Understanding Carrier Oils
July 16, 2015
This entry was posted by Rocky Mountain Oils.

Everywhere you look, responsible essential oil companies and aromatherapists tell you to always use a carrier oil with your essential oils when applying topically. Why? Essential oils are very concentrated and powerful.

They are highly concentrated essences distilled from specific herbs, fruits, resins, trees, and plants. As such, they can be really hard on the skin. So we dilute the essential oil with aromatherapy carrier oils or base oils, which are vegetable, nut, or seed oils, many of which have therapeutic properties of their own. Carrier oils do not lesson the therapeutic benefits of the essential oils, they spread them further and make the essential oil easier on the skin. Does this mean you should never use an essential oil neat (undiluted) on your skin? Not necessarily. There will be some that don’t bother your skin when used neat. However, what one person can use neat, another cannot. It all comes down to body chemistry. For example, many people can use Lavender neat. My teenaged daughter can not. It leaves a red burn mark on her. She has to have it diluted. My brother-in-law can use Cinnamon Bark neat, something I’ve hardly ever seen. Most people can not. So anytime you start with a new essential oil, no matter how long you’ve been using essential oils, always dilute with a carrier oil when you use it topically. Just use that as a rule of thumb.

An important point to remember: if an essential oil used neat is too hot for your skin, never use water to dilute it. The water traps them against the skin and they will burn you even more. Instead, use an aromatherapy carrier oil, which buffers the burning effects while still giving you the therapeutic effects you are seeking.

Carrier oils

Sweet Almond oil: (Prunis dulcis) This is a good, nourishing oil that many massage therapists like to use. It absorbs really well and is great in body care products. Just take note, if you are allergic to nuts, particularly to Almonds, be careful when using. Try it on a small portion of skin first to make sure you don’t have any reactions to it. Buy the Sweet Almond oil, not Bitter.

Aloe Vera Gel: (Aloe barbadensis) This is clear, nearly odorless, and in a gel form. Excellent for skin care. Also good for rashes and open wounds. If you can, just grow your own plant and break open a leaf whenever you need to use it. If you buy it, keep it in the refrigerator and use quickly.

Apricot Kernel: (Prunus armeniaca) Made from the kernel of the apricot pit.  Very similar to Almond oil, but has a lighter consistency. Excellent for facial care. And if you allergic to nuts, especially Almonds, be careful when using.

Avocado: (Persea americana) Excellent skin oil. It’s green in color, best quality is a little thick in consistency.  If it’s been refined, the color is more of a pale yellow.  It has a good shelf life. Is particularly good for dry, weathered and mature skin.

Cocoa Butter: (Theobroma cacao) Of the consistency of butter, works really well in creams and soaps. Is a very good skin softener and works really well when massaged daily into pregnant bellies to help prevent stretch marks.

Coconut: (Cocos nucifera) There are two kinds, Fractionated Coconut Oil (FCO) and Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO).

  • FCO: Many like this one the best because it doesn’t stain sheets (which makes it great for Massage Therapists), absorbs well into the skin and has no scent. Since the particles that go rancid in oils have been pulled out, it has an indefinite shelf life. Another benefit is some people who have severe allergies to nuts have had no reaction to FCO (Further studies are pending.)
  • VCO: This has the consistency of vegetable shortening and is often used in cooking as a replacement. A good one has a nice coconut scent to it. It is particularly good as a skin oil. Usually, needs to be melted first before mixing in essential oils. Works great in skin creams and deodorants, as well as for oil pulling and for cooking. It does have a shelf life so keep an eye on the expiration date.

Glycerin: (Olea europaea) An odorless, colorless, syrupy derivitive of Olive oil. Used as a lubricant and preservative. Very warming to the skin. Is often used in soaps and lotions. Also used in edible love oils.

Grapeseed: (Vitis vinifera) Very light in texture, is also a mild astringent so it’s very useful in skin care. Now, this is one that should not be cold pressed. It has to be extracted through heat and solvents. It is still one of the top oils chosen by massage therapists, along with Sweet Almond and FCO.

Hazelnut: (Corylus avellana) Light and mildly scented, is great for skin care, particularly if you have oily skin. Just take note, if you are allergic to nuts, particularly to Hazelnuts, be careful when using. Try it on a small portion of skin first to make sure you don’t have any reactions to it.

Jojoba: (Simmondsia chinensis) This is another favorite for skin and hair care. It’s actually more of a liquid wax rather than an oil. Doesn’t oxidize or go rancid. This oil is similar to sebum (oily/waxy substance produced by the pores in your skin) so it can clog the pores of  people with oily hair and skin. Is best for dry hair and skin. Often used in creams, cosmetics, and soaps.

Kukui nut: (Aleurites moluccana) Thin, light oil that’s good for the face. Absorbs very rapidly into skin. Is a good one to condition skin after a lot of sun exposure. Is very expensive so you’ll want to use it sparingly. High in LA.

Mango butter: (Mangifera indica) Thick and creamy, works great in soaps and creams.

Olive: (Olea europaea) This is a favorite oil for skin care and it’s one of the easiest to find. Can range between a heavy green to light yellow color. One of the best to use for herbal infusions.

Rose Hip Seed: (Rosa mosqueta) The oil is high in GLA and LA and vitamin C. Excellent oil to use for hair and skin.  Is usually CO2 extracted, rather than cold-pressed.

Sesame Seed: (Sesamum indicum)Has some UV refractive properties so it’s a good one to use to help protect the skin from sun damage. It will not act as a sunblock, only as a sunscreen. The unrefined variety has a fairly strong scent to it, which should be taken into account when mixing with essential oils. This is also the main oil used in Ayurvedic practice.

Shea Butter: (Butyrosperum parkii) Another thick one, the raw variety is much thicker than the refined. Works really well in soaps, balms, and creams. Is particularly good for the feet and for body care. The raw shea butter has a scent to it, refined does not. Both are very good so it’s personal choice which you prefer.

Vitamin E: (Alpha tocopherol) Excellent skin oil, usually in capsule form. Is great for skin and hair care and for use in soaps, balms and creams.

Last of all

What do you think? Did I miss any? Please let me know in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

5 thoughts on “Understanding Carrier Oils”
Leave a Reply