Oils and Waxes for Skincare and Skincare Products

This is a listing of some of the oils and waxes used in making herbal lotions and salves and other skincare products.

There are more oils than mentioned here, but this gives you a start.


Olive Oil (Olea europaea)

  • Comes from the fruit of the olive tree.
  • Olive oil has good keeping qualities and doesn’t easily go rancid.
  • The best olive oil to use is extra virgin. It’s high in chlorophyll and an excellent solvent for the medicinal properties of herbs, therefore it has traditionally been used by herbalists for making medicinal oils.
    It has medicinal properties of its own. It is occlusive and emollient.
  • High in fatty acids and vitamin E, and packed with vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
  • Traditionally used by herbalists to make healing herbal oils.

Almond Oil (Prunus amygdalus)

  • Comes from the seed (the nut you eat).
  • Almond oil is emollient, nutritive, and skin-softening. It is rich in protein, minerals, and amino acids. It relieves itchy or inflamed skin.
    It is lighter than olive oil, therefore popular as a bath and skin oil.

Apricot Kernel Oil (Prunus armeniaca)

  • From the seed of the apricot fruit.
  • Apricot kernel oil is light and fine, good for sensitive or delicate skin. It is a skin softener, and helps heal damaged skin cells. Rich in Viatmins A and B. Can be used as a substitute for sweet almond oil.

Avocado Oil (Persea americana)

  • From the avocado fruit. Contains vitamins A, D, and E; protein, lecithin, and fatty acids. These are all helpful for dry skin or eczema.
  • Helps rebuild skin collagen and diminishes age spots.
    Useful for soothing sunburn.

Castor Oil (Ricinus communis)

  • From the seed of the castor plant fruit.
  • Humectant, soothing, emollient, and deeply penetrating.

Cocoa Butter (Theobroma cacao)

  • from the cocao bean (a seed).
  • Solid at room temperature, but melts on contact with the skin; has a lovely chocolate scent. It is very fatty and therefore it is great for dry skin, but not oily skin.
  • Soothing, emollient, and lubricating. (Don’t use as an emulsifier for salves and lotions as it liquefies when warm.)

Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera)

  • from coconuts (seed of the coconut tree).
  • Solid at normal room temperatures, will liquefy when temperatures get to about 76-80 degrees F.
  • Moisturizing, emollient.
  • Antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic.
  • Externally it increases skin cell turnover and decreases healing time; good for pregnant bellies and breasts, stretch marks, and C-section scars. (Don’t use as an emulsifier for salves and lotions as it liquefies when warm.)

Grapeseed Oil

  • Antioxidant, antibacterial, deodorizing.
  • It is very light, rapidly absorbed, and leaves no oily residue. It is good for use on oily skin.

Hemp Seed Oil (Cannabis sativa)

  • From the seed of the plants. Emollient.

Kukui oil (Aleurites molaccana)

  • A seed oil. Easily absorbed. Emollient, soothing to irritated, sunburned, or burned skin.


  • An oil produced by sheep to protect and waterproof their fleece. Works well as a skin conditioner.
    Some people are allergic to lanolin, and some people with wool allergies may also be allergic to lanolin.
  • Lanolin can be used as an emulsifier in lotions and creams. It can hold up to 2 times its weight in water.

Sesame Oil (Sesamum indicum)

  • from sesame seeds. Occlusive and emollient, polyunsaturated. Antifungal. In Indias it’s used to cure athlete’s foot.

Sunflower Seed Oil (Helianthus annuus)

  • from sunflower seeds.
  • Lightweight, full of vitamins and minerals.
  • Good for all skin types.

Shea Butter (Butyrospermum parkii)

  • nourishing and moisturizing. Good for sensitive skin.

Walnut Oil (Juglans regia)

  • From the nut of the walnut tree.
  • The oil contains minerals and is emollient and vulnerary.



  • A by-product from bees.
  • Contains tiny amounts of pollen, propolis, and honey.
  • Holds fatty oils in emulsion in salves, creams, and lotions.
  • It is an emulsifier and skin softener. It does not clog pores. Has melting point of about 144O.

Candelilla wax (Euphorbia cerifera)

  • A vegetable wax.
  • Used as a substitute for beeswax in cosmetics and candle-making.
  • Derived from flakey residue on stems of candelilla plant that grows in American Southwest.
  • Has melting point of about 155-165O.

Carnauba wax (Copernicia cerifera)

  • A vegetable wax derived from the Carnauba palm of Northern Brazil.
  • Hardest of the natural waxes. Has melting point of about 172-181O.
  • When using carnauba wax in place of beeswax, always use less carnauba wax than the amount of beeswax called for.
    Start with an amount of carnauba ¼ that of beeswax, and gradually increase until desired consistency is reached.
    You’ll probably use about ½ the amount of carnauba as of beeswax.

