Linoleic Acid and Linolenic Acid in Carrier Oils
An article about the differences between linoleic and linolenic acid in carrier oils. By professional aromatherapist and author Sharon Falsetto.
Carrier oils have many therapeutic benefits for skincare. A lot of carrier oils have similar therapeutic benefits, as they contain some of the same components. Although each carrier oil will vary in both the quantity and the exact make-up of these components, many carrier oils will possess one or more of the following omega fatty acids, in addition to other components.
Linoleic Acid in Carrier Oils
Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. A polyunsaturated fatty acid has two of more double bonds in its make-up and, in this instance, it has a carbon-carbon double bond in the n-6 position.
Linoleic acid is found in many nut and seed oils, such as sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and safflower (Carthamus tinctorius).
Linoleic acid helps the skin in both function and appearance.
Linolenic Acid in Carrier Oils
Linolenic acid, not to be confused with linoleic acid as just discussed, is a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid. Although similar to linoleic acid, a-linolenic acid (ALA) has a carbon-carbon double bond in the n-3 position or y-linolenic acid (GLA: Gamma-linolenic acid) has a carbon-carbon double bond in the n-6 position.
ALA is found in seed, nut, and vegetable oils such as walnut (Juglans regia), sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), and hemp seed (Cannabis sativa). GLA is found in vegetable oils such as evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), borage seed (Borago officinalis), and blackcurrant seed (Ribes nigrum).
Both linoleic acid and linolenic acid maybe useful for conditions such as arthritis, allergies, and eczema.
Oleic Acid in Carrier Oils
In addition to linoleic and linolenic acids, oleic acid can also be found in carrier oils. It is a monosaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Monosaturated fatty acids have a single bond in comparison to polyunsaturated fatty acids that have two or more bonds. Omega-9 fatty acids are not essential fatty acids (EFA), unlike omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids. The body is capable of producing its own omega-9 fatty acids from unsaturated fat.
Oleic acid is found in carrier oils such as olive (Olea europea) and macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia).
Oleic acid is moisturizing and regenerating for the skin. It can also be useful for inflammatory conditions.
Linoleic and Linolenic Acid in Carrier Oils
Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids for the body, as the body cannot produce these particular fatty acids. Omega- 9 fatty acid is not considered “essential” because the body can produce its own omega-9 fatty acid.
However, all three of these omega fatty acids are found in most of the carrier oils used in aromatherapy skincare and massage products. In addition to those conditions mentioned above, carrier oils that are high in omega fatty acids components may help with conditions such as dermatitis, aging skin, damaged skin, rashes, and dry skin.
In summary, omega-rich carrier oils maybe helpful for a number of problems and skin conditions. Check the content of a particular carrier oil to work out if it is the most suitable one for the condition that you are trying to address.
- Oregon State University website, Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health, accessed from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids
- Price, Len, 1999, Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage, UK: Riverhead Publishing
- University of Maryland Medical Center website, Gamma-linolenic Acid, page no longer available.
- WebMD website, The Facts on Omega Fatty Acids, accessed from: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet
- Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.
About the Author:
The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She has taken the online Master Gardener short course series with the University of Oregon. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer homestead property.