What’s in an oil? You seem to be able to squeeze oil out of anything these days! Oils can be categorized into 3 broad segments: crude (fossil fuels) and mineral oils sourced from the Earth, fats from animals, and plant oils.

Organic, Extra-Virgin, Cold-Pressed (or “Unrefined”) oils are the best for use on your skin, if you have the luxury to enjoy them. But why? What do these terms mean? How do these classifications help us to identify better oils, and how do we know they’re better? This article explores and unravels the marketing behind the industry and reveals a simple path towards enjoying healthier ingredients.

Cruelty-Free, Organic, Non-GMO, Fair Trade?

Who still tests on animals these days? While manufacturers don’t typically put blush on bunnies, animal testing can be a bit like putting lipstick on a pig! Cosmetic companies have sometimes included oils derived from marine-life (like sharks and whales) or land-based creatures (even our beloved minks L) to either create an exclusive elixir born from our fears of aging, or simply to cut recipe costs by substituting more expensive ingredients with presently undervalued replacements.

We believe in cruelty-free skincare here at Mongoose & Mink, as a conscientious company, and we would hope that everyone applies thoughtfulness towards the sustainability of our planet. For us, sourcing kind ingredients is imperative for a product to be considered as finest.

Why is Organic Non-GMO sourcing so important? Aside from eliminating harmful chemicals like pesticides and antibiotics from your nutrition chain, organic farming tends to be kinder to the environment through reduced pollution and chemical exposure to wild-life, more efficient water consumption, and better soil rotations for sustainability.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Genetically modified crops often compromise key nutritional content in sources, which have evolved with humans through millennia, in favour of more reliable agricultural processes.

Whether you care or not, our oils are Organically sourced and Non-GMO certified. We believe that the extra cost is worth it, especially if you’re thinking about applying oils to your face! All our cultivated oils are USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certified Organic, and any “wild-harvest” sources come from distillers picking crop from unsprayed terrains.

What is FAIR TRADE and why does it matter? For a source to be FAIRTRADE certified, the organization must meet requirements around worker’s rights, fair labour practices, and responsible land management. These standards ensure that goods are made with care to people and the planet.

At Mongoose & Mink, we don’t believe that great skincare should be laden with guilt! In a World of super-profits, perhaps it’s time for everyone to take a step back and assess the way we value things that truly matter in life.

Which Oil is for me?

So, you want to know how to pick a great oil? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this section we discuss the factors to consider when selecting a treatment for your skin.

Carrier Oils vs Essentials

Essential oils are concentrated hydrophobic liquids containing volatile chemical compounds from plants. They are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils, or simply as the oil of the plant from which they were extracted, such as Tea Tree Oil. The oils capture the plant’s essences (flavour, aroma or other therapeutic benefits) and the concentration is extracted either through steam distillation or mechanical processes, such as cold-pressing (to be discussed later).

These concentrated oils, unlike Carrier oils, need to be diluted appropriately before application directly to skin to avoid irritation. People with sensitive skin should explore essential oils with caution as some types are known to cause adverse reactions. For example, it is generally advised that expecting mothers avoid ingesting oils obtained from Rosemary due to its stimulant effect towards inducing menstruation. Each pregnancy is different and consulting a medical professional for advice is always a good idea if there is any doubt.

Carrier oils can be used directly on our skin, and hence they can also be used to dilute essential oils, and when paired correctly, they help essential nutrients from Essential oils absorb into the skin. Coconut oil, Hemp Seed, Jojoba, Argan and Sweet Almond are some of the most widely used cosmetic oils today, and each have properties that better suited to treat different conditions.

Some Oils are More Equal than Others

Oils are priced based on availability and the complexity of the manufacturing process. The quality of an oil, however, can largely depend on its intended application. For example, we try to avoid cooking extra virgin olive oil due to its low smoking temperature, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad oil!

  • Argan oil, extracted from the kernel of the argan fruit, is known for its enriching properties that is versatile to use in your face, hair and body. It’s suitable for both dry and oily skin and has a low comedogenic rating (which means it is less likely to cause clogged pores).

