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Comparing Carrier Oils for Essential Oils
Have you ever wondered what carrier oils are? Or What the difference is between carrier oils? Or even how to use carrier oils? What are the best carrier oils for essential oils?
I’ve got you covered in this post.
First, what is a carrier oil for essential oils?
Carrier oils (and essential oils!) are made from plants. Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils and “carry” them to your skin.
You don’t need them for all essential oils, only oils that are “hot”.
“Hot oils” are oils that can cause a hot or warming sensation when applied to the skin. Some hot oils include Cinnamon, Clove, Lemongrass, Oregano, Thyme, and some blends containing hot oils would be Exodus II™, and Thieves®.
Before using a hot oil, do a patch test by applying 1–2 drops of essential oil to a patch of skin such as the forearm. If it is too hot to tolerate or causes irritation, you’ll want to add a carrier oil to dilute it.
Most carrier oils are unscented or lightly scented and don’t interfere with an essential oil’s therapeutic properties. They may be used alone or with other oils to nourish your skin.
What to Look for in a Carrier Oil for Essential Oils
For the best carrier oils for essential oils, only buy oils that are cold-pressed, 100 percent pure, and additive- or preservative-free. I also recommend organic varieties.
Where applicable, I’ll link to the carrier oils that I use and love. I’ve done the “legwork” for you! I’ve even included sections on how to use carrier oils in recipes and for many health applications.
The following list includes popular carrier oils used to dilute essential oils for aromatherapy, massage, and skin care.
Odor: Some carrier oils have a distinct or unique odor. When added to an essential oil, it may alter the aroma of the essential oil.
Absorption: Your skin can absorb some carrier oils better than others.
Skin type: Depending on your skin type, some oils may irritate skin or worsen a skin condition such as acne or rosacea.
Shelf life: Some carrier oils can be stored for longer periods than others without going bad or getting “funky” or even rancid.
Be sure to see below for how to blend essential oils with carrier oils.
Best Carrier Oils for Essential Oils
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, but a great place to start and includes the most widely used carrier oils and some of their uses with essential oils. You are sure to find the best carrier oils for essential oils for your needs.
1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is an edible oil made from the “meat” of mature coconuts.
Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconut meat. It’s not processed with chemicals and retains its coconut aroma and flavor.
Look for organic, virgin coconut oil.
- Solid at room temperature.
- Distinct coconut aroma.
- Creamy white color.
- Leaves a moisturizing, oily layer on top of the skin.
- Long shelf life.
Uses: Coconut oil contains skin-nourishing fatty acids and polyphenols, which make it a great carrier oil for massage oils and skin care preparations.
2. Fractionated Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is high in antioxidants and Vitamin E. But, the thick, unrefined coconut oil you find at the grocery store is not as useful for aromatherapy purposes because it doesn’t readily absorb into the skin.
Fractionating coconut oil makes it ideal for aromatherapy. The process of fractionating coconut oil makes the fatty acid chains separate out and produces a liquid consistency. Nothing is added to the oil itself to make it this way. This gives the oil a much longer shelf life and creates an oil that is non-greasy, light, and better for absorption.
This is in my top three of best carrier oils for essential oils.
- Unlike coconut oil, fractionated coconut oil is liquid at room temperature.
- No noticeable aroma.
- Absorbs well; leaves skin feeling silky and moisturized; non-greasy.
- High in essential fatty acids.
- Long shelf life.
Uses: This is my go-to oil as a carrier oil. I use this for making perfumes, colognes and other skin oils, including my healing blend filled with oils containing anti-tumoral properties (working hard to keep my cancer from coming back!)
3. Jojoba oil
Jojoba oil comes from the seeds of the jojoba plant. It has a light, nutty aroma, although it does not contain nuts.
Technically, jojoba isn’t an oil, but a wax with powerful moisturizing properties. It’s thought to closely mimic sebum, the skin’s natural oil and because of that, can be good for oily skin.
Odorless and golden yellow in color, jojoba is another popular carrier oil because it is great for hair and leaves skin hydrated without a lot of heavy shine
- Slightly nutty aroma.
- Medium consistency.
- Superior, non-greasy absorption; similar to the skin’s natural oils.
