What are Carrier Oils?

Published 13th Jun 2024

If you use essential oils regularly, the chances are you already understand the role that carrier oils play in aromatherapy practice. Whether it’s essential oil dilution, creating a massage oil, improving skin care or even treating inflammation, carrier oils are versatile, effective and a must-have in your oil collection!
Carrier Oils

If you use essential oils regularly, the chances are you already understand the role that carrier oils play in aromatherapy practice. Whether it’s essential oil dilution, creating a massage oil, improving skin care or even treating inflammation, carrier oils are versatile, effective and a must-have in your oil collection! 

But what is a carrier oil vs an essential oil, and how can you tell them apart? More importantly, what types of carrier oil offer the best health benefits? Read on to learn why and how carrier oils are used, their benefits in hair and skin care remedies and how to choose the right carrier oil for you. 

What Are Carrier Oils?

Carrier oils are fatty-acid oils used in aromatherapy to ensure the safe application of essential oils into the skin and bloodstream.  

These oils are derived from the seeds or kernels of different botanical species (typically nuts, fruit or vegetables) using an extraction process like cold pressing, maceration, or expeller pressing. Popular carrier oil examples include Sweet Almond Oil, Coconut Oil and Avocado Oil.  

Because essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile and potent oils, they rely on a carrier or ‘base’ oil as a dilution to prevent damage to the skin, scalp or hair, while aiding the essential oil in absorbing its nutrients deeper into the skin and bloodstream. 

What many people don’t know is that carrier oils also have therapeutic benefits of their own and, as such, form a core part of aromatherapy practice.

Origins of Carrier Oils

Carrier oils have been used since ancient times, when aromatic oils were a part of daily bathing rituals, cosmetics, massages, and medicinal purposes. 

However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that carrier oils and essential oils were prescribed in aromatherapy practices for their therapeutic benefits. Early practitioners would often dilute essential oils in a vegetable carrier oil and massage the formula into the skin to treat common ailments.   

Since then, carrier oils have become a staple ingredient in aromatherapy practice and cosmetic formulas for body, skin and hair care.   

Popular Benefits of Carrier Oils

There is a reason carrier oils have been used for centuries. Much like essential oils, carrier oils contain their own range of benefits and are a deeply nutrient source of antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins. 

Carrier oils - especially when cold-pressed - retain most of their nutrients and bioactive substances. This means they can hydrate, nourish and even encourage healing of the skin, scalp and hair follicles. Here are some examples:   

  • Skin conditions: On their own, most carrier oils are quite gentle, providing a safe option for sensitive, dry and irritated skin. Various carrier oil types can also assist with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis & stretch marks. 

  • Joint pain and inflammation: Many carrier oils contain natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Using your carrier oil as a massage oil may assist with aches and joint pain. 

  • Hair and scalp care: Because of their soothing, anti-inflammatory and nourishing properties, many carrier oils are recommended for easing itchy, flaky scalps and nourishing hair follicles to boost hair health and growth.  
  • Skincare: Most carrier oils offer various benefits for the skin. Many are known to increase skin elasticity, reduce signs of ageing, protect from environmental factors, and some even work effectively as a natural make-up remover.   

Common Uses of Carrier Oils

Like essential oils, each carrier oil contains unique compounds and properties. Because of this, they come with their own set of unique therapeutic benefits.  

So, if you’re wondering which is the best carrier oil for itchy skin, or what is a good carrier oil for hair, read on as we share our popular carrier oils and their common uses for health and wellbeing. 


