What Are Carrier Oils?

April 19, 2017

picture of coconut fractionated carrier oil

What Are Carrier Oils?

You’ve perhaps heard by now that essential oils are unsafe to topically apply to the skin by themselves, and that they first need to be diluted in a carrier oil. But what exactly is a carrier oil, and how is it different from an essential oil?

Carrier Oils & Their Origins

Unlike essential oils, which are the pure essence of a plant, carrier oils do not contain therapeutic properties. However, their value to aromatherapy cannot be understated. If you use essential oils, it is absolutely vital that you keep a few different carrier oils in your arsenal.

Carrier oils can be thought of as neutral oils; they have no smell or a neutral smell, and thus do not provide aromatherapy benefits by themselves. They are generally made from vegetarian sources, and unlike essential oils, they are not volatile. This means they are ideal to use as a vehicle for diluting essential oils in order to apply essential oils to the skin.

How to Use Carrier Oils Correctly

Because of the purity and high level of concentration of essential oils, they carry the natural smell of whichever plant they are made from and are volatile, evaporating rapidly when exposed to air. They are too strong to be applied topically by themselves. Since carrier oils are not volatile and have neutral, mild smells, they are great for diluting most essential oils. Carrier oils help reduce the concentration of an essential oil without removing the oil’s therapeutic properties – the entire reason you’d be using an essential oil in the first place! You also have control over how much carrier oil you can use, meaning you can dilute an essential oil to your preference.

Note that not all fatty kitchen ingredients should be used to dilute essential oils. While some carrier oils can be found in your pantry, like olive oil, other fats like margarine, butter, or even vegetable shortening should not be applied to your skin. Petroleum jelly and other mineral oils should also not be used as carrier oils.

Lifespan of Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are organic materials that are high in fat, so they will not last forever sitting on the shelf. Make sure your carrier oils have not gone bad before you use them. Some go bad within six months, while others can last for up to a year. Make sure to label your oils with the dates you procured them, and store them correctly: in a dark, cool place, sealed in their original, air-tight containers. Essential oils should be stored in a dark, cool place, as well.

If you want to combine properties of different carrier oils, feel free to mix and match them – it won’t disrupt the essential oil properties you’re looking for!

Best Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy

Here are some of the best carrier oils to use with your favorite essential oils for your next aromatherapy massage:

  • Sweet Almond: This oil smells slightly sweet and nutty, and is a great carrier oil for most purposes. Of course, it might trigger an allergic reaction in those known to have nut allergies, so know when to steer clear. Sweet almond oil is not the greasiest of oils, and absorbs into the skin relatively quickly.

  • Grapeseed: This is one of the best carrier oils for aromatherapy massages. It is highly moisturizing, though be warned that it has a fairly short shelf life. It will leave the skin with a light glossy film and should be washed off after the completion of a massage.

  • Olive: This is a very convenient carrier oil, since most of us already have it stocked in the pantry! However, it does leave the skin feeling greasy, so it may not be ideal for some people. The strong aroma can be slightly polarizing, so using olive oil in aromatherapy applications may boil down to personal preference. The presence of omega fatty acid, though, can be quite beneficial!

  • Jojoba: This carrier oil has one of the longest shelf lives of the bunch. It is very moisturizing, and smells slightly nutty without being made from nuts – perfect for those with a nut allergy. The non-greasy absorption is superior to the other oils, as well.

  • Coconut: You can find either coconut oil or fractioned coconut oil, and both work well as carrier oils. Both have a long shelf life. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and smells distinctly of coconut; it will leave an oily, moisturizing feeling on top of the skin. Fractioned coconut oil is liquid at room temperature and smells very neutral. It also absorbs into the skin better, and is moisturizing without being greasy.

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