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Understanding what are carrier oils for essential oils, how they work, and why you need to use them is crucial before you start using essential oils. This is especially important before applying essential oils directly on your skin.
If you are planning on creating your own perfumes, skincare, or bath products using essential oils, take time to understand the basics about carrier oils before you get started.
Here’s what you’ll find in the article:
What Are Carrier Oils for Essential Oils? What Do They Do?
Why Use Carrier Oils to Dilute Essential Oils? Why Not Use Water?
Essential Oils Vs Carrier Oils: What is the Difference?
Carrier Oils Vs Vegetable Oils
Which are the Best Carrier Oils for Essential Oils?
What are Carrier Oils for Essential Oils? What Do They Do?
Carrier oils are basically pure vegetable oils that are obtained by cold-pressing the fatty portions of the plant, usually the nuts, kernels, or seeds.
Essential oils are concentrated extracts obtained from the leaves, stems, and roots of various plants. When applied to the skin in their pure undiluted form, they are very potent and cause skin irritation.
Carrier oils dilute the potency of strong essential oils and allow them to be applied on the skin without the risk of irritation. The term carrier oil is appropriate when you consider that the main purpose of these oils is to carry the essential oil onto the skin.
By themselves, carrier oils contain ingredients that moisturize and nourish the skin. When you use carrier oils with essential oils, you get the skin-nourishing benefits of both.
There is no one best carrier oil for essential oils. Different oils have different properties. The best one for you will depend on the result you are hoping to achieve. Also, some carrier oils are better suited for certain applications over others.
Why Use Carrier Oils to Dilute Essential Oils? Why Not Use Water?
That’s the question on everybody’s mind. Water is usually the preferred medium for dilution so why use carrier oils to dilute essential oils?
You cannot dilute any oil with water because oils and water do not blend together at all. Oils have a lighter density than water. When you add oil and water together in any container, the water sinks to the bottom and the oil floats to the top. Even if you shake the container well, the oil will form droplets that scatter throughout the water but they will not dissolve. When you let the liquid stand, the oil will float to the top again.
Essential oils behave the same way except for one difference – they are also more volatile. When mixed with water, they will float to the top and evaporate quickly, leaving behind plain water in the container.
When you mix any essential oil with water and apply it to your skin, the more volatile essential oil seeps into your skin quickly leaving the water on the surface. This undiluted oil that gets absorbed into the skin is highly concentrated and causes skin irritation.
However, when you mix essential oil with carrier oil, both oils blend together well. For topical applications, you would generally add just a drop or two of essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil. When you apply this mix of oils topically, it is the larger amount of carrier oil that comes in contact with your skin. The amount of essential oil used is sufficient to give you the benefits but not enough to cause any irritation.
Carrier oils also contain ingredients that nourish and moisturize the skin so you get twice the benefits with every application.
CARRIER OILS V/S ESSENTIAL OILS
So what exactly is the difference between essential oils and carrier oils?
A quick comparison between essential oils vs. carrier oils is quite revealing.
- Origin & Extraction – Essential oils are extracted by steam distilling or cold pressing the bark, leaves, roots, rinds, 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 much milder and in some cases, almost indiscernible.
- Characteristics – Essential oils evaporate quickly and are not as oily to touch as carrier oils. Carrier oils on the other hand feel distinctly oily and do not evaporate as quickly.
- Shelf life & Efficacy – Carrier oils get rancid and develop an unpleasant odor when kept for too long. Essential oils do not get rancid with time. However, they lose their therapeutic benefits over a period of time. This is because they tend to oxidize slowly every time the bottle is opened.
Carrier Oils V/S Vegetable Oils
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. At best, cooking oils would do nothing for your skin. Some may even be harmful.
When you want to get the best carrier oils for essential oils, it is always advisable to buy it from reputed online stores.
Best Carrier Oils for Essential Oils
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Organic fractionated coconut oil is the best carrier oil to use when creating skincare creams and lotions, rollerball blends, hair care products, and bath products using essential oil. This is because it is thinner than most other carrier oils and gets absorbed more readily into the skin. When applied topically, it forms a nourishing, protective barrier on the skin without feeling greasy or clogging the pores.
The oil also has a very subtle, pleasant coconut scent so it does not interfere with the aroma of the essential oil.
Organic fractionated coconut oil is extracted using a special process that refines and clarifies the oil without affecting its therapeutic properties. It is rich in vitamin E, which helps protect the skin against aging.
This is a must-have carrier oil if you like making your own personal care products using essential oils. It helps cleanse and nourish the skin, soothe sunburn, and strengthen hair and nails.
Coconut oil is also easy to apply and does not dry out easily, which makes it the perfect base for making your own massage oils.
