When we talk about using essential oils topically, we always discuss how to safely dilute them (you can read more about that here). How do we dilute essential oils? We dilute essential oils with their plant-based cousins, carrier oils. Carrier oils are also derived from plant matter and are used to help carry essential oils to the skin. We dilute essential oils because these volatile plant extracts are potent! If used undiluted essential oils can cause serious irritation to your skin. Carrier oils come in a wide variety, most of which are unscented or lightly scented so they won’t interfere with the aromatic qualities of your essential oils. Many common carrier oils can also be used alone as they have their own beneficial uses for skin and hair care.
When choosing a carrier oil, take into consideration what your essential oil blend is being used for, availability of carrier oils, and price concerns of the carrier oil. You should also purchase organic, unrefined oils when possible and always from sources you can trust. I like to use Bulk Apothecary for my carrier oil needs. They have a varied selection of bulk oils at affordable prices, and many of their oils have organic options.
The 10 most common carrier oils you’ll hear about are listed below.
There are many more carrier oils than those on the list above and each one has its own distinct properties and benefits to take into consideration. These ten oils are typically the most popular and most readily available for you to purchase.
Argan oil is made from the kernels of the fruit of argan trees and is rich in vitamins A and E and monounsaturated fatty acids, making it great for treating dry hair and skin. Argan oil is a favorite of mine for hair serums, especially when blended with rosemary essential oil and lavender essential oil. Argan oil is also non-comedogenic making it a great choice for many different skin types.
Jojoba oil – nature’s sebum
Jojoba oil is a great choice for those with acne-prone skin. Jojoba oil has characteristics that closely relate to our skin’s own natural oil known as sebum. This makes jojoba oil noncomedogenic and a great choice for those with skin blemishes. It is easily absorbed, high in vitamin E, and typically won’t clog pores. It makes a great base for a massage oil, bath oil, or for face moisturizers. While jojoba oil mimics the consistency of our own sebum it should be noted that it does have a comedogenic rating of 2. This means that most people won’t have an issue with jojoba oil clogging their pores, but some might. It is typically suitable for oily skin as it will help balance out the production of our own excess skin oil.
Pressed from olives, olive oil is known as a healthy choice for cooking, but it also has benefits as a carrier oil for aromatherapy. Olive oil is full of healthy fatty acids and plant sterols that it makes it a good choice for dry skin. When choosing an olive oil, pick one that is extra-virgin and know that the natural scent of olive oil may interfere with some of the essential oils you use. Olive oil is always a great choice for beginner’s as it is easily available in grocery stores. It has a comedogenic rating of 2 and shouldn’t clog pores for most people.
Coconut oil is another readily available carrier oil you can find in local grocery stores. Coconut oil has its own distinct aroma as it is made from the meat of coconuts. When choosing a coconut oil, pick one that is unrefined. Refined coconut oil is bleached and deodorized to remove the distinct aroma and flavor associated with coconuts. Refined coconut oil is not an all-natural choice and typically not recommended. Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids and polyphenols and is in a semi-solid form. If you want coconut oil that will always be liquid, look for fractionated coconut oil. This type of coconut oil will remain in its liquid state regardless of the ambient temperature. Traditional coconut oil has a comedogenic rating of 4, making it a less than ideal choice for any facial blends. Fractionated coconut oil will have a comedogenic rating between 2 and 3 so it may still clog pores.
Sweet almond oil
Sweet almond oil is made from the kernels of sweet almonds. It is a lightweight oil that is easily absorbed by the skin. Sweet almond oil is rich in vitamins A and E, fatty acids, potassium, and zinc. It is one of the most popular carrier oils you will find in many DIY essential oil recipes. Sweet almond oil is a good choice for a variety of blends including bath oils, massage oils, soaps, and roller blends. It has a comedogenic rating of 2 and is usually suitable for those with sensitive skin types.
A vitamin E rich byproduct of the winemaking process, grapeseed oil is a choice for skincare blends. Grapeseed oil is lightweight with a neutral scent. It is easily absorbed by the skin and can suit a variety of needs when choosing to make a blend. Grapeseed oil has a comedogenic rating of 1 making it suitable for most skin types.
Apricot kernel oil
Apricot kernel oil is high in vitamin E and fatty acids with a slightly sweet, nutty aroma. It can help to calm irritated, itchy skin and could be used in hair care preparations or any bath and massage oil blends. Apricot kernel oil has a comedogenic rating of 2.
Avocado oil is great for dry skin remedies but those with acne-prone skin should use caution. Avocado oil is a thick oil high in oleic acid that can increase sebum production. It also has a comedogenic rating of 3. This means it could clog your pores and may be the best choice depending on your skin type.
My personal favorite! Sunflower oil is extracted from sunflower seeds and is rich in nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and linoleic acid. It is great for acne-prone skin and can help with skin inflammation and irritation. Sunflower oil is non-comedogenic (unless it is a hi-oleic acid type, then its comedogenic rating can be as high as 2) and has natural emollient properties that can help the skin retain its moisture. It is a gentle carrier oil and great for many first timers trying their hand at blending.
Hemp seed oil
Hemp seed oil is the oil made from cold pressing the seeds of the hemp plant. It should not be confused with the general term “hemp oil” which is a term used for all oils that come from the hemp plant including CBD oil. Hemp seed oil has few to no cannabinoids and is high in omega fatty acids. It has a comedogenic rating of zero and is a great choice for many different skin types.
Making the mix
Once you have chosen your carrier oil that best suits your needs, it’s time to blend it with your essential oils. We discussed safe dilution tips in detail here but here’s a quick over-view.
First, conduct a patch test of your carrier oil to ensure you aren’t allergic to it. Place a small amount of carrier in the crook of your arm. Cover the oil with a bandage and leave it for 24 hours. In 24 hours, check the area for any redness or irritation. If you feel any discomfort before removing the bandage, immediately take the bandage off and wash your arm thoroughly. You should use caution when choosing a carrier oil if you are allergic to tree nuts. Tree nut derived oils include argan oil, apricot kernel oil, and sweet almond oil.
After your successful patch test, it’s time to blend! Follow safe dilution guidelines by checking out a chart like the one found here from Plant Therapy. You can also read this great post by the Tisserand Institute on safety guidelines for essential oil blending. A 2-3% dilution is typically all you’ll need for most blends intended for an adult. Don’t forget that some essential oils, like clove and cinnamon, are more likely to cause skin reactions and therefore have their own individualized safe dilution rates. Always do your research on your essential oils and if you can’t find an answer, don’t be afraid to reach out to a certified aromatherapist for help.
Choosing a carrier oil can be just as important as choosing the right essential oils for your blend. But don’t worry, you can’t go wrong with any of the oils listed here. Have fun trying them out and find what you like best. Once you’re confident in your blending skills, you can start to blend together carrier oils as well to make the perfect potion for your skin.