Carrier oils are vegetable or base oils that are used in aromatherapy. Essential oils are very potent and can cause sensitivity, irritation or other problems if you use them on your skin full strength. You use the carrier oils to dilute the essential oils so you can safely apply them topically but they won’t change or dilute the therapeutic benefits of the essential oils.
These vegetable or base oils are derived from the fatty part of the plant, which includes the nuts, seeds and kernels through the process of cold pressing.
Carrier Oil Benefits
- They have a neutral scent that blends well with essential oils, which is why they work so well in aromatherapy.
- They won’t evaporate so they help to make your oils last longer.
- They save you money, becasue you use less essential oil when you mix it with carrier.
Carrier Oils Shelf Life
Unlike essential oils, carrier oils have a limited shelf life, which means that over time they become rancid or bad. You can usually tell if the oil is bad because it will smell bitter or have a strong unusual odor and the consistency or thickness of the oil may change. Over time, you will learn exactly what these oils are supposed to look and smell like. Before using them, check to make sure they smell normal, especially if it’s close to or past the shelf life. When carrier oil goes bad, you’ll need to discard it immediately.
Carrier Oils Scent
Even though carrier oils have a neutral scent, some of them do have an aroma. Therefore, you have to choose base oil that goes well with the essential oils in the recipe you’re making to avoid conflict. These oils come in various thicknesses and they feel differently on the skin. Some of them feel clean and completely absorb into the skin while others leave an oily film. Below are the most popular carrier oils used in aromatherapy.
Best Carrier Oils For Essential Oils
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil has a very light nutty aroma with a touch of sweetness. It has a yellowish tint to it and its rich in vitamin E, so it moisturizes the skin. It has medium thickness so it dries quickly but it may leave your skin feeling a little oily. It’s a great all-purpose oil to have on hand because it blends well with all types of essential oils. It even works great with spicy, warm oils like clove and cinnamon. However, if you have a peanut allergy you must avoid this one. It has a shelf life of between six months to a year.
Coconut oil has a very distinctive aroma that’s hard to miss and you either love it or hate it. This oil is white in color and it contains antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It absorbs quickly and moisturizes the skin. However, it may leave your skin feeling a bit oily. Coconut oil is solid when stored at room temperature and it has a shelf life for up to two years. This makes it a great carrier oil for DIY skincare products like lip balm and facial scrubs.
Grapeseed oil has a very faint nutty aroma and a slight yellowish-green tint. It has anti-oxidant properties that help to clean and purify the skin, which makes it great for homemade facial or body creams and lotions. Grapeseed oil is thin and it may leave a slight shiny film on the skin but it will still feel soft to the touch. For this reason, it also works great as massage oil. It has a short shelf life of three to six months.
Jojoba has a yellowish tint and a nutty aroma that’s a little more noticeable than most carrier oils. It’s actually a wax instead of oil but it still mixes well with many essential oils. It’s very similar to the natural oils found in your skin so it’s clean, non-greasy and leaves you feeling soft and silky. It can also help to revitalize the skin and hair, which makes it an excellent choice for using with homemade hair and skin care products.
Jojoba can help strengthen hair follicles and eliminate dandruff, so it works well when used in DIY shampoos and conditioners. When it comes to thickness, this oil is described as having medium consistency and it absorbs very quickly, so it also works well for massage oils. Jojoba has a very long shelf life.
Argan oil is extremely moisturizing: perfect for treating skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, acne, dry skin, and even wrinkles. Argan oil is rich in Vitamin E and fatty acids, which keep skin looking supple and soft. It contains very unique phytosterols that are excellent for treating scar tissue and nurturing other skin issues like burns. Great on its own, it becomes a powerhouse when mixed with essential oils.
Olive oil is often used for cooking and it is a good source of the omega fatty acids but it can also be used as carrier oil in aromatherapy. It has a strong aroma that is similar to olives and a greenish tint. Its thick oil with very soothing qualities but it does leave your skin feeling a bit oily. It has healing and disinfecting properties that can help heal burns and fade scars. For this reason, it’s often used in skin care products. However, the aroma is too strong to use as massage oil and it has a short shelf life of about six months.
Apricot Kernel Oil
For those of you that are allergic to nuts, you can use apricot kernel oil in place of almond oil in your essential oil recipes. The aroma is so faint that it’s almost nonexistent and it has a light yellowish tint. It’s very gentle and contains vitamin A along with a variety of minerals that help to nourish and moisturize the skin. This makes it a good carrier oil for children or anyone that has sensitive skin. It also works great when combined with essential oil recipes designed for premature ageing and dry damaged skin. It absorbs rather fast, so it’s a good choice for massage blends but it does leave a slight oily film on the skin.
If you have eczema, psoriasis or any other similar skin condition, avocado oil makes great carrier oil. It has a sweet, nutty aroma that is very mild and a dark olive green color. It’s high in fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids that are good for the body just like the avocado fruit. It has a waxy feel when applied to the skin but it is also a deep moisturizer with grounding and cooling effects.
