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Beginner's guide to oil infusions: How to make plant-infused oils

Before miss Hot Summer comes, let's take some time to honor miss Charming Spring. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, the weather is getting warmer, seeds are being planted, trees are getting greener and the days are getting longer.


Nature is waking up and this is a perfect time to get ready to make some lovely oil infusions by extracting your favorite springtime plants!


Let's get straight to work and learn HOW TO MAKE and USE OIL MACERATES like a pro.

oil infusion macerates guide how to

In this written guide to oil infusions you will learn:

  1. What are oil infusions

  2. How to choose the right carrier oil for infusing

  3. How to choose the right plant for infusing

  4. How to make an oil infusion

  5. Where & how to use oil infusions in skincare

  6. How to determine their expiry date

In the follow-up blog post, I will also share my TOP 10 oil infusions and a wonderful springtime serum formula to keep your face smooth and nourished during the flowering months.

what are oil infusions, oil macerates

1. What are oil infusions?


Oil infusion (or oil macerate) is a plant extract produced by soaking/infusing plant matter in a carrier oil base that acts as a solvent for the extraction of the therapeutic properties of the plant. Through a process called maceration, lipophilic (oil-soluble) active ingredients from plants are slowly transferred into oil and thus enriched with medicinal substances. Oil infusions are easy to prepare and can be effective, potent active boosters of your skincare formulas.


Infusing herbs, flowers, barks, and other plant material in a fatty base has been a part of traditional herbalism for centuries and practiced by different nations all over the world. Initially, they were made mainly on animal (usually pork) fat, but in recent years the usage of vegetable oils had become more acceptable and accessible than it used to be.


Besides potent therapeutic properties, oil macerates can give your product an exceptional color and outstanding fragrance without the need for the usage of essential oils.


Tip: They are great to include in baby's/children's skincare if you're looking for a nice tender aroma with extra soothing bonuses.

carrier oil and plant for infusing oil

2. How to choose the right carrier oil for infusing?


The selection of carrier oils that are suitable for maceration is enormous. It all comes down to your preference, the purpose of the extract, and the stability of the oil.

What exactly does "stable oil" mean?


The stability of your oil depends on many factors such as its composition, method of extraction, additives, storage conditions, the origin of the oil, etc. Stable oil has better durability and is less sensitive to external factors such as light, heat, and air (oxidation). You can check the iodine value of your oil - generally speaking, you should aim to use oils with lower iodine values (less than 100) for your oil infusions. Less stable oils, oils that are heat-sensitive or so-called "active" oils are not your best choice for making oil infusion and could make your effort of extracting go down the drain. Try to search for oils that consist mainly of monounsaturated and (to a minor extent) saturated fatty acids.

4 criteria for making a quality oil infusion is picking a carrier oil that is:

  • stable by its chemical structure

  • fresh

  • cold-pressed

  • unrefined


Olive and sunflower oils are some of the most frequently used carrier oils for macerates, but others such as jojoba (wax), rice bran, camellia, macadamia, baobab, hazelnut, babassu, coconut, bacuri and sweet almond oil work great as well. Have fun discovering others on your own. If you're planning to infuse your favorite plant butters, the most suitable process for that would be over a bain-marie (using the hot process method).


3. How to choose the right plant for infusing?


Before you decide which plant matter will end up in your carrier oil, ask yourself what is the purpose of your extract and why are you even making one?


Some of the main reasons for making oil macerates are:

  • to extract color

  • to extract aroma

  • to extract therapeutic properties

  • all of the above

Whatever you will be trying to achieve you will need to do some research on which active ingredient of the plant "carries" the desired color, aroma, or therapeutic property and is lipophilic (soluble in oil). This is the only way you can make sure you are using the right solvent (oil) and that your extract will perform & deliver as it should.


Tip: Don't be stuck with using just herbs or flowers. There are many extraordinary plant parts to be used in oil infusions besides leaves such as roots, seeds, stems, barks, fruits etc.

how to make an oil infusion, oil macerate

4. How to make oil infusions?

Oil infusions had traditionally been made by infusing dry herbs or flowers in an oil base and then leaving the filled glass jars in the sun for a few weeks so that the sun would gently heat the oil and extract the plant’s therapeutic properties.

Although the knowledge that had been passed on from generation to generation is a valuable source of know-how it is essential to combine tradition with recent scientific findings to get the best of both worlds. :)


Sun exposure can have a negative effect on plant oils and active ingredients as it causes photooxidation. Especially when using cold-pressed and unrefined oils for our infusions, it is important not to expose them to direct sunlight and high temperatures, as this would contribute to spoiling our oil extract faster, and at the same time potentially harm certain active ingredients that are not very stable.