- Moisturizing for skin and hair.
- Long shelf life.
Using jojoba oil may help reduce the skin’s oil production in acne-prone people by making the skin think it’s produced enough oil.
Uses: Jojoba oil absorbs easily in the skin and doesn’t clog pores. This makes it a good carrier oil option for massage oils, facial moisturizers, and bath oils.
4. V-6 Enhanced Vegetable Oil Complex
V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex is a proprietary Young Living formula that combines fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil*, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil and olive oil.
Easily one of the top choices for best carrier oils for essential oils.
- Wheat germ oil is high in vitamin E and acts as a natural preservative.
- Moisturizes and nourishes the skin.
- Doesn’t clog pores.
- Has a long shelf life.
*Caution: May cause a reaction to those with nut allergies.
Uses: For topical application, blend 15-30 drops of essential oil with ⅛–¼ cup of V-6. Stronger oils (e.g., Cinnamon Bark, Clove, Oregano) require more dilution than gentler oils. Shake well before using.
5. Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is a type of vegetable fat that is derived from cocoa beans. The creamy cocoa butter is extracted from the beans by fermenting, drying, roasting, and then pressing them. They turn the remaining portion into cocoa powder.
Cocoa butter is a common active ingredient in lotions, creams, and lip balms. According to some historical sources, people have been using cocoa butter and other forms of cocoa since 460 AD.
In more recent times, researchers have found that cocoa has several healthful properties, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Many of these properties are due to substances that cocoa powder contains, such as catechin.
- Color varies in shades of cream and dark ivory and close to yellow
- Solid and difficult to work with at room temperature.
- Best used when melted and blended with other carrier oils.
- Sweet, chocolate aroma.
- May alter aroma of essential oils
Uses: to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, soothe minor burns and rashes, heal chapped lips and adds moisture to skin
Use alone or mixed with one or more essential oils for DIY balms, lotion bars. Body butters. Stretch mark creams, soaps, etc.
6. Shea Butter
Shea butter is fat that’s extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It’s solid at room temperature and has an off-white or ivory color. Shea trees are native to West Africa, and most shea butter still comes from that region.
This is another one that I use frequently and consider one of the best carrier oils for essential oils.
- It’s safe for all skin types (Shea butter is technically a tree nut product. But unlike most tree nut products, it’s very low in the proteins that can trigger allergies. There have been no documented reports of shea butter triggering allergies)
- Solid at room temperature.
- Nutty aroma.
- Moisturizing to skin and hair; leaves behind a moisturizing, waxy-feeling layer.
Benefits of shea butter as a carrier oil include: highly moisturizing without making skin feel oily, may prevent acne and boost collagen production; promote cell regeneration; helps reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks as well as fine lines and wrinkles; may soothe sunburn and protect from sun exposure; may help soothe conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis; may help promote wound healing and relieve insect bite stings; may help relieve arthritis and sore muscles.
Uses: with so many benefits, it’s a great idea to have some on hand and whip up some DIY recipes to have at the ready for burns, arthritis and overall skin health. I love it with Frankincense and Amoressence essential oils.
7. Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot oil is extracted from the kernels (seeds) of apricots. The oil can be obtained from kernels using solvent extraction or a cold pressed method. Apricot kernels have an oil content between 40-50%.
The seed cake of the apricot kernel is also used to extract essential oil
The apricot kernel oil is mainly composed of oleic acid and linoleic acid, both of which are unsaturated fats. It’s an emollient oil high in fatty acids and vitamin E.
It, like Jojoba and some other carrier oils, closely resembles the natural sebum produced in human skin.
Those with nut allergies who want to experience the healthful properties of oils such as Sweet Almond Carrier Oil, can benefit from substituting it with Apricot Kernel Oil.
You can buy edible apricot kernel oil, or apricot kernel oil for cosmetic use only.
- High in fatty acids and vitamin E
- Closely resembles natural sebum produced in human skin
- Has healthful properties of nut oils without the allergic reactions of nuts
- Absorbs easily into skin
Uses: Apricot kernel oil is thought to help soften and calm irritated, itchy skin. Use it as a carrier oil to make massage oils, bath oil, and hair care preparations. Used topically, Apricot Kernel Carrier Oil moisturizes dry, sensitive skin and smooths out blemishes, wrinkles, fine lines, and other symptoms of maturing skin. Add some essential oils for a relaxing, healthful skin serum.
8. Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil has a strong, nutty aroma. It’s an edible oil made from the kernels of sweet almonds. The oil is lightweight and absorbs easily and is a great moisturizer for dry skin.
It’s also used in general aromatherapy, but its strong scent may mask an essential oil’s aroma.
- Has a slightly sweet, nutty aroma.
- Medium consistency.
- Great for all skin types
- Absorbs relatively quickly; leaves a slight hint of oil on the skin.
- Rich in vitamin E and oleic acid.
**Caution: May cause a reaction to those with nut allergies.
Uses: Sweet almond oil is one of the most popular carrier oils for skin care. It’s great in massage oils, bath oils, and soaps. It is a great oil to use in face care because it helps moisturize.
9. Olive Oil
Olive oil comes from pressed olives. It’s best known as a healthy, edible oil with a fruity aroma, but it’s also used in aromatherapy as a carrier oil.
Though it can be heavy, oily, and have a stronger odor when compared to the others, the benefit of olive oil is that it is high in both vitamins and minerals. Depending on the quantity and how diluted you need the essential oil to be, olive oil can overpower the scent.
- Popular, easy-to-find oil used in both topical and culinary applications.
- Thicker consistency; leaves an oily feel on the skin.
- Stronger aroma, may interfere with the scent of more subtle essential oils.
- Good source of oleic acid (omega fatty acid).
- Relatively short shelf life.
Look for organic, extra-virgin olive oil to use as a carrier oil.
Uses: It’s packed with fatty acids and plant sterols, which make it great for cleansing and moisturizing dry skin. Use olive oil as a carrier oil for massage, facial cleansers, hair care, and homemade soaps. I use this oil for my DIY wood cleaning blend.
10. Argan Oil
Argan oil is made from kernels found inside the fruit of argan trees, which are native to Morocco. The oil is edible and is traditionally used to nourish the body inside and out. It has a nutty aroma and is rich in vitamins A and E, and monounsaturated fatty acids.
- High in vitamins A and E
- High in monounsaturated fatty acids
- Traditionally believed to nourish body from inside out.
Uses: Argan oil can help treat dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and skin inflammation. This makes it a terrific carrier oil for general skin care and massage oils.
11. Rosehip Oil
Rosehips are the seeds of the Rosa rubiginosa bush or the Rosa moschata bush. The flowers of both bushes look and are different from traditional roses. When these flowers die and drop their petals, the rosehip is left behind. Rosehip oil is cold pressed from rosehips.
- Although part of the rose family, Rosehip oil doesn’t smell like a rose. Instead, it has a nutty, earthy scent.
- High in essential fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid
- Natural source of vitamins C and E (Vitamin A is a natural retinoid that helps fight aging, and both vitamins can help reverse the effects of the sun on your skin.)
- Studies have shown to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects and is used to treat various skin conditions.
Uses: Use it as a carrier oil for dry skin remedies, massage oils, and moisturizers. I love to use this one in DIY skin and soap recipes.
12. Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil is made from the Nigella sativa plant, a plant native to southwest Asia. Although it’s lesser known than other carrier oils, it’s rich with unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. It’s also thought to have anti-inflammatory abilities.
It is used by some for the treatment of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, weight loss, and other conditions. One of its key components is thymoquinone, a compound with antioxidant properties.
- Purported for use to improve many health conditions
- Little aroma with almost no effect on altering the aroma of essential oils
- Rich with unsaturated and saturated fatty acids
Uses: Black seed oil has been used to remedy skin conditions including eczema, acne, and psoriasis. It is a great choice for facial care, massage oils, and general skin care and, of course, as a carrier oil for essential oils.
13. Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil comes from grape seeds. It’s a byproduct of the winemaking process. It’s rich in vitamin E, a nutrient thought to heal the skin and reduce wrinkles, although scientific research is inconsistent.
This oil is high in linoleic acid and is very moisturizing, especially for delicate skin. You’ll often see it listed on the ingredients list of many cosmetics. Its aroma is light and sweet, and it is clear in color. It can be a good carrier oil to use for occasional blemishes.
