally to roots. Carrot root CO2, also called “Helio-Carrot” is exceptionally rich in antioxidant and regenerative nutrients that give carrots their bright orange color. This is where the word “carotene” was originally derived. These vitamin-A-like compounds are known for their contribution to the skin’s health and healing. “Retin-A” is a synthetic vitamin-A pharmaceutical preparation known for its regenerative properties; carrot extract is used for its regenerative nature as well, without the extreme drying effect of Retin-A.
So how to use these super ingredients for skin care? They’re very interesting in the way that they’re in some respects very mild. They can all be directly applied to the skin without causing irritation. At the same time, they’re all exceptionally potent, just as pure steam distilled essential oils are. The best concept when using these supercritical extracts for skin care is to think of them as your “active ingredients”. If you look at many medicines, you’ll see the “active ingredients” in percentages often between 1/2 and 5% of the total formula. Or look at is this way: if you’re feeding your skin, you wouldn’t give it just vitamins — you need macro-nutrients as much as micro-nutrients. The carrier oils in which you mix these CO2 extracts are truly “oils” like you would eat — these are your macro-nutrients. The CO2’s are like the vitamins and minerals you’re fortifying your food with. Got it?
To measure for blending, it’s best to use a measuring pipette or dropper with graduation marks — you can estimate the number of drops per milliliter, but it’s best to have done this first with a measuring tool. To make a one percent concentration, use one-third of a milliliter of CO2 extract for each ounce of your final formula. If you’re making four ounces of a blend, you’d use 1 and 1/3rd milliliters of extract for a one percent concentration. You can estimate there are 25 drops in one milliliter, using 8 or 9 drops of extract for 1/3rd of a milliliter, but again, it’s best to use a tool designed to measure liquid in these small amounts.
For example, if you’d like to make an incredible, high end, super skin care blend using every one of these extracts, try this recipe. Use eight drops of each of these extracts in a base of equal parts tamanu, evening primrose and argan oils. This will be an exceptionally protective and regenerative oil. If it leaves a little reddish color on your face, that’s just the antioxidants — they’ll be absorbed in a few minutes. Try using this blend for a month and see how your skin looks and feels. Note that you can also add these extracts to products your already using — so that you can easily incorporate them into your body care program.