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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 any essential oil directly on your skin.
When you are looking for tips on how to use essential oils topically, you will see that most instructions advise you to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil before applying it on your skin. But do you know why you need to carrier oils or which is the best carrier oil to use?
Let’s take a look at what are carrier oils for essential oils, why use carrier oils, how to use carrier oils and the shelf life of carrier oils.
What are Carrier Oils for Essential Oils?
Carrier oils for essential oils are basically pure 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 carrier oil for essential oils. Different oils have different properties and the best one for you will depend on the result you are hoping to achieve.
As a rule of thumb, it is always best to use carrier oils for essential oils strictly according to instructions on the bottle.
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.
Even if you don’t have sensitive skin, the essential oil could cause an adverse reaction when applied in its undiluted form.
Pure essential oils also have a very strong aroma, which can be overpowering when applied topically.
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 a natural moisturizer for the skin so after an application, your skin will smell good and feel good too.
Why Use Carrier Oils to Dilute Essential Oils? Why Not Use Water?
When you are using essential oils in a diffuser or a bathtub, the oil is naturally diluted with water.
When you add essential oil and water into a diffuser, the steam that is generated mixes with the oil, releasing the diluted version of the oil into the atmosphere. This releases a subtle, pleasant aroma into the air and also allows you to get the benefits slowly and steadily over a longer period of time.
The same thing happens when you add essential oil to your 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 does not 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.
Meanwhile, you also get the therapeutic benefits of the essential oil so you can twice the benefits with every application.’
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 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.
Carrier Oils v/s Vegetable Oils
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 always advisable to buy it from reputed online stores.
What Are Some Of the Best Carrier Oils for Essential Oils List?
The 9 best carrier oils for essential oils list are:
- Fractionated Coconut Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
- Hazelnut Oil
- Jojoba oil
- Avocado Oil
- Apricot Kernel Oil
- Sesame Seed Oil
- Olive Oil
- Argan Oil
Other carrier oils for essential oils that are also good but are not as versatile as the 9 mentioned above are:
- Aloe Vera Macerated Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Wheatgerm Oil
- Cranberry Seed Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Grape Seed Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Pecan Oil
Here you can read more about the 9 best carrier oils for essential oils and how they work.
What to Consider When Looking For the Best Carrier Oil for Essential 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.
Moreover, there is no such thing as one best carrier oil for essential oils. What is best for you will depend on the results you are hoping to achieve.
In general, there are a few factors that you must take into consideration when looking for the best carrier oils for aromatherapy.
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. 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 aromatherapy carrier oil.
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.
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.
Make sure you check the shelf life of carrier oils before using – The shelf life of carrier oils differs from one carrier oil to another. Sometimes, we do not realize how long the oil has been sitting there. It may be longer than you think and it may be past the ‘best before’ date. Always check before using. Using a carrier oil that is past its shelf life could irritate your skin.
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 for essential 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, you can leave it in the original container itself. There is no need to transfer it.
However, if you use the oil sparingly and it is likely to last you a longer time, it is advisable to transfer the contents to a glass bottle. Pour out a little at a time in a smaller container for immediate use.
Carrier oils do have a longer shelf life as compared to essential oils. They also 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. Using an expired carrier oil can cause skin irritation. Even if it looks and smells okay but is past its expiry date, throw it out. It’s not worth the risk.
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