What are Carrier Oils?

Published 18th Oct 2023

Carrier oils are known as the “carrier” base that allows for the safe application of essential oils into the skin and bloodstream. What people don’t know is that carrier oils are in a league of their own when it comes to therapeutic benefits and are a core part of aromatherapy practice.  

If you use essential oils regularly, you understand the role that carrier oils have in aromatherapy practice. Whether it’s creating a massage oil, improving skin care or even treating inflammation and irritation, carrier oils are versatile, effective and essential.  

Much like essential oils, carrier oils contain unique therapeutic properties, scents and consistencies - some are lightweight while others are heavy; some are versatile across all skin types and others are best suited for dry and sensitive skin. Whatever your skin type, chances are there is a carrier oil available to allow you to reap the benefits of aromatherapy and enhance your skin care routine.  

Read on to learn why and how carrier oils are used, their benefits in hair and skin care remedies, and most importantly, how to choose the right carrier oil for you.  

What Are Carrier Oils?

Carrier oils are derived from the seeds, nuts or kernels of different botanical species such as coconuts, apricots, avocado and olives by extracting the oil directly from the plant, fruit or vegetable. Common extraction methods include cold pressing, maceration, expeller pressing or using solvents.  

When used in aromatherapy, carrier oils dilute essential oils, acting as a “carrier” to help absorb essential oil nutrients into the skin, scalp or hair. Due to their extreme potency, carrier oils provide a safe application method without the risk of the essential oils evaporating or causing skin irritations.

Carrier oils have been utilised ever since the times of Ancient Greece and Rome when aromatic oils were a part of daily bathing rituals, cosmetics, massages and even for medicinal purposes. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that carrier oils and essential oils began to be prescribed in aromatherapy practices for their therapeutic benefits. Some of the first 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 natural body, skin and hair care.  

Popular Benefits of Carrier Oils

There is a reason that carrier oils have been utilised since ancient times. 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 cold-pressed - retain a majority of their nutrients and bioactive substances. This means that on their own, carrier oils can hydrate, nourish and even encourage healing of the skin, scalp and hair follicles. Here are some examples:  

  • Skin conditions: On their own, some carrier oils are quite gentle and versatile and are therefore a safe option for sensitive, dry and irritated skin. Various carrier oils are also known to assist with some skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Joint pain and inflammation: Many carrier oils contain antibacterial and natural anti-inflammatory properties that work to ease inflammation. 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, some carrier oils are recommended for easing itchy, flaky scalps and nourishing hair follicles.  
  • Skincare: The benefits of carrier oils are versatile across a range of purposes. Some carrier oils are known to increase skin elasticity, reduce signs of ageing and can even be used as a natural make-up remover.  

How To Apply Carrier Oils for Essential 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, as well as easing muscle and joint pain. It is important to remember that carrier oils make it possible for the safe use of essential oils on the skin, that is why we always recommend safe dilution guidelines.  

As a general guide for adults, we recommend:  

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

Here’s our helpful guide for how to apply carrier oils when diluting essential oils:  

How to dilute essential oils. Essential oils dilution guide.

Are Carrier Oils Safe?

Unlike essential oils, carrier oils can generally 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.  

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 about whether your chosen carrier oil will be safe for your skin, contact your aromatherapy practitioner.

What Are The Common Uses Of Carrier Oils?

Like essential oils, each carrier oil contains unique compounds and properties. Because of this, various carrier oils are known to come with their own set of unique benefits. Here are some of the most popular uses of carrier oils:  

Carrier Oils For Skin

  • Apricot Kernel Oil is highly valued for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, as well as its vitamin A, E and K content. It provides lightweight, gentle nourishment for general skincare while easing signs of eczema and psoriasis. 
  • Jojoba Oil is great for all skin types and is deeply hydrating without being too heavy. It is not only moisturising but is great for balancing oil production. It also contains vitamins B and E, making it perfect for protecting the skin against sun damage.  
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil is filled with fatty acids, polyphenols and antimicrobial properties, therefore it may reduce the appearance of acne, inflammation and is an effective cleanser for the skin. It is also one of the best known natural remedies for dry skin.  
  • Rosehip Oil is filled with vitamins A, E and fatty acids. It has natural retinol properties and is great for managing skin conditions such as eczema as well as having regenerative properties – making it a great choice for blemishes and anti-ageing remedies.  
  •  Avocado Oil is filled with palmitoleic fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E, and has huge anti-inflammatory benefits for skin conditions such as 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

  • Argan Oil is filled with antioxidants, fatty acids, linoleic acids, and vitamins A and E. It’s great for managing oil production, encouraging wound healing, boosting collagen, evening out skin tone and reducing the signs of ageing.  
  • Jojoba Oil is gentle on all skin types and deeply nourishing for the face. It’s most commonly known to be deeply moisturising 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 nourishing and regenerative properties. It’s gentle on sensitive skin and helps with skin conditions such as eczema, as well as being great for reducing fine lines and boosting complexion.  
  • Sweet Almond Oil is easily absorbed into the skin and is great to clear pores, cleanse and even help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.  