I advise using only dry plant matter for oil infusion since water in fresh plants could present a risk of microbiological contamination. But if you feel that your level of knowledge and process skills are adequate feel free to experiment with fresh plants as well.

Oil infusing can also be done in a bain-marie (double boiler) for an hour up to a few. You should keep the heat as low as possible so you don't overheat the oil and the plant matter. This process is especially convenient when it comes to infusing butters or if you're in a hurry and don't feel like waiting for weeks.

6-step oil infusion process (cold process, dry plant matter):


1. Choose your carrier oil and dry plant matter.

2. Fill a sanitized glass jar with chopped plant matter.

3. Pour your carrier oil over the top and make sure that all of the plant material is covered by the oil. Stir to avoid air pockets.

4. Place on the lid and put the jar in a dark place with more or less constant (warm) temperature.

5. Infuse for 3 to 5 weeks. Gently stir or shake the mixture every day (so you continue to extract therapeutic properties into your base oil).

6. Use a coffee filter for straining. Pour the final oil maceration into a sterilized airtight container. Label with name and date.

Tips:

Every week you can replace the macerated material with a new one (that way you encourage a more potent therapeutic blend).


Increase the oxidative stability of your macerate by adding 0.5% vitamin E or 0.1% rosemary CO2 extract to your base oil before pouring it over the plant material.

ALWAYS keep track & make lab notes of your oil infusions. Although oil infusions may seem too simple to note, over time you can see huge differences between your infusions depending on plant matter content, carrier oil selection, antioxidant, the place of storage, time of infusion, and so on.


You want to be able to reformulate the ones that were successful & learn from those that were not, right?

lab notes, lab notebook, recipe notebook, skincare formulation

I love to use Recipe Notebook for my oil infusion notes since it is very simple and doesn't require too detailed notes. The two-paged formulation form is perfect for making different tests and is not too time-consuming when it comes to writing. The Recipe Notebook is perfect for:

  • simple formulations & recipes

  • extracts tests (macerates, glycerites, etc.)

  • new ingredients tests (testing on new ingredients skin-feel, viscosity, solubility, color, scent, etc.)

  • comparison tests (e.g. different waxes comparison test)

Get your own 5% off with code MACERATES5. It's a printable notebook - you receive it instantly and can start using it right away. >>>SHOP HERE<<<

where and how to use oil infusions, oil macerates

5. How and where to use oil infusions?


Macerates are excellent additives in traditional preparations, therapeutic products, and modern natural cosmetics, where they enrich creams, lotions, body butters, lip balms and more.

They can be used on their own (e.g. as a facial or body oil) or in combination with other plant oils and/or essential oils. You can add them to a skincare formula as a base, active botanical, or aromaceutical and use them at a really low percentage such as 1-3% up to 100% depending on the product you're making.

Some of the frequently used macerates and applications in skincare products:

  • Comfrey macerate: preparations for sprains and tissue damage

  • Rosemary macerate: hair care products

  • Calendula macerate: products for damaged and inflamed skin or burns

  • Chamomile macerate: therapeutic products for dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis

  • Lavender macerate: anti-stress, calming skincare products

  • Coffee macerate: anti-cellulite, tightening products

  • Immortelle macerate: anti-age, regenerating & prestigious products

  • Carrot macerate: protective, soothing, summer products

You can include your macerates in basically any skincare formula that includes any amount of oil. They are perfect in emulsions, body oils, lip balms, lipsticks, whipped butters, pressed serums, solid shampoos, bi-phase cleansers, scrubs, solid perfumes, and more. The choice is just endless!

shelf life of macerates. oil infusions

6. Shelf life of macerates


The lifespan of your macerate depends primarily on the oil you choose. If the oil has been fresh and you have chosen one that is well stable, your oil extract will surely keep for a period of 6 to 12 months when it will be time to make a new one. Always check your carrier oil expiry date as guidance for the shelf life of the extract. You can extend the shelf life by adding antioxidants that slow down the aging process of oils. Store them out of direct sunlight and heat and try to keep them in fairly small containers – so you don’t have large amounts of air in the container.


How to prolong oil infusion shelf life:

  • add an antioxidant

  • use fresh, stable & quality carrier oils

  • store them in a dark place

  • use glass containers and if necessary transfer them to smaller ones so the bottle/jar is always full

The oil which has become rancid, which is most often detected by an unpleasant sharp smell, is no longer useful and is always discarded.

Join me in making a lovely, lightweight anhydrous serum based on three flower-infused oils, that you can adjust and customize to your liking in my next blog post.

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