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Testing Carrier Oils: FAMEs Analysis and What it Means for You


Testing Carrier Oils: FAMEs Analysis and What it Means for You

Why test our carrier oils?

The short explanation? Because we care!

But you’re not here for the short explanation, so let’s look harder at why we choose to test our carrier oils, and what that means for you.

From the Beginning…

Blooming field of daises with a blue skyJust like with our essential oils, we take our carriers very seriously. Before we source a single carrier oil, we find out everything we can about the farmer, distiller or supplier. We research their background, reputation and their commitment to quality.

Only after we verify that the company meets our high standards do we begin looking at the carrier oils themselves.

The Carrier Oils

Everything you need to know about carrier oilsWe use the words “carrier oil” a lot around here, but not everyone knows what a carrier oil is or why they matter.

But, first things first, what is a carrier oil? Unlike an essential oil, a carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portions of a plant, usually the seed, nut, or kernels. Carrier oils also have their own different therapeutic properties. Your choice of the carrier oil should depend on what therapeutic benefit you’re looking for. A carrier oil is used to dilute essential oils before they’re applied to the skin.

Carrier oils are VERY important when using essential oils because essential oils are never supposed to be applied undiluted to the skin.

When looking for a carrier oil to use with your essential oils, you should be taking into account the type of oil you need, the oil’s purity, and of course the value it adds to your essential oil blends!

Check out these blogs to take a really deep oily dive into carrier oils:

Testing Carrier Oils

carrier oilsSo carriers are complicated. What might seem simple (like choosing a quality carrier oil to carry on can be harder than it looks. And here’s why:

Carrier oils, like essential oils, can come in different levels of purity. Some carrier oils are often diluted with other cheaper oils or are made using impure methods of extraction that can pollute the product’s therapeutic value and effectiveness. This issue is even more serious when you take into account the need for correct allergen labeling.

We also go the extra mile to FAMEs test every single carrier oil we carry. FAMEs stands for Fatty Acid Methyl Ester testing,

What is a FAMEs Test?

FAMEs stands for Fatty Acid Methyl Ester. Fatty acids are great! Your body naturally needs and uses fatty acids to stay healthy and to protect your skin every day. The main fatty acids are saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

  • Saturated fatty acids: These fatty acids give a carrier oil a thicker, heavy consistency. They are great for giving you really deep moisture and promoting your body’s natural healing process.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids & polyunsaturated fatty acids: These carriers are thinner in consistency and have a silky texture that makes them perfect for DIY skin serums. Carrier oils with these fatty acids can often have skin-cleansing and age-defying properties.

A FAMEs test looks at these fatty acids and tells us the amount and ratios of fatty acids in any given carrier oil. All carrier oils contain fatty acids, but the proportions change depending on which carrier oil is being tested.

A FAMEs test profile shows us what’s in our carrier oils, breaking down the makeup of the carrier oil so we can confirm what we’re selling and exactly what the makeup of the oil is. A FAMEs test also serves as an additional standard for purity determination. It is comparable to the GC/MS testing we run on every single essential oil batch. This means you can be confident that our carrier oils are exactly what they say they are, and nothing else!

How do you do a FAMEs test?

Essential oil bottle with dropper and green leafThe FAMEs test is an indirect method of testing oils, where the molecules have to be transformed in order to be analyzed.

Most fatty acids don’t exist by themselves in carrier oils. Instead, they’re bonded to glycerol and are a part of larger molecules known as “glycerides.” In order to perform the FAMEs test, we use solvents to create an acidic conversion. Once the conversion is complete, the sample of carrier oil can then be added to the upper phase of the gas chromatograph for analysis.

Comparing FAMEs analysis and GC/MS testing of essential oils

Essential oil bottles with a dropperA FAMEs is a little different than a GC/MS test on essential oils (learn more about that here).

Carrier oils are not quite as chemically complex as essential oils. In general, they contain the same major fatty acids just in varying amounts and ratios. Some of the most common fatty acids include:

  • Saturated fats: myristic, palmitic, stearic, arachidic, behenic, and lignoceric acids
  • Monounsaturated fats: palmitoleic, oleic, and eicosenoic acids
  • Polyunsaturated fats: linoleic and linolenic acids

When looking at a FAMEs, the key is not to check for compounds specific to a given plant, but instead to compare the ratios of the various fatty acids to what is known for that oil.

What information can be gathered from FAMEs test?

Cupped hand holding oilThe FAMEs test is a basic tool that allows us to search for adulteration and offer another layer of transparency for our customers.

The amounts and ratios of fatty acids in an analysis allow us to catch cases of adulteration. If a key fatty acid is missing or is in the wrong amount, we know that the carrier oil could be adulterated. Offering transparent batch-specific FAMEs test results to our customers means you can trust that our carrier oils aren’t diluted or adulterated in any way.

Basically, this test provides you with information on what our carrier oils consist of and helps you to choose the best carrier oil for a given concern.

For more reading on our company values, check out this great blog post! We’re committed to being honest and transparent, and striving to give you, our customers, as much information as possible.

Information for this blog was graciously provided by Alexis St-Gelais, M. Sc., chimiste; Directeur scientifique; Laboratoire PhytoChemia