When you look up how to use different essential oils for anxiety, depression headaches or just to relax, you will see that most instructions suggest using a carrier oil to dilute the essential oil before you apply the oil topically.
If you’ve ever wondered what are carrier oils and why they are important to add to essential oils, you’ll find all those answers below.
What are Carrier Oils
Carrier oils are basically various vegetable oils that are obtained from different plants. The oils are derived by cold-pressing the fatty portions of the plant, usually the nuts, kernels or seeds.
These cold pressed vegetable oils help to dilute the potency of strong essential oils which could otherwise act as an irritant when applied directly to the skin.
The term carrier oil is very appropriate when you consider that the main purpose of the oils is to carry the essential oil onto the skin. There is no one best aromatherapy carrier oil for all purposes.
Different oils have different properties and it is always best to use carrier oils and essential strictly according to instructions on the bottle.
How Do Carrier Oils Work? What is the Purpose of Aromatherapy Carrier Oils?
Essential oils are pure extracts from leaves and plants. In their pure form, they are very potent and the high concentration of their ingredients can be a little too strong when applied directly to your skin.
This, of course, is only when the oil is being applied topically. Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, the oil could trigger off a bad reaction when applied in its u undiluted form.
In addition, it also helps to neutralize the strong scent so they it does not become overpowering.
Adding carrier oils helps to dilute the potency and aroma of the essential oil, resolving both of these problems.
An added benefit is that carrier oils also act as natural moisturizer for the skin.
Why Use Carrier Oils to Dilute Essential Oils?
In most aromatherapy techniques, the essential oils that you use are naturally diluted with water.
When you add essential oil into a diffuser, the steam that is generated mixes with the oil, releasing the diluted version of the oil into the atmosphere.
The same thing happens when you add essential oil to your tea or a bathtub for aromatherapy. The oil gets diluted with the water and you get the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils without the harsh reactions.
However, in topical applications, diluting the essential oils with water doesn’t work that well. This is because the water evaporates into the air while essential oils seep into your skin very quickly, going deep into the layers of skin where they cause the irritation.
When you dilute essential oils with the appropriate carrier oil, the carrier oil sits on your skin for longer, so you can rub it onto the top layer of your skin with the essential oils and it protects your delicate skin while also neutralizing the scent.
What Are Some Of the Best Carrier Oils for Essential Oils?
Some of the more commonly used aromatherapy carrier oils include but are not limited to:
- Fractionated Coconut Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
- Olive oil
- Hemp Seed Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Cranberry Seed Oil
- Grape Seed Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Hazelnut Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Pecan Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
It is important to keep in mind though that there is no one best carrier oil for essential oils. Every carrier oil offers a unique combination of therapeutic properties and benefits when mixed with a different essential oil.
The best aromatherapy carrier oil to be used depends on the therapeutic benefit that you are looking for. From a simple carrier oil/essential oil blend to commercially prepared skin creams, lip balms and bath oils, the choice of carrier oil plays a key role in the therapeutic benefits that you will get.
Even the aroma, color and shelf life of the product is determined by the choice of carrier oil that is used in the preparation.
Typically any oils from nuts or seeds are safe to use, but you must check before use. Not all vegetable oils are appropriate for use as aromatherapy carrier oils.
You should not use other forms of oil or grease in your kitchen, such as vegetable oil or vegetable shortening, butter, or margarine. You also do not want to use any type of mineral oil for application on the skin with essential oils.
Essential Oils vs. Carrier Oils
So what exactly is the difference between essential oils and carrier oils? A look at the summation of essential oils vs. carrier oils should give you a pretty good picture of the differences.
- Origin and extraction – Essential oils are extracted from the bark, leaves, roots and other aromatic parts of various therapeutic herbs, plants and trees. Carrier oils on the other hand are extracted by cold pressing fatty portions such as kernels, seeds and nuts of different plants and trees.
- Aroma – Essential oils have a highly concentrated aroma that is characteristic of the plant from which they are extracted. Carrier oils also get their aroma from the plant from which they are extracted but their aroma is milder than that of essential oils.
- Characteristics – Essential oils evaporate quickly and are not oily to touch, unlike carrier oils, which feel distinctly oily and do not evaporate as quickly.
- Shelf life & Efficacy – Carrier oils tend to get rancid and develop an unpleasant odor when kept for too long. Essential oils do not get rancid but they lose their therapeutic benefits over a period of time. This is because they tend to oxidize slowly every time the bottle is opened.
What to Consider When Looking For the Best Aromatherapy Carrier Oils
With so many different characteristics, therapeutic benefits and other precautions to heed, deciding which is the best carrier oil for essential oils can be confusing.
Take these few factors into consideration when looking for the best aromatherapy carrier oils and you’ll be okay.
The best aromatherapy carrier oils are cold pressed. It is the cold-pressed process that makes them so good as carrier oils. Take a look at the label. If it does not say cold pressed or cold expeller pressed, it may not have any value as an aromatherapy carrier oil.
The vegetable oils that you buy from grocery stores for cooking are not cold pressed. These cooking oils are processed using heat, which destroys the fragile therapeutic components of the oil. Using these oils is useless at best and could cause more harm than good.
When you want to get the best carrier oils for essential oils, it is best to buy it from online stores that specialize in essential oils and other aromatherapy products. Local stores tend to be more expensive. Buying online is always a better alternative.
Make sure that the carrier oil is pure and not a blend. Also check that it does not have any additives.
Always, check the manufactured date and expiry date. The closer it is to the manufactured date, the fresher the oil will be and the more therapeutically potent. The closer it is to the expiry date, the less potent it will be. Its therapeutic properties will be weaker too.
How to Store Aromatherapy Carrier Oils
There is a right way and a wrong way to store aromatherapy carrier oils. When you have paid so much to buy the best carrier oils for essential oils, it pays to learn the right way so your investment will last longer.
Carrier oils last longest when stored in dark glass bottles in a cool, dark place. Amber or cobalt bottles work best for the purpose.
If you use the oil regularly, just keep it in the original bottle. There is no need to transfer it. You only need to transfer a carrier oil to a glass bottle if you intend keeping it for a longer time.
Unlike essential oils, carrier oils do not deteriorate when kept in the original plastic bottles, but again, for longer periods of time it is best to transfer just to be on the safe side.
Not all carrier oils store well in the refrigerator so make sure you read the instructions carefully. Some oils turn cloudy or even solidify when kept at such cool temperatures and this can also alter the properties of the oil. For example, the lifespan of borage seed oil can be extended by storing in the refrigerator but avocado oil will solidify at this temperature. Avocado oil stays best when stored in a cool, dark cupboard.
Do not use carrier oils after their expiry date as these oils tend to get rancid. Smell the oil before use. If it smells weird, throw it out. Using an expired carrier oil can cause skin irritation.
What carrier oil do you use and how do you use it? Do you have a favorite variety or brand that has worked well for you? Let us know in the comments below.