Knowing your carrier oils is an important step in perfecting your skincare regimen since they allow you to use and benefit from essential oils. How?
Well, if you go on and do your research on essential oils you will inevitably encounter a large list of side effects or precautions for their use because they are extremely strong and potent.
If you have a sensitive skin type and you’ve tried using essential oils, then you know what am I talking about.
On the other hand, they’re expensive and don’t smear on the skin as well as oils do. You may have noticed that essential oils evaporate really quickly leaving your skin dry a few minutes after they’ve been applied. So, how to fix all that? Mix them with oil, which is exactly how we get to the term “carrier oils”.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the terminology and all the industry jargon like base oil, dilution ratios, macerated and infused oils, don’t worry. In this guide and the complete list of carrier oils, you have everything you need to know about your carrier oils in simple and easy terms.
First things first, carrier oil is a plant-based oil which is used as a base in a blend, a cream or a lotion, mixed with essential oil in order to dilute it and provide a better consistency for massage or aromatherapy purposes.
If you thought these are some mysterious new type of oils, you are wrong. Carrier oils are simply plant-oils, such as coconut, almond, avocado, or argan oil. I’m sure you are very familiar with these oils and their application in the cosmetic industry, but you may have never seen them labeled as carrier oils or you haven’t used them in such a way.
The term “carrier” simply implies that the oil is mixed with essential oil, providing the function of carrying the essential oil through the skin. Essential oils evaporate as soon as they are applied to the skin. But when mixed with plant-oils the skin can absorb them better and they provide more benefits, while some of their notorious side-effects are canceled out.
Essential oils should always be diluted in plant-derived oils, not in chemical or mineral oils.
Choosing the right carrier oil is as important as choosing the essential oil since carrier oils have their own characteristics and therapeutic benefits which impact the skin’s complexion and health.
Most carrier oils aren’t scented and can be mixed with any essential oil. You don’t need to worry too much about mixing and matching, but you do need to consider a few things when you are making your blend or buying a product with a carrier oil as a base.
Let’s start by saying there will be a lot of experimenting before you find the right oil for your skin, but these are the factors that can guide you through the endless possibilities.
Carrier oils are mixed with essential oils which have a very strong and distinctive scent. Although most carrier oils aren’t scented, you need to consider the odor of all the substances you are planning to mix, as to save yourself from a really disappointing situation.
Not all oils are absorbed in the skin equally. Depending on their thickness, some of them can penetrate the skin really easily, while others take some time. If you are using a carrier oil that absorbs quicker, then the essential oil will also absorb quicker and the scent will be gone sooner.
Some oils work better for some skin types, while others can even make a certain skin condition worse. For example, olive oil is rich in nutrients and can really help your complexion, especially if you are feeling dry, but it’s no good for oily or acne-prone skin because it can clog your pores.
Some oils last longer than others, so when you are deciding on what carrier oil to use, have in mind its shelf life and how much to use for your blend. Most oils don’t have any serious side-effects even after going bad, but they can lose all of their properties and won’t have any benefits.
High-quality products are always recommended because they maintain their properties which are responsible for producing all the benefits we are going to discuss below.
The way the oil is obtained is really important for this. Cold-pressed oils are considered the best, while macerated or infused oils are also good. Avoid rancid oils though,and remember that all carrier oils should be kept cool, and away from strong light, to retard rancidification.
Sometimes refrigerating the oils helps them keep their freshness, however, some oils should not be refrigerated. For example, avocado oil.
Always seek information about the production process of the oil and what that means for its storage before using the oil.
We can divide carrier oils into four, flexible categories based on their characteristics, just to give you a better idea of how differently they can be used when mixed with essential oils.
In this category, we’ll include all the plant-based oils that are considered safe for most skin types and can be used alone, making 100% of the base.
Jojoba oil, argan oil, and almond oil are great examples for this category. You can easily use jojoba oil with a few drops of the essential oil of your choice, and you are good to go.
Percentage-based carrier oils are thicker and greasy oils that have a lot of nutrients and benefits for overall skin health, but they might irritate the skin, clog pores, or worsen certain skin conditions if used in high concentrations and alone. Olive, avocado, neem, and evening primrose oil are good examples in this category.
Specialty oils are the oils that are really rare and mostly used for specific therapeutic reasons. They are used in lower concentrations as part of the blend’s base. Rosehip oil and tamanu oil might fall into this category.
Infused oils are a combination of carrier oil and a plant ingredient. A base-oil, often sunflower, is placed in an airtight container with a plant inside for a certain amount of time so that the oil gets infused with the properties of the plant ingredient. Rosemary or chamomile oil is a great example of this type of carrier oils.