Carrier Oils For Hair

  • Argan Oil is well known for its versatility across all hair types – it is regenerative, strengthening and restoring. It helps protect hair from heat and UV rays, richly conditions the hair follicles with its ability to deeply penetrate the hair shaft, and can soothe irritated or dry scalps. It is also known to subdue the effects of psoriasis and dermatitis.  
  • Grapeseed Oil is lightweight, absorbent, deeply moisturising and is extremely versatile for both the hair and skin. It is filled with vitamin E – making it great for softening hair follicles and is particularly recommended for those with finer hair.  
  • Castor Oil is extremely versatile and is great for promoting healthy, shiny hair while also being known to be highly protective. It’s gentle on the scalp and is highly valued for its ability to prevent bacteria and fungal growth, making it perfect for remedying an itchy, dry scalp.  
  • Fractionated Coconut Oil is filled with fatty acids to help moisturise the hair, protect from heat and UV rays, and promote hair strength and growth. It’s also known to be a great remedy for dry or dull hair.  

Best Carrier Oils for Essential Oils

Here, we have selected some of our most versatile and popular carrier oil options:  

Fractionated Coconut Oil

Fractionated Coconut Oil means that it will always stay in its liquid form no matter the temperature and is perfect for nourishing hair care. With natural lauric acid and fatty acids, Fractionated Coconut Oil is a Godsend for moisturising hair follicles, preventing protein loss in hair, protecting against heat and encouraging hair growth.  

Because it contains fatty acids, polyphenols and protective properties, it can be applied to the skin, lips and scalp. This is because these compounds are known to nourish and moisturise the skin to 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 vitamin A, E and K, making it a natural source of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Due to its lightweight nature, it is known to be ultra-gentle on the skin and is a popular ingredient in facial lotions, ointments, creams and balms. It also leaves the skin feeling supple and smooth when used as a massage oil without the greasy residue.  

Apricot Kernel Oil is best used to help soften itchy or irritated skin and is popular as a bath oil, massage oil, and is commonly added to hair care routines. It is also known to reduce redness and is great for helping with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba Oil is technically a wax, rather than an oil and is used in massage oils and carries antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. With a delicate, nutty aroma, Jojoba Oil closely mimics sebum levels in the skin and is deeply nourishing and moisturising. It is easily absorbable so it doesn’t clog pores and helps reduce oil production in acne-prone skin.  

Jojoba oil is also great for general hair care because it won’t weigh down the hair as it treats frizz and soothes dry, itchy scalps. It’s highly regenerative and can be used as an effective make-up remover or skin cleanser as it has also been seen to boost overall skin elasticity.  

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil carries a nutty aroma and is easily absorbed and lightweight so the scent lingers on the skin. It is rich in antioxidants and has been known to be used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to help assist with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.  

It is also known to moisturise and soothe dry skin due to its high vitamin E content, 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.  

Because of its contents, it’s important to remember that Sweet Almond Oil may trigger tree nut allergies when used on the skin.  

Rosehip Oil

Rosehip Oil is derived from the seeds of the Rosa rubiginosa, rose moschata or the rosa canina bushes and carries an earthy, nutty smell. It is naturally high in vitamins A and C, making it a great cosmetic oil for anti-ageing remedies while helping with 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.  

Choosing The Right Carrier Oil For You

Carrier oils are flexible and versatile across aromatherapy practice. With that being said, each carrier oil contains different odours, consistency and processes that may affect its suitability with what you need. Here are some considerations to take on board to ensure you get the most out of your chosen carrier oil:  

Carrier Oil Odour for Essential Oils

Some carrier oils are unscented, so there is a limitless supply of essential oils that you can mix and match with. However, because essential oils are very distinctive in smell, you must choose the right blend of aroma, especially with carrier oils that have a subtle scent. Most carrier oils either have a faint nutty or sweet scent so pairing it with a like-minded essential oil will save you a disappointing blend.  

Carrier Oil Absorbtion Rate

The rate at which a carrier oil absorbs into the skin differs from how heavy or lightweight a carrier oil is. Heavier carrier oils will take more time to penetrate the skin while lighter-weight oils absorb quicker and the scent will dissipate sooner.  

There is no benefit of either thick or thin oils that outweigh the other, it’s all about preference! In saying that, thicker, moisturising oils such as Avocado, Jojoba and Castor Oils are well suited for dry skin or hair. Light oils such as Apricot Kernel or Rosehip Oil absorb more quickly and won’t leave a greasy residue, making it perfect for oily skin or hair because it won’t clog your pores.  

Choosing Carrier Oils for your Skin Type  

Some carrier oils are more suitable for certain skin types over others - some can even make your skin feel worse. Carrier oils such as 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, isn’t as beneficial for those with naturally oily or acne-prone skin.  

If you’re unsure about what 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; oils with a high fatty acid content generally have a shelf-life of about six months, whereas oils with natural antioxidant properties, high vitamin E or lauric acid content tend to last longer - some lasting up to two years.  

The oils won’t become unsafe to use after this time, but they will lose their properties and benefits, so to make sure you get the most out of your carrier oil first consider how much you plan to use as this may help you decide what size carrier oil you purchase.

Carrier Oil Manufacturing Process  

The best oils are those that are not only are rich in properties but can maintain them. Using cold-pressed oils is considered the best and most effective because the extraction process is completed without heat, ensuring optimal retention of nutrients and a high content of active properties.

Other ideal extraction methods to look out for are Unrefined, and Extra Virgin Oils. These methods heavily filter the oil 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 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!  

Benefits of essential oils. How to use essential oils.

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