As beneficial as essential oils are to your skin and hair, before applying them topically they need to be mixed with a carrier oil.
This minimises the risk of the essential oil irritating your skin and adds the natural properties of the carrier oil to the mixture.
But how do you know which carrier oil is suited to your application? Here we offer some suggestions on the best carrier oils for essential oils so you can enjoy the full range of therapeutic qualities they have to offer.
What's the difference between carrier oils vs essential oils?
While both are derived from natural products, carrier oils and essential oils have a number of differences that are important to consider before use in your wellness routine.
Carrier oils are often cold-pressed from seeds, kernels, nuts and vegetables - and are also known as "base oils" as they are primarily used to dilute essential oils and make them safe for topical application. They have little to no scent and can easily absorb into the skin.
Essential oils, on the other hand, are naturally very potent and carry strong, unique scents that can be used for a number of purposes. Because they are so potent, it is important to use them with a carrier oil to avoid irritation to the skin.
What's the best carrier oil for hair?
Finding the right product for your hair can prove tricky, as the process of trial and error requires a lot of time and effort to narrow down your options.
However, in the past few years argan oil has emerged as the best carrier oil for hair, as it is packed with fatty acids (mostly linoleic and oleic acid) and powerful antioxidants, including vitamin E.
The fatty acids help to lubricate the hair shaft to improve moisture retention, while vitamin E adds a fatty layer to your hair that can help prevent dryness, which may also make it shinier.
Argan oil works brilliantly when combined with rosemary for hair, as rosemary has naturally powerful properties for growth, shine, and strength. You can learn more about what rosemary oil can do for your hair here.
What's the best carrier oil for skin?
Sweet almond carrier oil leads the way when it comes to taking care of your skin (be sure to avoid bitter almond oil as this is not well suited for use on the skin).
The nutrients contained in sweet almond oil offer a host of benefits, such as vitamin A, which can help to produce new skin cells and smooth fine lines.
The oil is also rich in vitamin E and its antioxidant properties and omega-3 fatty acids may be able to help protect your skin against sun damage and premature ageing.
Sweet almond oil also works wonders for sensitive skin, so it could be a good choice if you are struggling to find a product that is suitable for your type.
If you're looking for a naturally gentle essential oil to care for your skin and keep it looking youthful, geranium is a good choice for daily application. Its sweet, floral scent is renowned for clearing acne and tightening pores, as well as keeping skin tone even.
What’s the best carrier oil for dry skin?
You may find that using sweet almond oil is enough to moisturise your dry skin. However, another recommendation is golden jojoba which is renowned for its hydration properties.
In fact, you’ll often find it included as an ingredient in hair care, skincare and cosmetic products, so it makes sense to go straight to the source.
Jojoba oil is a humectant ingredient that can keep the skin hydrated by attracting water to the top layer. The texture is less like an oil and more like a wax which helps to seal the skin, and because it contains vitamin E, its antioxidant properties can help ease exposure to toxins and pollutants.
Good essential oils to combine with jojoba for dry skin include lavender and frankincense with both oils carrying naturally moisturising properties that lend themselves well when mixed with a carrier oil.
What’s the best carrier oil for anti-ageing?
During the autumn and winter seasons, harsh weather conditions can lead to dry skin for many people and rosehip carrier oil may provide a good hydration solution.
Linolenic and linoleic fatty acids work to keep cell walls strong, so water retention levels remain high.
Studies also suggest that rosehips (the fruit of the plant) offer several anti-ageing properties, including rich skim moisturising properties. And as it is a non-greasy oil you can apply rosehip oil topically, which makes it the perfect moisturiser for all types of skin.
What’s the best carrier oil for massage?
Grapeseed carrier oil is oil pressed from the seed of grapes and is produced once the wine-making process has finished, with the oil extracted from the leftover seeds.
It’s an oil rich in fatty acids, vitamins and phenols, which are beneficial plant compounds and is used by many to help reduce the signs of ageing.
Because grapeseed oil is not too greasy it makes for an excellent massage oil, allowing hands or massage tools to easily glide over the skin.
A good method to use for massage is to apply palm-warmed grapeseed oil directly to the skin before massaging it into the pores.
Antispasmodic essential oils like clary sage, peppermint, cedarwood, and black pepper are great choices for adding to your massage carrier oil, as antispasmodics can naturally prevent muscle spasms and relieve pain.
What’s the best carrier oil for a reed diffuser?
Some people use a reed diffuser that enables oils to evaporate and emit their fragrance into the air.
You will need to mix whatever you wish to diffuse with augeo, a reed diffuser base oil that will help to diffuse the smell.
For a carrier oil to perform well it should be liquid at room temperature, so it is thin enough to travel up through the reeds.
Bearing this in mind, fractionated coconut oil would make an excellent choice, as it has a low viscosity and unlike regular coconut oil is liquid at room temperature. And when you’ve finished the diffuser, you could always use the oil for your skin and hair, using its natural qualities to improve its condition.
Check out our full list on the best carrier oils for reed diffusers here.
How do you dilute essential oils with carrier oils?
If you want to apply essential oils to your skin, you will need to mix them with a carrier oil to reduce their potency.
Before using an essential oil, you should first carry out a patch test by following these steps:
- Add a few drops of carrier oil to the inside of your wrist.
- Place a plaster or bandage over the oil.
- After 24 hours check the area where you placed the oil.
- If the skin has been irritated, rinse thoroughly with water and avoid using the oil again.
For anyone with a nut allergy, you should avoid using oils derived from tree nuts, such as argan oil, almond oil and apricot kernel oil.
Be aware that allergic reactions are not uncommon with rosehip carrier oil.
Recommended dilution levels for adults using essential oils and carrier oils is:
|15 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil|
|3% dilution||20 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil|
|5% dilution||30 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil|
|10% dilution||60 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil|
For children using essential oils and carrier oils the recommended dilution levels is:
- 0.5 - 1% dilution
3 to 6 drops essential oil per 6 teaspoons carrier oil
Carrier oils should ideally be stored in the refrigerator or any other cool, dark place, while also ensuring they are kept in a dark glass bottle.
You can find out more about how to dilute essential oils here.
While carrier oils are often mixed with essential oils to make it safer for skin application, they also offer a host of benefits when applied without.
Whether you suffer from dry or sensitive skin, want to boost the quality of your hair, or reduce the signs of ageing, it should be easy to find the right carrier oil for you.
Always be sure to carry out a patch test before using a larger amount of the mixture and once you are happy with your choice you can look forward to giving your body the TLC it deserves.