    • Apricot Kernel Oil is highly valued for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, as well as its vitamin A, E and K content. Lightweight in nature, it gently nourishes the skin while proving helpful against conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
    • Jojoba Oil is great for all skin types and is deeply hydrating without being too heavy. More than a powerful skin moisturiser, Jojoba effectively balances oil production. Also rich in vitamins B and E, this oil helps protect the skin against sun damage. It’s also among the best carrier oils for wound healing.
    • Fractionated Coconut Oil is filled with fatty acids, polyphenols and antimicrobial properties, helpful in reducing acne and inflammation. It’s also an effective cleanser, and one of the best-known natural remedies for dry skin. 
    • Rosehip Oil is filled with vitamins A, E and fatty acids. Natural retinol properties make this the perfect oil for managing skin conditions like eczema, and its regenerative properties can reduce blemishes and signs of ageing.
    • Avocado Oil contains almitoleic fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E, and has huge anti-inflammatory benefits that can help skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It’s also filled with potassium and is deeply penetrative to provide intense nourishment for sensitive and mature skin.   

Carrier Oils For The Face

    • Jojoba Oil is gentle on all skin types and deeply nourishing for the face. It’s known to moisturise without leaving a heavy, greasy residue behind and is great for managing oil production, especially when it comes to acne-prone skin.
    • Rosehip Oil is considered one of the best carrier oils for dry and ageing skin because of its rich regenerative properties. It’s gentle on sensitive skin and helps with conditions like eczema, as well as fighting fine lines and giving dull complexions a boost. 
    • Sweet Almond Oil absorbs easily into the skin and works well clearing pores, cleansing and even helping manage skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
    • Evening Primrose Oil is highly effective on the face. It supports the skin by enhancing the absorption of other beneficial compounds, delivering nourishing vitamins and fatty acids deeply to promote overall skin health and rejuvenation.
    • Cacay Oil has exceptional skin-nourishing properties. Rich in antioxidants like vitamin E and retinol, vitamin A and linoleic acid, it helps combat free radicals to reduce the signs of ageing, supports skin cell regeneration, prevents moisture loss, and soothes irritated skin. 

Carrier Oils For Hair

    • Argan Oil is well known for its versatility, regenerative, strengthening and restoring across all hair types. It helps protect hair from heat and UV rays, richly conditions follicles by deeply penetrating the hair shaft and can soothe irritated or dry scalps. It is also known to lessen the effects of psoriasis and dermatitis.  
    • Grapeseed Oil is lightweight, absorbent, deeply moisturising and extremely versatile for the hair and skin. High in vitamin E, it’s great for softening hair follicles and is particularly recommended for people with fine hair.  
    • Castor Oil is extremely versatile and promotes the growth of healthy, shiny hair. Rich in fatty acids, it’s gentle on the scalp while highly protective; it is also valued for its ability to prevent bacteria and fungal growth and is the perfect remedy for an itchy, dry scalp.   
    • Fractionated Coconut Oil is filled with fatty acids to help moisturise the hair, protect it from heat and UV rays, and promote strength and growth. It’s also known to lift dry or dull hair. 
    • Abyssinian Oil is rich in Omegas 6 and 9, supporting the hair by deeply nourishing and moisturising the strands. Its lightweight texture helps to prevent buildup, leaving hair smoother, shinier, and more manageable. 

Best Types of Carrier Oils

At AWO, we pride ourselves on offering a vast and ever-growing choice of carrier oils, each with individual properties beneficial for the skin, face and hair.  

It gets us lots of questions from customers like, ‘What can be used as a carrier oil for massage?’ or ‘Which carrier oil is a good skin cleanser?’.  

Here, we share some of our most versatile and popular carrier oils to use with your favourite essential oils and stay well! 

Fractionated Coconut Oil

Great for skin and hair care, Fractionated Coconut Oil is a highly popular carrier oil. Thanks to the fractionation process which separates its natural fats, this oil stays in its liquid form no matter what the temperature, ready to use and enjoy topically as a dilute with your favourite essential oils. 

With natural lauric acid, fatty acids and polyphenols – all nourishing properties - Fractionated Coconut Oil is a Godsend for hair follicles, preventing protein loss in hair, protecting against heat and encouraging hair growth. It also works wonders on the skin, deeply moisturising to help prevent signs of ageing and sun damage. It also creates an antimicrobial barrier against environmental elements while enhancing the texture and softening of hair follicles and skin. 