- Light, thin consistency.
- Well suited for massages; leaves a light glossy film over the skin.
- Moisturizes skin.
- High in linoleic acid.
- Relatively short shelf life.
- Neutral scent
- Easily absorbed by the skin
Uses: Grapeseed oil is a fantastic choice as a carrier oil to use with essential oils to make body oils and massage oils.
14. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is pressed from the fruit of the avocado tree (Persea americana), which contains approximately 60% oil.
Although native to Central America, avocado is now produced in many places around the world, including New Zealand, the United States, and South Africa.
You can purchase either refined or unrefined avocado oil. The unrefined version is cold-pressed, preserving its natural color and flavor. You will want to look for organic, unrefined avocado oil to use as a carrier oil.
- Thick, edible oil
- Nutty aroma
- High in oleic acid, a beneficial monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid
- Contains heart-healthy fats and have been shown to reduce inflammation and protect against heart disease
Uses: Great carrier oil for dry skin remedies and body creams (however, not recommended for those with acne.)
15. Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is an edible oil extracted from the seeds of the Helianthus annuus plant.
The oil is said to act as a skin barrier against toxins and germs that cause infection, making it a great choice for irritated skin.
Not just great for skin, but studies have shown that healthy adults found who ate a diet rich in high oleic sunflower oil for 10 weeks had significantly lower blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, compared with those who ate a diet containing a similar amount of saturated fat.
Another study involving adults with high blood lipid levels showed that consuming a diet with high oleic sunflower oil for 8 weeks led to significant increases in HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with a diet without sunflower oil.
- Neutral odor
- Contains Linoleic acid, commonly known as omega-6; a polyunsaturated fatty acid that has two double bonds in its carbon chain.
- Also contains oleic acid, or omega-9, is a monounsaturated fatty acid with one double bond.
- Linoleic and oleic acid are both sources of energy for the body and contribute to cell and tissue strength
- Contains vitamin E, great for skin health
- Liquid at room temperature
Uses: It’s thought to help soften skin, moisturize skin, and soothe irritation, so add this carrier oil to your massage oils or use for general skin care. Taken internally (consider adding Lemongrass, an essential oil found to lower LDL and increase HDL), you may reap healthy heart benefits, as well.
16. Evening Primrose Oil
The light and sweet-smelling evening primrose oil has been used in aromatherapy and skin care for many years. It is thought to be useful in many skin conditions, including eczema.
Evening primrose oil (EPO) is made from the seeds of the flowers of a plant native to North America.
- Contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid found in plant oils.
- Pricey compared to other carrier oils for essential oils
- Short shelf life
- Often blended with other carrier oils for essential oils
Uses: May improve overall skin health as well as aid in PMS symptoms. Studies have also shown Evening Primrose oil to aid with bruises, hemorrhoids, digestive problems and sore throats. A lovely-smelling oil which is great to use as a carrier oil or ingested in vegan capsules combined with food grade essential oils.
How to Blend Essential Oils with Carrier Oils?
When blending essential oils with carrier oils, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommends the following dilution ratios:
For infants and young children
0.5 to 1 percent dilution = 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
2.5 percent dilution = 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
This dilution is recommended for most healthy adults during aromatherapy.
3 percent dilution = 20 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
This dilution is usually used to treat temporary health concerns, such as muscle pain or injury.
5 percent dilution = 30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
10 percent dilution = 60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
These dilutions are less common. Anyone who notices any irritation or sensitivity when using these dilutions is advised to stop applying the mixture.
Blend in your hand for small applications or in a bottle (use only glass bottles if adding citrus oils) to use when needed.
So, Which are the Best Essential Oils?
There really is no one right answer. Obviously, avoid nut oils if you have allergies.
Follow recipes for DIY personal and home care solutions and use the carrier oil listed.
Try several different ones and see which you like best including how well it works for you, if you enjoy the aroma and how long it lasts at room temperature (I do keep my oils in a darker, cooler room).
What questions do you have about the best carrier oils for essential oils? Still not sure which is right for you? Email me at [email protected] and I’d be happy to walk you through your choices for the best carrier oils.