What are carrier oils?
If you have heard about essential oils, then you must have come across the term carrier oils. Simply put, these are oils that are extracted from the seeds and nuts of a plant. In contrast, essential oils are derived from the aromatic parts of the plants such as flowers, bark, leaves, and roots.
The reason they are known as ‘carrier’ oils is that they ‘carry’ essential oils by diluting them before use. They are applied to the skin along with essential oils as a complementary intervention to treat certain conditions and improve the physical and mental well-being of the users. Some of the conditions that carrier oils and essential oils treat are like acne, depression, asthma, insomnia, migraines, and numerous other health issues.
A lot of carrier oils are only slightly scented so they don’t overpower the properties of essential oils. Carrier oils can also be used on their own because they also have benefits.
Find out which the best carrier oils are and how to choose the ones to go with your essential oils.
What are the Most Popular Carrier Oils?
There are many carrier oils but some of the most widely used are:
This oil is made from the meat of coconuts (copra) and it can either be refined or unrefined. The unrefined type retains a distinct aroma and flavor. Refined coconut oil is bleached and deodorized to a point it loses the natural aroma and flavor. For this reason, it’s not suitable as a carrier oil.
It’s actually a liquid wax, not an oil that is gotten from jojoba seeds. It is yellow with a distinct but aromatic smell so it’s often used in aromatherapy. It is popular for its anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and oil-controlling properties.
Sweet Almond Oil
This oil is made from the kernel of sweet almond seeds. It is pale yellow in color, thick in texture, and it has a strong sweet nutty aroma. It’s a popular oil for aromatherapy and it’s also edible.
It is a by-product in the making of wine from grape seeds. It has a smooth and free-flowing texture and is clear in color. It is used in aromatherapy and in massages where it leaves behind a glossy film on the skin.
Evening Primrose Oil
This oil is extracted from the evening primrose seeds. It has a sweet smell so it’s used in aromatherapy and it’s also used for skincare for its moisturizing properties.
It’s a thick and edible oil made from the avocado fruit. It has a high content of oleic acid, a fatty acid that helps with dry skin.
Wheat germ Oil
It’s extracted from the germ of a wheat kernel. It’s a golden yellow or amber-brown liquid that may be cloudy in appearance because of sediments. It’s often used to extend the shelf life of other carrier oils due to its anti-oxidant properties.
What are the Advantages/Disadvantages of These Carrier Oils?
- Coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer so it’s often used on its own for dry skin
- It also contains lauric acid that makes it antibacterial.
- It’s also edible
- It’s a heavy oil so it clogs pores and so it’s not good for acne-prone skin
- It nourishes all skin types
- Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can be used for acne, eczema, arthritis, and psoriasis
- Controls the levels of oil so it’s good for seborrhoeic conditions – It does this by tricking the skin into thinking it’s made more than enough oil
- It’s not volatile and doesn’t react with the air
- It gets absorbed easily so doesn’t clog your pores
- It’s expensive
Sweet Almond Oil
- It’s long-lasting because of the vitamin E in it
- It’s quite pure because it’s cold-pressed
- It nourishes and protects the skin
- It’s sticky so cannot be used for body massage
- Its strong scent may drown the scent of an essential oil
- People with nut allergies cannot use it
- It’s expensive
- Not advisable for use by diabetics
- Can be used for a full body massage because of its smooth texture
- Can be used by people of all skin types and on any area of the body
- Is easily absorbed by the skin
- Readily available and cheap
Since it’s gotten through hot extraction, it loses a lot of its useful ingredients
Evening Primrose Oil
Good for conditions that cause dry skin like psoriasis, eczema, and dandruff
Helps with the pain of menstrual periods, rheumatism, and arthritis
- It’s very expensive and so is not practical to use for the entire body
- It goes bad quickly because of its high fatty acid content
- Has the ability to penetrate deep into the skin
- Is unrefined so it has a lot of its natural benefits
- Can last in storage
- It’s very soothing and moisturizing on the skin
- Its anti-inflammatory effects make it good for psoriasis and eczema
- It’s very sticky so is not ideal for massages
- It has a very strong smell
- Cannot be used by acne-prone people because it increases the production of oil by the skin
Wheat germ Oil
- It’s moisturizing to dry skin
- Reduces scars and stretch marks
- Reduces the symptoms of dermatitis
- Prevents the oxidation of oils in aromatherapy
- Too heavy and sticky to use alone
- It’s a protein so it may trigger allergies
- It’s not advised for use by celiac patients
Why Should You Use Carrier Oils When Using Essential Oils?
When essential oils are applied directly on the skin, they cause irritation because of how concentrated they are. Carrier oils dilute them and make them safer to use on your skin. Essential oils are not water-soluble but fat-soluble. This means that they get absorbed into the carrier oils and they become less harmful to your skin.
How to Choose Carrier Oils
There are various factors that you need to consider when choosing the right carrier oils to mix with your essential oils. They include:
Some carrier oils have a strong and distinct odor. Such cannot be mixed with essential oils because they may alter their aroma.
Some carrier oils have longer shelf lives than others so you have to know how long you want your oil to last.
Method of Extraction
For carrier oils to retain their natural goodness, they should be cold-pressed. Hot extraction destroys most benefits of carrier oils.
Some carrier oils are suitable for all types of skin but others will make conditions like acne or eczema worse depending on whether they promote sebum production or reduce it.
Some carrier oils are absorbed by your skin faster than others. Those that are absorbed fast are more effective.
The Best Uses for Various Carrier Oils
For Healthy hair
Coconut oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, olive oil, and argan oil.
For Oily Skin
Grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, tamanu oil, and aloe vera oil
For Dry Skin
Avocado oil, almond oil, and wheat germ oil
For Pain Relief
Choosing Carrier Oils to Pair with Essential Oils
Sweet almond oil: With its own sweet nutty scent, it can be paired with essential oils with floral scents like rose and lavender.
Jojoba oil: For your face, use jojoba oil with tea tree oil for acne, with peppermint for antiseptic use, and with german chamomile for dry skin.
Coconut Oil: To relieve pain, use coconut oil with lavender, rosemary to reduce swellings, and sandalwood to reduce muscle tension and inflammation.
Grapeseed oil: To fight germs and bacteria, mix grapeseed oil with tea tree oil, for reducing scars with rose oil, and for acne with grapefruit.
Although carrier oils are relatively safe for use, do a patch test anyway just to make sure. The next time someone asks you what carrier oils are, be sure to tell, them what you’ve learned here.