Has dry winter skin got you down? The chill of the season and heated inside air combine to set the stage for itchy, parched skin. Rich and nourishing, avocado oil can help! As a body oil, or added to skin care products like body butters, balms or creams, this lovely, golden to emerald-colored carrier oil is an easy go-to for the season and beyond. Included below you’ll find a simple, yet decadent recipe for Mandarin Spice Whipped Body Butter.
What is Avocado Oil?
With over 500 different varieties of avocados, the two most common ones pressed for their oil are Persea gratissima, meaning “always favored”, and Peresea americana – commonly known as the “Hass” avocado. And, though Persea americana clearly refers to the Americas, it may even be sourced from Kenya!
Where Does Avocado Oil Come From?
Having lived for a time in Hawaii, I was lucky enough to have fresh (and free) avocados nearly every day. With a harvesting season running from September to May, and over 200 different varieties on the islands, it was possible to enjoy this amazing fruit in abundance!
Most avocado oil available for purchase, however, is sourced primarily from Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Persea gratissima or americana is an evergreen tree in the Lauraceae family, sharing this family with the well known essential oils of Laurus nobilis, Cinnamomum camphora and others. The avocado tree was first domesticated over 5000 years ago by Mesoamerican tribes. Now, there are hundreds of cultivated varieties (cultivars) producing what are sometimes referred to as “alligator pears” (due to their rough, green skin).
Avocado oil that is available to purchase for cooking and as a carrier oil, is most often obtained from pressing what is called the “fruiting body” of the avocado. This part of the fruit consists of the soft flesh that surrounds the pit, or seed. Often, carrier oils are obtained from the seed itself, but with avocados, it’s the meaty oil-rich fruit around the seed that yields its wonderfully beneficial oil. Another fruiting body we get carrier oil from is the olive! As a side note: Per Susan M. Parker in her book Power of the Seed, the avocado pit is sometimes pressed for an oil used almost exclusively in skincare, as the oil produced is quite bitter tasting, but this oil is difficult to source.
So, how is avocado oil extracted?
Expeller pressing, most simply explained, means simply pressing the fleshy fruit to extract the oil. This process naturally creates heat as there is friction involved.
Cold pressing is performed in a temperature-controlled environment, thus protecting the oil from heat. The cold process retains the most nutrients, color and flavor.
You might see “centrifuge extracted” on the label as well. This refers to the process of spinning the mashed avocado fruit at high speeds in order to separate the oil from the mash.
A chemical extraction process can also be used, but it’s best to avoid avocado oil extracted in this way due to the potential of contamination with the chemicals used in extraction.
Refined or Unrefined, That is the Question
The issue of refined or unrefined is as valid with avocado oil as it is with many other carrier oils we may choose when making skincare products. As holistic aromatherapists, we most often want to use the least refined or altered oils, unless for some reason, we seek the properties of an oil without its natural color or aroma.
Refined avocado oil has been through a chemical process of bleaching and deodorizing. This might be done in order to create a consistent product with less avocado aroma and color. I don’t know about you, but I consider the pungent aroma and gentle golden to green color as two of this oil’s gifts! Another downside to refined oil is that it may allow the manufacturer to potentially use lower quality avocados since the refining process can remove poor color or aroma. Coloring may even be added in an attempt to make the product look natural.
Unrefined avocado oil means simply that the avocado flesh has not been altered, and should retain its natural color, flavor, vitamins and other nutrients.
Just a quick note on “avocado butter”. You might run into this product when shopping for carrier oils. Avocado butter consists of the oil blended with a hydrogenated vegetable oil to make it fluffy and somewhat solid. Avoid this product for natural skin care product making.
And lastly, quality: Be aware that oils purchased from your local grocer, may or may not be pure or authentic. A study by UC Davis in 2020, found many avocado oils on store shelves contained other oils, such as soybean oil, and many were rancid. Use good suppliers and check for rancidity with your nose. Unrefined, cold pressed and organic if possible will be your best choice for the most nutrient rich and beneficial avocado oil.
What makes Avocado Oil so special?
