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While there is a lot known about essential oils, one of the most common questions we are asked by customers is: what are carrier oils?
The role carrier oils play in supporting essential oils is critical, and the explanation as to what they are is relatively straightforward.
To explain more, and to help you on your journey towards improving your skincare routine, here we go into more detail about carrier oils, what they are, their benefits and much more.
What is carrier oil?
Carrier oils are made from plants and are often used to dilute essential oils to make them easier and safer for your skin to absorb. Some of the most common and popular carrier oils include argan oil, fractionated coconut, sweet almond and jojoba.
It is advisable not to apply essential oils directly to your skin as when undiluted they are extremely potent and can cause irritation if a carrier oil is not included.
In most cases, a carrier oil will either be lightly scented or unscented, so they do not interfere with the therapeutic properties offered by the essential oil it is being mixed with.
What are the benefits of using carrier oils?
The benefits you can enjoy from using a carrier oil depend on the type of product you are using. We’ve put together a short list to give you an idea of some of the ways carrier oils can help:
Coconut (Fractionated) Carrier Oil remains a popular choice due to its mixture of antimicrobial properties and essential fatty acids and polyphenols.
Many people believe it can help to reduce skin inflammation and improve the appearance of some skin conditions (however, it is highly comedogenic which can clog pores and encourage acne).
It performs well at room temperature by maintaining its liquid form and is a great base for haircare, skincare and massages.
Sourced from the seeds of the jojoba plant, jojoba carrier oil has a golden-yellow colour and can either be odourless or lightly scented. It doesn’t clog pores and is especially well regarded for its moisturising properties.
Many people use it as a massage base, treating their skin to manage acne, soothe sunburn and reduce scarring and wrinkles. Jojoba oil is one of the most versatile carrier oils and is loved for the good health it can offer to all skin types.
With its wonderful mixture of linoleic acid, antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins A and E, argan is a carrier oil with a lot to offer. Its rich moisturising qualities can help reduce the appearance of superficial wrinkles and lines and help the skin heal faster.
Many people also use argan oil to improve the quality of their hair, helping to repair various forms of short-term damage. A mixture of argan, lavender and geranium oil is also known to help soothe the skin.
Rosehip carrier oil has a loyal fan base due to its nourishing and regeneration properties, making it a favourite of anyone with ageing or dry skin.
It contains alpha-linolenic acid, linoleic and vitamins A and E and is known to work well with other topical treatments against stretch marks, eczema and anti-ageing symptoms.
Thanks to the oil’s high antioxidant levels it is also a great choice for restorative massages, helping to rejuvenate the skin and enabling the body to relax and unwind.
While this amazing fruit is much loved for its versatility in salads and other dishes, it also has a lot to offer as a carrier oil.
Avocado oil is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and contains a strong anti-inflammatory agent that can be used for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
It also contains palmitoleic fatty acid, which is naturally found in the skin’s fat tissue, which makes it much easier to absorb after application.
How should you choose the right carrier oil?
There is a huge selection of carrier oils to choose from and before you choose there are some important things to take into consideration, such as:
- Absorption: Everyone’s skin absorbs oils differently, and the absorption rate of carrier oils will also depend on the type you use.
- Odour: Some carrier oils have their own unique aroma, which can also be altered once mixed with essential oil.
- Skin type: It’s helpful to be aware of your skin type as some oils may cause an adverse reaction such as irritation or could potentially even worsen an existing skin condition.
- Shelf life: Most carrier oils have a long shelf life, although some last longer than others, so think about this before you buy.
How to use carrier oils
There are a few different ways you can use a carrier oil with an essential oil to enjoy the health benefits:
- Massage: Carrier oils have naturally high absorption levels that make them incredibly beneficial for a restorative massage. You can gently massage the mixture onto areas of your body to relieve tension and stiffness as well as to facilitate calm. Find out the best carrier oils for use in a massage here.
- Hair: Mixing a carrier oil with an essential oil like rosemary makes for a great hair mask that can improve and encourage hair growth. Carrier oils like argan can also help reduce frizz, increase shine, and prevent damage to your hair over time. Discover our best carrier oils for hair or use our rosemary oil for hair.
- Inhale: Inhalation involves pouring the mixture of essential oil and carrier oil onto a cotton cloth or pad so you can enjoy the soothing benefits. This same mixture can also be applied to the wrists or temples to radiate a pleasant odour as well as calm the mind throughout the day.
- Skin: Carrier oils are naturally full of enriching benefits that can positively impact skin - from reducing signs of aging to clearing up redness and inflammation. Some carrier oils can also be diluted into cleansers so they can be used while you are performing your usual daily skin routines.
What are the best carrier oils for skin?
While all carrier oils can positively impact the skin in one form or another, sweet almond oil tends to lend itself best to this particular element.
Rich and nourishing with a wealth of active proteins, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids, sweet almond oil can soften and gently condition the surface of the skin, as well as boost its overall appearance.
Sweet almond also has notable amounts of vitamin A, which is known to help combat fine lines and regenerate cells, as well as vitamin E which can help protect against sun damage and signs of ageing.
The lightweight formula of sweet almond oil allows for easy absorption into the skin and therefore is also a good choice for those suffering from sensitive skin or delicate conditions.