Avocado oil is great for anyone with sensitive skin but it must be used in moderation to prevent it from overpowering the blend. Be sure to test for irritation or allergic reactions before using, especially if you have a reaction to latex or any other allergies. It works great with sunflower, chamomile and lavender essential oils and the shelf life is about eighteen months.
Palm Kernel Oil
Palm kernel oil comes from the palm fruit and it has a deep reddish, orange color. It’s very rich in anti-oxidant and carotene. It’s often used in recipes for bar soap because it makes it harder so it holds together better. It also helps to increase the amount of lather the soap makes and it has a shelf life of two years.
Sunflower oil has a very faint but sweet aroma and it has a yellowish tint. Unrefined sunflower oil is the best and it contains vitamin E, so it’s a great choice for body lotions and massage oils. This thin oil penetrates the skin quickly and it does not leave any oily residue behind. The shelf life for sunflower oil is around one year.
Technically, this carrier oil is actually a vegetable butter instead of vegetable oil but it’s still great for aromatherapy. It has a rich, sweet chocolaty aroma and a yellowish tint. It’s very thick when used at room temperature, which makes it hard to work with. Therefore, you will normally need to melt the cocoa butter down for your recipes when using for skin care lotions and creams. It has a shelf life of one to two years.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil has a light sweet aroma and a yellow color. It’s omega-6 EFAs, gamma linolenic and other fatty acid content makes it an excellent carrier oil for the skin. It can help improve eczema and similar problems. This thin, purifying oil is also believed to help the heart and blood. It absorbs into the skin easily but it will leave a light film behind. It goes well with rich oils like Ylang Ylang but it has a short shelf life of about six months.
Hazelnut oil has a faint nutty but sweet aroma and it’s a light yellowish color. It’s considered an all-purpose oil because you can use it for all types of skincare recipes and as massage oil. This oil is thin and absorbs very quickly into the skin. It also makes an excellent carrier oil for people with oily skin even though it will leave a slight film on the skin. It has a shelf life of around one year.
Safflower oil has a slight flowery scent, a yellowish tint and it’s between a thin and medium thickness. It has many nutrients that soothe the skin so it’s great for treating acne. It will also help fade scare and leave your hair soft and silky. You can use this carrier oil with most any essential oil but it works great with ones that provide clarity and focus. The shelf life for safflower oil is one year.
Borage Seed Oil
Borage seed oil is one of the most popular carrier oil for skin care. It has a light, sweet aroma, thin to medium thickness and a faint yellowish tint to the color. It has omega 6 EFA, gamma linolenic and other fatty acids that’s great for improving skin conditions like eczema. It absorbs into the skin quickly but it does leave a fine oily film behind. It has a short shelf life of six months.
Shea butter is also a vegetable butter like cocoa butter instead of a vegetable oil but it still makes great carrier oil in aromatherapy. Shea butter is thick and hard to use at room temperature so you’ll need to melt it down to make your recipes. It has a nutty aroma and a cream color and it works great with all types of essential oils. It moisturizes and nourishes both the skin and hair. It can even help to fade scars, so it’s a great carrier oil for multiple homemade beauty products.
Cranberry Seed Oil
Cranberry seed oil has a fruity but slightly bitter aroma and a golden color. It’s rich in vitamins E and A, so it’s nourishes the skin and it may even help reduce signs of aging. It also contains omega 3, 6 and 9, which are fatty acids that help improve skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. It has a long shelf life of about two years.
Vegetable Oils to Avoid in Aromatherapy
Not all vegetable oils can be used as carrier oils in aromatherapy. They don’t blend well with the essential oils or other carrier oils. These include margarine, shortening, baby oil and butter with the exception of Shea and Cocoa butter. You cannot use mineral oil or petroleum jelly either because they do not occur naturally. They are byproducts of the production of petroleum. They can prevent the absorption of essential oils, clog pores and possibly even prevent toxins from leaving the body naturally.
Tips for Using Carrier Oils
Keep your carrier oils in a cool, dark place to help preserve them. Some oils can be stored in the refrigerator, which will also extend its shelf life. However, they may solidify or look cloudy when stored in the fridge, so you will need to allow them to return to room temperature before using.
Some carrier oils work better with certain recipes than others do, so try experimenting with different ones until you find what works the best for you based on how you plan to use it. The ones you choose is partly a personal decision so it depends on what you like best. However, as you experiment with different recipes, you will discover which oils work better with certain essential oil combinations.
Always test the carrier oil before using to make sure you don’t have any allergic reaction before covering your skin. It’s also a good idea to make small portions until you discover which combinations work best for your particular needs.
Carrier oils play an important role in aromatherapy. They make it possible for you to use essential oils in ways that you couldn’t without the protection they provide.