Apricot Kernel Oil

Apricot Kernel Oil is rich in omega 6 and 9 fatty acids and vitamins A, E and K, making it an all-natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. This ultra-lightweight carrier oil is known to work extra gently on the skin, and it has found itself a popular ingredient in facial lotions, ointments, creams, and balms. It also leaves the skin feeling supple and smooth without any greasy residue.     

Apricot Kernel Oil is best used to help soften itchy or irritated skin, reduce redness and improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It's also popular as a bath or massage oil and a common addition to hair care routines.   

Jojoba Oil

Technically liquid wax rather than an oil, Jojoba Oil is derived from the seeds of the Jojoba bush native to the Americas. Packed with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Jojoba Oil closely mimics the skin’s sebum levels and provides deep nourishment and moisture. It’s easily absorbable, so it doesn’t clog pores and helps reduce oil production in acne-prone skin.  

Highly regenerative, Jojoba makes an effective make-up remover, skin cleanser and elasticity booster. It’s also extremely popular as a massage oil. In hair care, Jojoba Oil serves as the ideal all-rounder, great for soothing dry, itchy scalps, nourishing roots and managing fly-away or frizz. 

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil carries a beautiful nutty aroma. This light carrier oil doesn’t leave residue on the skin. It is rich in antioxidants and has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.   

The high vitamin E content in Sweet Almond Oil moisturises and soothes dry skin and is commonly combined with essential oils that contain antimicrobial properties (such as Tea Tree or Lavender Essential Oil). Because of this, it can assist with cleansing and clearing the pores. It is also great for enhancing skin complexion and skin tone while assisting with healing and slowing the appearance of wrinkles. In fact, it is one of the most popular carrier oils for skincare and is widely used in massage oils, bath oils and soaps.   

Note: It’s important to remember that Sweet Almond Oil may trigger tree nut allergies when used on the skin.   

Rosehip Oil

Derived from the seeds of the Rosa rubiginosa, Rose moschata or Rosa canina bushes, Rosehip Oil has an earthy, nutty smell. Being naturally high in vitamins A and C makes Rosehip a great cosmetic oil for anti-ageing remedies while helping manage sun-damaged skin and blemishes 

It contains alpha-linolenic fatty acids, which have been seen to promote physical and physiological relaxation while also reducing anxiety levels. It can increase moisture retention in both skin and hair while encouraging wound healing and promoting hair growth - a true all-rounder!   

Rosehip Oil is gentle on sensitive skin, soothes inflammation and works to prevent the signs of ageing and the appearance of stretch marks.   

How To Apply Carrier Oils  

When used alongside essential oils, carrier oils are known to promote a plethora of topical therapeutic benefits, such as enhancing skin and hair health and easing muscle and joint pain. It is important to remember that carrier oils make it possible to use essential oils on the skin safely, so we always recommend following our safe dilution guidelines.    

As a general guide for healthy adults, we recommend:   

  • 2-4% essential oil dilution for skin application   
  • 1-2% essential oil dilution for facial application   

Here’s our helpful guide for diluting essential oils with carrier oils:   

Essential Oil Dilution Guide

Are Carrier Oils Safe?

Unlike essential oils, most carrier oils can be used directly on the skin. In saying this, while carrier oils don’t usually cause allergic reactions or skin irritations, we recommend performing a test patch on the skin before use. To perform a test patch:   

  1. Apply a small amount of your chosen carrier oil to the inside of your wrist
  2. Cover the area with a bandage or band-aid  
  3. Check the area after 24 hours  
  4. If your skin begins to irritate within 24 hours, remove the bandage and wipe the area clean with water-soaked cloth and discontinue using your oil.   

Be aware of any allergies that may contribute to an allergic reaction. For example, if you are allergic to tree nuts then avoid using Sweet Almond Oil, Argan Oil and Apricot Kernel Oil. If you are unsure whether your chosen carrier oil will be safe for your skin, contact your aromatherapy practitioner. 