Some other good examples of skin-boosting carrier oils include:
Sea Buckthorn Oil: Sea buckthorn oil contains high antioxidant levels that are said to significantly improve the strength, shine, and smoothness of the skin. It has even been suggested that the presence of palmitoleic acid in the oil can help promote wound healing.
Castor Oil: Naturally rich in ricinoleic acid, castor oil is an ideal choice for those with eczema or psoriasis and has been known to reduce swelling as well as pain caused by inflammation. Castor oil also has strong antimicrobial properties, making it an effective cleanser.
Rosehip Oil: Great for damaged or pigmented skin, rosehip is a pioneer in skin regeneration due to its high levels of vitamin C and protective antioxidants. It can also promote collagen and elastin levels in the skin.
What are the best carrier oils for hair?
When you think of using carrier oils for hair, chances are argan oil comes relatively high in your list of options.
That's because argan is packed with fatty acids that can help lubricate the hair shaft - helping to maintain moisture and lock in the powerful benefits of your chosen essential oil.
Argan oil also contains high levels of Vitamin E that allow it to combat dryness, as well as promote growth and shine.
Some other influential choices for hair include:
- Coconut Oil (Fractionated): Filled with fatty acids and MTCs, coconut oil is a great choice for shinier, fuller locks as well as helping to combat heat damage.
- Sweet Almond Oil: Said to reduce hair breakage and strengthen roots, sweet almond oil is naturally high in vitamin B-7 and can be used to soothe and manage frizz as well as hydrate the scalp.
- Jojoba Oil: Deeply nourishing jojoba is a natural alternative to conditioner, providing extra protection against dryness and breakage. It is also beneficial for moisturising the scalp and preventing dandruff.
What are the best carrier oils for nails?
Though it may not be spoken about as much as haircare or skincare, using carrier oils to help repair brittle or broken nails is a popular choice that many people have begun to swear by.
Vitamin E Oil, in particular, is rich in antioxidants that can protect the nail bed, and its moisturising properties allow for prevention and protection against peeled, cracked, or yellowing nails over time.
Other carrier oils are also known to contain benefits for nails, including:
- Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil contains high levels of vitamins C, D, and E, as well as fatty acids that can help hydrate the nail bed and reduce signs of premature ageing.
- Avocado Oil: Naturally full of fatty acids and B vitamins, avocado oil can leave a healthy glow around the nail bed and reduce signs of inflammation.
What are the variables that distinguish different carrier oils?
Carrier oils contain a number of unique compositions that may be worth keeping in mind when selecting the right one for you. Here are a couple of key factors that can really set these oils apart.
Carrier Oil Consistency
The consistency of a carrier oil refers to its natural state at room temperature. These can be categorised in three ways; liquid, soft, and brittle.
The consistency you choose will often affect how you want to use the oil. If it's liquid, it may be best suited for daily skin or haircare, while brittle oils work better for heavy duty purposes, like soap making.
Some oils like coconut, which is normally soft at room temperature, may come in other varieties depending on its source.
|Liquid Oils||Soft Oils||Brittle Oils|
|Grapeseed oil||Coconut oil (non-fractionated)||Cocoa butter|
|Argan oil||Shea butter||Kokum butter|
|Jojoba oil||Mango butter||Tucuma butter|
|Coconut oil (fractionated)||Babassu oil||Illipe butter|
|Rosehip oil||Murumuru butter|
|Sea buckthorn oil|
|Sweet almond oil|
Carrier Oil Absorption Rate
The absorption rate of carrier oils is something that may come in handy if you don't want a greasy face all day.
Some oils are naturally "drying" - meaning that they absorb quickly and don't leave residue at all - but this isn't the case for all oils.
Those that are slightly thicker may be worth applying toward the evening, or in conjunction with other, less heavy carrier oils. Absorption rates are also important to consider if you suffer from oily or acne-prone skin.
|Fast to Absorb (light)||Average to Absorb (medium)||Slow to Absorb (heavy)|
|Grapeseed oil||Jojoba oil||Avocado oil|
|Rosehip oil||Argan oil||Castor oil|
|Fractionated coconut oil||Sweet almond oil|
Blending Carrier Oils Together
Creating a blend of carrier oils can help target several impactful benefits at once. It is also a sensible option if you're someone who tends to suffer from more problematic skin or hair.
Try and aim for a blend with both drying and non-drying oils to balance out the feel of the oils, and remember to include those you feel have the most desirable properties for you.
Blending Carrier Oils with Essential Oils
In order to use essentials oils safely on the skin, you must first dilute them with a carrier oil. This avoids unnecessary irritation caused by the natural potency of the essential oils.
In general, you should try to avoid applying this mixture on sensitive areas of your face altogether, however carrier oils by themselves may be suitable.
A good rule of thumb for dilution is around 2%, however you may want to decrease this to 1% if you're applying essential oils topically on children or the elderly.
Our essential oils dilution guide outlines the key facts you need to remember when blending carrier oils with essential oils, so be sure to refer to that if you're only just getting started with topical application.
Carrier oils play a fundamental role in keeping your skin safe from the potential side effects of essential oils. At the same time, they also contain beneficial natural ingredients, helping to nourish and moisturise your skin. And while you can apply carrier oil alone to your eyes, lips or other sensitive areas, always avoid doing so after it has been mixed with essential oil.