Non-greasy and odorless, Jojoba is the best carrier oil to use with essential oils when making lip balms, body butters, and lotion bars.
What is really interesting about jojoba oil is that it is not really an oil at all. What we call jojoba oil is in fact a liquid wax that has the same consistency and properties as the oil obtained from the sperm whale. Before the 1970s, the oil from sperm whales was used as a base for a wide range of skincare products and cosmetics. It was replaced with jojoba oil after whaling was banned in the 1970s.
The oil is extracted by cold-pressing the seeds of the Jojoba plant. The resultant extract is a liquid wax that closely resembles the natural sebum of the skin. It is rich in vitamin E, wax esters, and other nutrients that give the oil its exceptional emollient properties.
When massaged into the skin, Jojoba oil acts as a natural emulsifier and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores.
Organic Jojoba oil can be used to soothe chapped, reddened or sunburned skin. Gently patting jojoba oil over the skin regularly helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is excellent for all skin types, even oily skin.
Rich in oleic and linoleic essential fatty acids, almond oil is an excellent emollient. The superfine texture of the oil allows it to be absorbed into the skin more easily, leaving the skin soft and supple without feeling greasy.
When massaged into the skin, almond oil penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin, soothing and nourishing dry, irritated areas. This is what makes it the best carrier oil for creating a massage oil with essential oils. It is also great for creating bath care products and is an excellent addition to sugar and salt scrubs, lotion bars, and balms.
Almond oil is suitable for all skin types and can be used in skin blends at 100% strength. However, if you have nut allergies you must speak to your doctor before using this oil or to be on the safe side, use coconut or jojoba oil instead.
Argan oil is one of the best carrier oils for essential oils when creating anti-aging skincare products. Cold-pressed from the nut of the Moroccan Argan Tree, this oil is rich in antioxidant vitamin A, which encourages cellular regeneration and restores skin elasticity. Both of these properties help diminish the appearance of fine lines so your skin looks softer, smoother, and younger.
Argan oil has long been used to strengthen hair, nails, and cuticles. It also protects the skin from the sun and environmental damage, prevents the formation of stretch marks, and minimizes scarring.
Argan oil absorbs quickly and is suitable for all skin types including sensitive skin. It helps reduce sebum levels in oily skin, which helps reduce breakouts. Combining it with the right essential oils helps double the acne-fighting and anti-aging benefits.
Rosehip oil is NOT extracted from the rose plant, contrary to what many sources say. In fact, Rosehip oil has nothing to do with the rose plant.
Rosehip oil is extracted by cold pressing rosehip seeds. Plant Therapy offers an ‘Extra Virgin’ Rosehip oil, which is obtained by a single, simple pressing. This is the highest quality you can find anywhere.
Rosehip oil has a distinct aroma that’s part nutty, part earthy. It is rich in vitamin E, vitamin A, and essential fatty acids, which increases collagen and elastin levels and promotes cell regeneration. Not surprisingly, it is a key ingredient in creams, lotions, and face, massage and body oils.
Its superior moisturizing properties make rosehip oil excellent for nourishing dry skin. It also helps fade blemishes, marks, scars, and stretch marks.
Rosehip is the best carrier oil for rosacea because of its anti-inflammatory properties, which help soothe the itchiness and redness associated with this skin condition.
In high concentrations, this oil may aggravate oily skin and must be used sparingly.
Evening Primrose Refined Oil
Evening primrose oil is cold-pressed/refined from the seeds of the evening primrose flower. The refining process removes the inherent scent of the oil.
Evening Primrose carrier oil contains high levels of nourishing fatty acids. It penetrates deeply into the skin, nourishing and soothing from within. It is one of the best carrier oils to use in creams and lotions formulated for very dry or mature skin
There are several ways to use evening primrose oil by itself or in essential oil blends. Massaged undiluted into the skin during winter, it helps soothe and nourish from within, reducing dryness and irritation. It also helps reduce flakiness and dandruff when massaged directly into the scalp or added to shampoos.
Grapeseed oil is obtainedby cold-pressing the seeds of certain grape varieties.
Considered an all-purpose oil, grapeseed oil has a light aroma that is partly nutty, partly sweet. A benefit of this carrier oil is that it helps control sebum production and can help prevent acne.
Grapeseed oil is suitable for all skin types. When massaged into the skin undiluted, it leaves a slightly glossy film on the skin. It is best used in hair or beard oil, skincare products, and massage blends.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Rich in both linoleic acid and oleic acid, apricot kernel oil has superior nourishing, moisturizing, and emollient properties. It is an excellent carrier oil for all skin types, especially delicate and sensitive skin.