Argan oil is a true jack of all trades and master of many! But there are other oils that may be even more suitable for purpose! For example:

  • Sweet Almond oil is known to relieve dry skin, without leaving a heavy feeling that some other oils can.
  • Hemp Seed oil has a perfect comedogenic rating, and with its cannabidiol roots it may be the saviour if you’re prone to acne.

Oils for oily skin may seem counter-intuitive, but the fact that your body is producing an excess of sebum oils indicates that your skin thinks that your body is losing too much, moisture too quickly.

  • Jojoba oil, which is actually a wax ester, closely resembles the oils that we excrete from our skin and is often used as the carrier oil of choice to deliver essential nourishment for this reason.
  • Some oils, like Turmeric or Rosehip Seed oil for instance, have properties that can help to even (and even brighten) skin tone.

Some oils are expensive because its source is expensive. We spoke about Argan oil, but how about Saffron oil? Saffron is the most expensive spice in the World, weight-for-weight costing even more than Gold! It is so expensive because it is an extremely labor-intensive crop. Crocus sativa, or the saffron crocus, flowers in the fall. Each flower has three tiny, threadlike stigmas in the center, from which the essence is drawn. Tens of thousands of flowers have to be harvested to yield noticeably enough for oil extraction.

Saffron is an exceptional colourant and an extremely fragrant spice – a little goes a long way. For this reason, Saffron Oil will often be macerated into a Sweet Almond Oil carrier to make it’s complementary properties more accessible.

A final special mention:

  • Coconut oil is commonly regarded as the best oil for your hair. It is a solid at room temperature, which can be trickier to apply evenly. However, with its relatively high comedogenic rating, we’d be cautious about using it on your face if you are particularly prone to break outs! Fractionated Coconut oil (or ultra-refined “MCT” oil – Medium Chain Triglycerides) on the other hand remains a liquid at room temperature and is less likely to clog pores.

Oils with the same “common name” may be extracted from different parts of a plant, or from plants grown in different regions. Often, one of these varieties will be revered more than the others and can even boast enhanced benefits.

One great example is Green Tea Oil. While Japanese Green Tea Seed Oil (also known as “Tsubaki” or “Dongbaek”) is highly regarded for its therapeutic strengths and rarity and extracted from the seeds of the “Camellia Japonica” flower, a similar Chinese Green Tea variety can be obtained from the “Camellia Sinensis” plant in much greater abundance, making it much cheaper to include in cosmetics for many other manufacturers.

Another example is Frankincense. Frankincense oil, also known as “Olibanum” or “Royal Incense”, is extracted from hardened gum resins obtained from tapping Boswellia trees that are grown across North Africa, the Middle East and even stretching out to India.

Frankincense has been prized both spiritually and economically for millennia due to its incredible healing properties and its sweet-citrussy-woody scent cherished for use as incense and perfumes.

Omani Frankincense (Frankincense grown in Oman) is undoubtedly considered to be the best in the World. It is sourced from the Boswellia Sacra plant, also known as “Sacred Frankincense”. Other varieties that share the same name and tree family, but are technically extracted from different plants, include the Boswellia Carterii and Frereana (grown in the Daallo mountains of Somaliland) and are also considered excellent varieties, with Boswellia Serrata (grown in India) offering significant price advantages for those who are interested.

Finding the right oil for your skin’s need is crucial for effective treatment. Check out our Oil Glossary on mongooseandmink.com and browse our library of Pure Organic Carrier Oils and Essentials and learn why we only ever choose the best ingredients for our recipes.

Extracting Oils

Herbal extracts are produced when botanical material is introduced to a solvent in which some of the plant material dissolve. Ultimately, the solvent becomes infused with the botanical materials introduced from the source plant, and this is what is referred to as the “extract.”

Popular extraction methods include Steam and/or Water Distillation, Solvent or CO2 Extraction, Maceration, Enfleurage and Cold Press Extraction, and each affect the output quality of the oil by way of applying heat and pressure. Some extraction methods are best suited to particular plant types and parts.

