Carrier oils are an indispensable part of the essential oils lifestyle. They are used to help spread a drop or two of essential oil more easily over an area of skin; to allow the effect of those drops to have a more even, prolonged effect; to protect against skin sensitivities; and to “tone down” the strength of those drops when they are being used on the young, the elderly, and those in frail health. Most often, they are vegetable oils derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels or the nuts.
When looking for a carrier oil, purity is key. It’s also good to check for minimal aroma (if you don’t want a clash with the aromas of the essential oils in the mixture), minimal color (if you are looking for a specific shade or simply maximum clarity that results from one or more essential oils), shelf life, and cost per drop.
COMMONLY USED CARRIER OILS:
Fractionated Coconut Oil (FCO) – fractionated coconut oil is, by far, the most common carrier oil used in essential oil blends. It is solid coconut oil that has had the fatty acid chains – lauric acid – removed so that it never turns solid. It is colorless and odorles, does not get rancid, and is an excellent skin conditioner in its own right. It is high in antioxidants and vitamin E. It forms a protective barrier against the elements and soothes dry and troubled skin without clogging pores. Unless you have a sensitivity to coconut, this is the carrier oil that I recommend for making DIY roller bottle blends and for premixing with any essential oils that you intend to apply topically. It is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, and it is very affordable (for example, doTERRA sells a 115 mL/3.8 fl. oz bottle for $12 wholesale). NOTE: raw virgin solid coconut oil has the added benefit of lauric acid and is wonderful for making salves and creams.
Grapeseed Oil – grapeseed oil is a byproduct of the winemaking process. It is lightweight, colorless, has a very light sweet aroma, and is an excellent moisturizer. It is high in antioxidants, linoleic acid, and vitamin E. I like to recommend grapeseed oil to anyone who has allergies to coconut or nuts in general or who has especially sensitive/delicate skin. Grapeseed oil is edible.
Sweet Almond Oil – sweet almond oil has a very recognizable sweet, nutty aroma (if you love the smell of almonds, you won’t mind that it may overshadow a bit the aroma of some essential oils). It’s an edible oil made from the kernels of sweet almonds. The oil is lightweight, absorbs easily, and is a great moisturizer for dry skin.
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. Argan oil is said to help treat dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and skin inflammation. Want to know more about the argan tree and how the fruit is harvested? Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W41QG7Go7Dc
Olive Oil – olive oil comes from pressed olives. Extra-virgin olive oil is the preferred variety for aromatherapy and skin care preparations. Olive oil’s powerful scent may interfere with the scent of some essential oils. It is packed with fatty acids and plant sterols, which make it very helpful for cleansing and moisturizing dry skin. In fact, for many years before I started using doTERRA essential oils and products on my sensitive facial skin, I only used pure olive oil or pure olive oil soap on my face. Use olive oil as a carrier oil for massage, facial cleansers, hair care, and homemade soaps.
Jojoba Oil – jojoba oil comes from the seeds of the jojoba plant. It has a delicate, nutty aroma. 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. Using jojoba oil may help reduce the skin’s oil production in acne-prone people by making the skin think it has already produced enough oil. Jojoba oil absorbs easily in the skin and does not clog pores. This makes it a good carrier oil option for massage oils, facial moisturizers, and bath oils. This is how jojoba oil is made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8elCOArMN1I
Aloe Vera Gel – aloe vera gel is not really a carrier oil, but rather comes from scraping the inside of organically grown aloe vera leaves. For many years, I kept an aloe vera plant in my home so that I could break off a leaf and apply the natural gel to minor burns. I now use doTERRA’s Lavender essential oil or Correct-X essential ointment for that purpose, but I still have my aloe vera plant because it’s pretty and the texture of the gel is very soothing. Here is a link to an article about sourcing aloe vera gel in case you don’t want to raise your own plant: https://aromaticwisdominstitute.com/aloe-vera-gel-carrier/
Unscented lotion – if you want to apply your favorite essential oils to your body as an aromatic moisturizer, there is probably nothing more simple than adding a few drops to a dollop of unscented lotion. This goes for men, women, and children of all ages. Because the ingredients in your lotion can be absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream and throughout body, be very careful when choosing any lotion as a carrier. I can personally recommend doTERRA’s unscented hand and body lotion (see a description here: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/p/doterra-spa-hand-and-body-lotion)
Some other liquid carrier oils you may want to consider include (unrefined, pure, raw):
Apricot Kernel Oil, Avocado Oil, Black Seed Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Camellia Seed Oil (Tea Oil), Cranberry Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Hazelnut Oil, (full-spectrum) Hemp Seed Oil, Kukui Nut Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Peanut Oil, Pecan Oil, Pomegranate Seed Oil, Rose Hip Oil, Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil, Sesame Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Watermelon Seed Oil.
Other solid carriers often used in essential oil preparations: Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Beeswax
Whenever possible, purchase organic, cold-pressed carrier oils from a manufacturer you trust. Although most carrier oils don’t cause an allergic reaction, you should always do a patch test prior to using.
To perform a patch test:
1. Add a small amount of carrier oil to the inside of your wrist or just below your ear.
2. Cover the oil with a bandage.
3. Check back on the area after 24 hours.
4. If irritation occurs, rinse thoroughly, and avoid future use.
Always store your carrier oils in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and in dark glass bottles. Some may require refrigeration, so check the instructions to assure optimal shelf life.
Here is an excellent summary article from doTERRA about use of carrier oils for dilution:
If you want to add to your library, here is a suggestion:
(Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy & Massage – Fourth Edition, Len Price with Shirley Price, 2008)