Coconut oil contains important fatty acids and polyphenols, as well as antimicrobial properties that can help protect against harmful microorganisms. Additionally, coconut oil is known for reducing inflammation on the skin which can also lead to reducing the appearance of acne. All these characteristics make it a great carrier oil.
Remember that buying virgin coconut oil is always a better choice than refined coconut oil. And, another thing, coconut oil is highly comedogenic which means that it can clog the pores and lead to more acne. This is why people with oily and acne-prone skin should use it in small concentrations as a carrier oil, as well as wash or cleanse the face after treating it with coconut oil.
You can use coconut oil as a carrier oil of the base or alone with a few drops of your essential oil of choice. Typically, a safe ratio means combining 1–3 drops of any essential oil with about half a teaspoon of coconut oil and rubbing the mixture into the area of concern. If you want to battle acne, combine it with tea tree oil, and if you want to soothe the skin, combine it with lavender oil.
Jojoba oil comes from the seeds of the jojoba plant. It’s odorless and golden-yellow in color. It’s considered a great carrier oil because it can hydrate the skin without being too heavy and greasy.
Jojoba oil is absorbed easily and doesn't clog the skin, but its moisturizing properties and its similarity to the natural oils in the skin make it a great option for acne-prone skin since it can inhibit the production of excess oil.
Best of all? Jojoba oil is great for all skin types. It will carry the essential oils deep into the skin without clogging the pores or irritating the skin.
Combine a few drops of your favorite essential oil with half a teaspoon of jojoba oil and use the blend as a makeup remover, moisturizer, as an additional protection from sun-damage (never use it as a replacement for sunscreen) or soak your hands and feet in the blend for about 10 minutes to prevent cracked skin.
Argan oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid, antioxidants, vitamins A and vitamin E, which puts it right on top of the “best carrier oils” list. If you think about it, you can recall how often you see argan oil in skincare products and shampoos.
This is because it’s relatively light, absorbs quickly, and it doesn’t make the skin greasy. Just like jojoba oil, it inhibits the production of excess oil, so you can use it for acne-prone and oily skin. The tocopherol from vitamin E promotes cell turnover, which means it helps the skin heal faster, can reduce the appearance of superficial lines and wrinkles, and improves discoloration.
You can also use it as a moisturizer or to relieve razor burns.
If you want to soothe the skin, one of the best combinations is argan, lavender, and chamomile oil.
To many people, rosehip oil is the ultimate favorite carrier oil because it’s amazing for dry, aging skin and it’s very nourishing and regenerating. Rosehip seed oil contains linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, as well as, vitamins A and E making it a great addition in creams and other topical treatments against eczema, stretch-marks, and anti-aging symptoms.
Rosehip oil is great for sensitive skin as well because it can help you soothe inflammation, and improve the texture of your skin.
You can combine it with lavender oil and rose water toner.
Tamanu oil is extracted from the nut of the Ati tree originally found on the islands of Fiji. It’s really specific and you won’t find it as commonly as the other carrier oils. This is because it’s believed to have some powerful healing properties and it’s used mostly for therapeutic purposes.
Studies have shown that tamanu oil is a promising remedy for treating infected wounds because it stimulates the skin to produce new cells and speeds up the process of skin regeneration. This, combined with the powerful antioxidants it contains, also makes it excellent for aging skin and reducing the appearance of scars, and stretch marks.
If you are battling frequent acne breakouts, dry skin, or a nasty sunburn you can use tamanu oil as a carrier oil along with a few drops of lavender, tea tree, and frankincense essential oil.
Your taste buds and stomach are not the only ones that love and benefit from this amazing fruit. Rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins A, D, and E which make it a potent anti-inflammatory agent suitable for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
Avocado oil is rich in palmitoleic fatty acid, a type of acid that is naturally found in the skin’s fat tissue just under the skin. This allows the oil to be deeply absorbed in the skin providing exceptional nourishment for mature and thin skin.
Avocado oil has a high viscosity (thickness) and dries off slowly which makes it an ideal carrier oil for your next massage.
Olive oil is one of those ingredients that we hate and love at the same time. Extracted from the fruit of the olive tree, it's filled with an incredible number of skin health benefits. Using olive oil as a carrier oil will leave your skin barrier extra smooth and soft, while the antioxidants will scavenge free-radicals and protect the skin.
If you have dry skin, then you’ll be happy to hear that olive oil taps moisture really well and keeps the skin hydrated.
But, unfortunately, its thickness can be a little too much for oily or acne-prone skin and it can even lead to more breakouts.
This is why you need to be careful with this one. It’s a great percentage-based carrier oil, and you can mix it in with other oils of lower concentrations to still get all the benefits from it.
Make sure you don’t buy some low-quality products as these are more refined and may be mixed with other oils in the manufacturing process. Always search for cold-pressed, unrefined, extra virgin olive oil.
Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of the winemaking process, but that doesn’t make it any less important and effective as a carrier oil. It’s rich in vitamin E and C which makes it really useful for oily and acne-prone skin. It can help the skin control sebum production, promote collagen creation and calm inflammation. Suffering from adult acne? Try grapeseed oil as a carrier oil.
It’s light and absorbs well in the skin.
Apricot Kernel Oil is high in vitamin E, and omega 6 and 9 fatty acids which makes it an excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent. It’s really light and gentle on the skin with similar properties as the sweet almond oil. It has many uses and it’s part of many body and face lotions, creams, balms, and ointments. But, maybe its best use is as a carrier oil for your massage mixture. It will make your skin ultra soft and won’t leave any greasy residue.
Just like many of the carrier oils, evening primrose oil is high in essential fatty acids and works wonderfully well as an anti-inflammatory agent. It’s commonly used to treat skin irritations and other mild skin conditions. If you combine evening primrose oil with an essential oil that has antimicrobial properties, like tea tree oil, you can use it to treat acne, blemishes, and rashes.
If you use evening primrose oil as a supplement you’ll get yet another highly desirable benefit - you can relieve PMS symptoms. Yep, that’s right. If you suffer from hormonal acne, evening primrose oil can help you on the outside as well as the inside.
Almond oil is rich in antioxidants which is why it is commonly used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Almond oil is really light and easily absorbed into the skin, which helps keep the scent longer on the skin. If you combine it with essential oils that have antimicrobial properties, like tea tree oil, you can even help cleanse the skin and clear pores.
Using almond oil is great for improving your complexion and skin tone.
Castor oil is obtained from the castor bean plant and it’s one of those ancient remedies that has been used extensively for various health issues before modern medicine took over. The benefits of using castor oil in your skincare regimen include increased blood cells and elimination of bacteria, viruses, fungus, and even cancer cells.
All these characteristics make castor oil great for healing skin infections, fungal infections, and sunburns. Just make sure you buy a high-quality cold-pressed castor oil to be sure it contains all the above-mentioned benefits.
Black seed oil is made from the Nigella sativa plant and it’s not as famous as the other carrier oils mentioned on this list. However, it can be a powerful carrier oil because of its rich content of fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.
People most often use it because they believe it helps treat eczema, acne, and psoriasis.
Neem oil contains over a hundred biologically active compounds including nimbidin & nimbin compounds, omega-6 fatty acids, and azadirachtin.
What do all these words mean? Well, they make it a potent remedy for many skin conditions, infections and even make it a natural insect repellent.
So, next time you are going out in nature and want to save yourself from the nasty and painful insect bites you can apply a DIY body-lotion with neem oil as a carrier oil, and some essential oil of your choice, so you can smell good too!
Hemp seed oil is obtained from the Cannabis Sativa plant, which possesses some powerful abilities.
It’s rich in linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid, which give it quite the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Hemp seed oil can help your skin with skin cell regeneration and prevent premature aging.
Additionally, the hemp seed oil is a natural analgesic (pain-reliever). If you are suffering from muscle or joint pain, this carrier oil is a great choice when combined with peppermint or lavender essential oil to help you get rid of the pain.
If you have oily skin, you don’t have to worry - hemp seed oil is non-greasy and you can use it on your whole body.
There’s no better feeling than massaging yourself with a scented body oil made by combining essential oils with one or more carrier oils.
But, now that you’ve chosen your ingredients, you might be wondering how to actually make the blend. What amount to add from which substance?
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy gives these guidelines:
If you are using the blend for a child or extremely sensitive skin you should aim for 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier.
If you are using the blend for an adult, you can vary the strength of the dilution from 2,5% (15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier) to 10% (60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier).
It’s best to start with lower concentrations of essential oils and gradually increase the strength if you feel that your skin is adjusted.
To prevent an allergic reaction or irritation, every time you try out a new blend or you’ve changed the concentration ratio, perform a patch test on a small area of the skin before applying on a large surface.
Carrier oils are crucial for safe and effective use of essential oils. We need carrier oils to dilute and improve the absorption of essential oils, which are known to be very strong and potent on the skin when applied directly. Which is why that is not recommended.
To save yourself from a bad irritation and to get a few more benefits for the skin you should invest in a good-quality carrier oil.
Before deciding on what oil to use as a carrier oil consider its odor, absorption rate, manufacturing process, shelf-life, and your skin type.
We hope that our list of the most commonly used carrier oils, their benefits and uses will give you all the information you need to make this decision.
Use them carefully, but don’t be afraid to experiment and mix it up. With time you’ll gain confidence, learn what your skin wants, and become an expert in creating your own magic blends for flawless skin.