Apricot kernel oil has a super-fine texture and is easily absorbed by the skin without leaving it feeling oily. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it one of the best carrier oils for creating massage oils for sensitive, dry or irritated skin.
Olive oil is great for homemade salves and creams.
Its high vitamin and mineral content works great to nourish dry hair and boost hair growth.
While olive oil is a great carrier oil for massages, it is a little too heavy and oily to be used regularly on normal or oily skin. It is best used for dry, flaky skin and to soothe eczema.
Also, olive oil has a strong odor. This can interfere with the aroma of the essential oils used, which is why it isn’t commonly used when making perfumes or skin and bath care products.
If you don’t mind the strong smell of olive oil, you will find that it is one of the better massage oils. Of course, you want to make sure that you use only the highest quality organic, extra virgin olive oil such as that marketed by Plant Therapy. It is obtained from the first pressing of the olive and is packed full of nutrients.
Using the Right Dilutions is Important
Using the correct dilution of essential oils in a carrier oil is important to prevent any skin irritation, but keeping track can be difficult, resulting in unfortunate mistakes. To minimize the chances of accidentally using higher concentrations, it’s a good idea to buy or create your own dilution chart and keep it somewhere handy so you can refer to it whenever you need to.
The Essential Oils Dilution Chart Magnet by Plant Therapy is one of the best ones I’ve come across. What I love about it is that the information is very clearly laid out AND the magnet makes it easy to keep it right where you need it.
You will also find a KidSafe Dilution Chart Magnet, which is super handy for topical applications on kids’ skin.
How To Choose The Best Carrier Oil For You
With so many different characteristics, therapeutic benefits, and other precautions to heed, deciding which is the best carrier oil for you can be confusing.
Moreover, there is no such thing as one best carrier oil for essential oils. All carrier oils are good for the skin. Which one is best for you depends on the results you are hoping to achieve.
In general, there are a few factors that you must take into consideration when looking for a carrier oil.
Always use cold-pressed vegetable oils – The best carrier oils for essential oils are cold-pressed. It is the cold-pressed process that makes them so effective as carrier oils. Heat destroys the therapeutic properties of the oil. To find out if a particular oil is cold-pressed, 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 carrier oil for the skin.
Use only 100% pure oils – Read the label carefully to make sure that the carrier oil is pure and not a blend. Also, check that it does not contain any additives.
Check the manufacture 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. If the ‘use by’ date has passed, throw it out, even if it looks and smells okay as this could cause skin irritation. It’s not worth the risk.
Always buy from reputed brands – Reputed brands maintain stricter quality control over their entire manufacturing process, guaranteeing a higher quality product. When you are looking for carrier oils for essential oils, do not be tempted to buy the cheapest one available. As with most things, you get what you pay for. When you buy from an established brand you can rest easy knowing that you are using a high-quality product that is loaded with benefits.
HOW TO STORE CARRIER OILS
There is a right way and a wrong way to store 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.
In general, carrier oils have a longer shelf life than essential oils.
They are not as potent as essential oils and do not deteriorate when kept in plastic bottles. You can leave the oil in the original bottle if you plan on using it regularly.
However, if you use the oil sparingly and it is likely to last for a longer time, transfer a little at a time into a smaller bottle. This is to avoid unnecessary exposure to the air and light every time you open the bottle, as this could accelerate the deterioration process.
Carrier oils are best stored in a cool, dark place but not necessarily in the refrigerator. Read the instructions in the bottle carefully for best storage practices. Some oils turn cloudy or even solidify when kept in the refrigerator. The cooler temperature may also alter the properties of the oil.
Precautions When Using Carrier Oils
If this is the first time you are using a particular carrier oil, do a patch test before applying all over or using in homemade perfumes or skincare products. This is to ensure that your skin doesn’t react to the oil. To do a patch test, apply a little bit to the inside of your wrist. Wait a while to see if it causes itching or any other adverse reaction. If it doesn’t, you’re good to go.
Do not use almond, argan, or apricot kernel oil if you have nut allergies. If you need to use a carrier oil as a base in your homemade gifts, it’s best to avoid these oils altogether and use coconut, jojoba, or evening primrose oil instead.
When diluting essential oils with carrier oils, it is most important to follow standard dilution guidelines. Using too little carrier oil will not offer the necessary protection from potent essential oils. Using too much will dilute the effect.
Check the shelf life of the carrier oils before using in your DIY projects, especially if they’ve been lying around for a while. Shelf lives differ from one carrier oil to another. Sometimes, we do not realize how long the oil has been sitting on the shelf. It may be longer than you think and it may be well past the ‘best before’ date. Always check before using. Using a carrier oil that is past its shelf life could irritate your skin.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using any natural medication or if you experience any unusual symptoms. See Full Disclaimer here.