As a rich and nutritious oil that both penetrates the skin providing nourishment, and offers emollient protection, avocado oil is a wonderful choice for dry or mature skin in the winter, or anytime. Avocado oil is also a good choice to support skin regeneration, and is easily absorbed. It can be used up to 100% in products, but is also lovely blended with other carrier oils. One of my favorite winter body oil blends contains avocado oil, hemp oil and jojoba oil along with whatever essential oils strike my fancy.
This beautiful carrier oil contains a great array of vitamins A, B and E as well as proteins.
As described by Susan B. Parker, “The oil’s action increases water-soluble collagen in the middle layer of skin (the dermis). When lacking soluble collagen, the skin appears aged and thin. The phytosterol content of avocado oil supports the collagen and skin structures, helping prevent age spots and cell wall weakening, while calming inflammation, regenerating tissues, and protecting the barrier functions of the skin.”
In addition to vitamins and proteins, here are some of the Essential Fatty Acids that we can find in Avocado Oil, and their benefits:
Palmitic Acid: 10 – 32% to moisturize and nourish the skin’s barrier function, and help prevent trans epidermal water loss.
Stearic Acid: 5.0 – 6.5 % to soften and smooth the skin surface.
Oleic Acid: 45 – 65% helps lock in moisture.
Linoleic Acid: 8 – 36% absorbs well, and feels rich and nourishing.
Palmitoleic Acid: 2 – 13% provides antimicrobial benefits while also being emollient and emulsifying.
Alpha-Linolenic Acid: 0-5 % is anti-inflammatory and may help prevent hyperpigmentation.
Now that you know a little more about what Avocado Oil is and how it is obtained, here are the top 5 reasons to consider using it on your skin:
- Avocado oil is soothing and softening, thus a good option for flaky skin conditions and when skin repair is needed. See Plant Powered Beauty for a lovely lotion bar recipe.
- Mature and winter-dry skin will love the rich, nourishing and protective qualities of this oil.
- Both easily absorbed and nourishing to the skin’s barrier function, avocado oil is a perfect choice to protect dry, sensitive skin.
- Avocado oil can be used 100% on the body or blended with other carrier oils to create a nourishing body or facial oil for dry, sensitive or mature skin.
- For dry scalp, eczema or psoriasis, try a comforting scalp massage oil using avocado oil.
Mandarin Spice Whipped Body Butter
You’ll need some sterilized, dry empty jars, and the following ingredients. (This recipe makes 4 ounces, but will take up more space as butter is whipped to a beautiful, fluffy texture and higher volume.)
- 3 oz. Shea Butter (okay to use naturally refined and deodorized to avoid shea’s strong aroma)
- 1 oz. Avocado Oil
- Red Mandarin essential oil (Citrus reticulata) – 28 drops
- Coriander Seed essential oil (Coriandrum sativum) – 19 drops
- Black Pepper essential oil (Piper nigrum) 23 drops
Step 1 – Using a standing or hand-held electric mixer, beat refined shea butter until very fluffy. You may want to pause occasionally and use a spatula to collect whipped butter off the sides of the bowl, making sure all of it gets whipped.
Step 2 – While continuing to blend, slowly drizzle in your avocado oil, beating until the texture is soft, fluffy and gorgeous. You can add a few drops of vitamin E oil as an antioxidant to extend shelf life if you wish.
Step 3 – Add essential oils to a small container or beaker and swirl to mix. Smell and make sure you like the combined oils’ aroma, adjusting if needed. Then, using a hand whisk or spoon, gently stir in your essential oil synergy to the whipped butter. Once fully incorporated, portion out whipped butter into jars.
Do use good sanitary practices and clean, dry containers, and make sure no water gets into the product while creating it for best shelf life, and always check your product for freshness before using.
If you haven’t used avocado oil on your skin yet, it might just be time to give this nourishing oil a try. Enjoy its rich, skin soothing benefits!
Parker, Susan M, Power of the Seed, (2014), Process Media, Port Townsend, WA.
Maria, Donna, Making Aromatherapy Creams & Lotions, (2000), Transcontinental Printing, Canada.
Galper, A, and Daigneault, C, Plant Powered Beauty, (2018), Bella Bella Books Inc., Dallas, TX.