Steam Distillation is the most popular method used to extract and isolate essential oils from plants for use in natural products. We use steam to vaporize volatile compounds taken from a plant, and eventually pass it through a condensation and collection process.

Water Distillation simply uses the fact that oils separate from distillates when cooled allowing us to tap off essential oils from the residual floral waters, also known as hydrosols.

Fractioning is a technique that is used particularly for Coconut Oil that uses cycles of melting and freezing of oils to separate fatty acid layers with different concentrations of its key nutrients – in this case, Medium-Chain-Triglycerides or MCT 60/40 Oil is tapped off.

Solvent Extraction uses food-grade solvents like hexane to isolate essential oils from plant material, and works best for plants with low yields, sources that are mostly resinous, or when trying to extract delicate fragrances that may be tampered by steam distillation. As a result, finer aromatherapy fragrances can be achieved using this process.

A waxy aromatic compound called “concrete” is produced from treating plant material with a solvent, and when mixed with ethanol, the oil particles are released, yielding a substance sought after by the perfume industry. This liquid can further be distilled to create what’s known as “Absolute Oils”.

In CO2 Extraction, none of the original constituents of an oil are damaged by heat, where gaseous CO2 is used in place of a liquid solvent and requires much lower temperatures. Better oils are produced from this method since the natural composition of an oil is less altered (or “denatured”), and the essential nutrients are better preserved.

C02 is both colourless and odorless, and it can be easily and completely removed from the extraction process by releasing the pressure in the extraction chamber. While technically considered a greenhouse gas, the absence of potentially harmful chemical solvents in the C02 extraction process means that the environment is at a lower risk of exposure to damage.

Maceration is often also referred to the process by which one oil is infused into another carrier, which is essentially used as a solvent in the process. The benefit of this process is that less plant material is lost when compared to distillation processes, which strips away some of the goodness as part of “refinement”. Infusions are strained through simple processes to separate and recover as much of the oil from the mixture as possible.

The ideal plant material to be infused is harvested and cured so that it is as dry as possible; plant moisture can cause an oil to become rancid and encourages microbial growth. Adding 5% of Vitamin E oil or Wheatgerm oil (which is high in Vitamin E) during a maceration helps to prevent rancidity.

Enfleurage is an uncommon technique today, but it is one of the oldest methods of essential oil extraction that implements the use of odourless vegetable or animal fats, which are solid at room temperature. By the end of the process (which can run cold or heated), the fat becomes infused with sought-after fragrance compounds, and this saturation is called “enfleurage pomade”.

The botanical extracts can again be separated from the fats using alcohol to create “absolute” essentials, and the residue used to form soaps.

Cold-Press extraction is literally the extraction of oils from fruits, fruit-rinds, nuts, seed and leaves through the application of pressure and filtration at cool temperatures without addition of external heat and this process leaves the oil “unrefined”. Through repeated pummeling and continuous grinding, oil is separated from juice and pulp, though a centrifuge may be used in industrial applications to forcibly segregate layers. This method is ideal to retain all the nutritional goodness that is otherwise lost through any of the other above refined methods.

So, to buy Refined, or not to buy Refined? That is the question!

When choosing an oil for your skin, generally, picking an unrefined oil with deliver the nourishment you are seeking. They are more expensive, because with their benefits comes the risk of long-shelfed oils going rancid quicker! Refined oils typically tend to have a longer shelf-life, with fewer impurities, and so delivers more reliable quality. Accordingly, refined oils tend to be cheaper, since they can be stored and warehoused for longer.

At Mongoose & Mink, we don’t believe in collecting old cosmetics. Like with the food that we eat, fresher is better for cosmetics too, and more nutrients for your skin is exactly that.

All of Life’s Edges

If you’re just starting to gain an interest in including natural oils into your skincare routine, check out our searchable Oil Glossary for key information about each oil, indexed online. Our partner, AOLE, are experts in sourcing the highest grade of pure oils used for cosmetic treatments and have an unrivalled collection of quality for you to enjoy. Are you ready to discover your perfect blend made just for you? Visit AOLE’s brand portal on mongooseandmink.com now!

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