Jojoba (Simmondia chinensis)

  • a wax ester extracted from the seeds of a native cactus that grows in the American Southwest and Mexico. It appears to be a viscous oil, but is actually a wax.
  • Contains protein, minerals, and a waxy substance similar to collagen.
  • Lubricant, cleanser, moisturizer; reduces wrinkles and stretch marks, helps lighten and heal scars.
  • Helps protect agains UV rays.
  • Antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, emollient.
  • Similar in chemistry to sebum, skin’s natural moisturizer.
  • Conditions and softens skin and hair.
  • Good for dry, chapped skin and as a nail and cuticle conditioner.
  • Doesn’t clog pores. Non-toxic, non-allergenic.
  • It’s an emulsifier.
  • The oil is similar to, and has replaced, sperm whale oil

How to Make an Herbally Infused Oil

It is wonderfully easy and inexpensive to make your own infused oils, using herbs you’ve grown or wild-crafted or gotten from a supplier, and oils you can find in any food store.

Making your own is a considerable saving over buying it. You can use infused oils as-is for skin care and bath oils, or as the base for salves, lotions, scrubs, and other products.

I prefer to use fresh plant material for infused oil. I believe you get more of the herb’s constituents that way. Exceptions where I will use dry herbs are:

  • plants with intense color, such as calendula petals
  • plants with waxy leaves, like rosemary
  • sturdy roots, like comfrey roots

If you are harvesting your plant material the best time is late morning. Make sure that your plant material is dry – in other words, there is no rain, dew, or sprinkler spray on it.

Moisture can cause mold in your oil. Therefore, do not rinse! If you must, make sure your plant material is completely dry before you put it in oil.
When you get home, let your plant material “fresh-wilt” for a few hours or overnight, or place in a very low-temp oven (175 deg. F) for a short time. This gets out some of the moisture, so your oil is less likely to mold.

dandylion flowers in a jar

Dandylion flowers in a jar

Next, coarsely chop or cut up your plant material. It doesn’t have to be really small, but it shouldn’t be really large pieces, either. You want the oil to have lots of access to the plant material.

Now lightly pack your plant material into a clean, dry jar just to the bottom of the lid ring. You don’t want to pack it tightly, but you also want more than a few sprigs of herb. The plant matter should be slightly springy.

Pour the oil in and fill the jar to a little above the top of the plant matter, then take a chopstick or utensil and stir to get air bubbles out. Make sure the plant material is completely covered with oil. Any plant matter that is above the oil can mold.

Screw on the lid. Label your jar with the date, the herb, and the kind of oil you used. Check the jar in 24 hours and top-up the oil if necessary, because the plants may have absorbed some and the level may have dropped.

Put your jar in a warm place to macerate (soak). The heat helps the oil extract the oil-soluble constituents from the herbs. Put your jar on a sunny windowsill or another warm place. Always put it on a plate or something oil-resistant! Some of the oil will inevitably ooze out of the jar and can cause problems.

You can also put your jar out in the garden or a plant container, among your plants, to let the sun and earth add their energies. I particularly like to do this with sun-loving herbs like St. John’s wort and comfrey.

Let this mixture soak for six weeks, checking it occasionally. Some herbalists say that a few days or couple of weeks is enough, but I believe that six weeks gives lots of time for the oil to pull out all of the plant’s constituents, and to really absorb the energy of the plant.

After six weeks, strain out the plant matter. Use a couple layers of cheese cloth or clean muslin, or a fine-meshed strainer or colander. I like to put a couple layers of cheesecloth in a strainer. Don’t use a coffee filter or paper towels, the pores are too fine and will clog up, and then you’ll be waiting all day for your oil to strain.

Squeeze any leftover oil from the plant matter with your hands or a spoon. (You can put the spent plant matter in your compost or fireplace or trash.)

Put your infused oil into another clean, dry jar. Label this jar also.

Trouble-shooting: If you have problems with mold forming, you can rescue your oil.
Skim off the top part that is moldy, and if the rest of your jar smells o.k., top-up with more oil and follow directions below.

To deal with a very moist herb or mold: Instead of putting a lid on your jar, use a paper towel or a couple layers of cheesecloth or clean muslin on top of the jar. Hold in place with a rubber band or the rim of a 2-part canning lid. This keeps the oil clean while allowing the moisture to evaporate.

If you have an herb that you know is moist and may have mold problems, then do the above from the start. Don’t set outside, however!

Some herbs don’t take well to fresh-wilting. Dandelion flowers, for instance, tend to continue to go toward the white, pre-seed stage, so I put them in oil right away.

If you are using brand-new muslin, you must wash it first because it has finishing chemicals on it. Cheesecloth doesn’t because it is meant for food use.

Labeling is important because it assures that you know what herb/s and what oil/s you used. Don’t rely on your memory, my experience has proven that it is notoriously forgetful!