Choosing The Right Carrier Oil For You

Carrier oils are flexible and versatile across many aromatherapy practices. However, each carrier oil has its own composition, consistency, odour and processes that may affect its suitability to your needs. 

To help you get the most out of your chosen carrier oil, here are some considerations: 

Carrier Oil Odour for Essential Oils

Some carrier oils are unscented, allowing you to mix and match them perfectly with a limitless selection of essential oils. However, those with a subtle aroma require more careful consideration when pairing them with an essential oil – particularly any with a highly distinctive smell. Most carrier oils have a faint nutty or sweet scent, and while it won’t impact their effectiveness, pairing them with a like-minded essential oil will save you from a potentially overpowered blend or one different to what you had hoped for.   

Carrier Oil Absorption Rate

The rate at which a carrier oil absorbs into the skin can depend on its consistency (light or heavy) and chemical makeup.  

Absorbency is sometimes linked with oil consistency, but not always. If you are looking for an oil that absorbs quickly and easily, it is best to check the individual details of the oil before purchase. 

Also, each carrier oil has its own comedogenic rating, which determines how likely it is to clog pores on a scale from 0 to 5.  

There is no benefit of either type of consistency – it's all about preference! That said, thicker, moisturising oils such as Avocado, Jojoba and Macadamia are well suited to dry skin or hair. Light oils such as Sweet Almond Oil or Rosehip Oil absorb more quickly and won’t leave a greasy residue, making them perfect for oily skin or hair. 

There is no benefit of either type of consistency - it’s all about preference! That said, thicker, moisturising oils such as Avocado, Jojoba and Macadamia Oils are well suited to dry skin or hair. Light oils such as Sweet Almond Oil or Rosehip Oil absorb more quickly and won’t leave a greasy residue, making them perfect for oily skin or hair. 

Choosing Carrier Oils for your Skin Type

Some carrier oils are more suitable for certain skin types than others—some can even make your skin feel worse. Olive Oil, for instance, is a heavier oil with a slow absorption rate so it can leave behind an oily residue. This makes it perfect for smoothing out complexion in dry skin. However, it isn’t as beneficial for those with naturally oily or acne-prone skin.   

If you’re unsure which carrier oil is best suited for your skin type, check the recommendations in our product descriptions on our website or speak with your aromatherapy practitioner.   

Carrier Oil Shelf-Life

Some carrier oils last longer than others. Generally, AWO carrier oils have a twelve-month shelf life when stored correctly: kept in a dark bottle with an airtight seal and in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources.  

Rather than becoming unsafe to use after this time, carrier oils may start to oxidise and go rancid. Therefore, to make sure you get the most out of your carrier oil, consider how much you plan to use it before making a purchase, as this will help you decide what size carrier oil to buy. 

Carrier Oil Manufacturing Process

The best oils are those that are rich in properties and can maintain them. Cold-pressed oils are considered the best and most effective because the extraction process is completed without heat, ensuring optimal nutrient retention and a high content of active properties.  

Other methods to keep in mind are Unrefined or ‘Virgin’ Oils vs Refined Oils. After the initial oil extraction, refined oils go through a further process to lighten the aroma and colour of the oil and remove impurities. However, it can sometimes result in lessening the nutrient level of the oil. Manufacturers often prefer refined oils for use in cosmetic formulations or for oils with particularly potent aromas. Unrefined or Virgin oils go through a gentle filtration to remove small particles without the risk of eliminating any nutrients, vitamins or other properties of the oil.   

Where To Buy Carrier Oils?

While carrier oils are generally available to purchase at health, wellness and retail stores, it is important to keep in mind that the quality and purity of these carrier oils will vary. This is why we recommend finding a reputable supplier.   

Here at AWO, we have a wide selection of pure carrier oils and organic carrier oils that are sold at reasonable prices. Because our stock is purchased in bulk quantities, our costs are significantly less, which allows us to offer high-quality products at affordable prices. We are also based right here in Australia!   

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