Unlike herbs or essential oils that you buy at most health food stores, pure essential oils are very concentrated. One drop of Peppermint is the equivalent of 26 cups of Peppermint tea! Pure essential oils are very potent and powerful. That’s why it is vital to dilute your essential oils. And that’s where carrier oil comes in!
What is carrier oil?
Carrier oils are vegetable oils used to dilute essential oils so they are safe to apply to the skin (or ingest, in some cases). The best carrier oil is cold-pressed and made from plants. Cold-pressed oils hold onto more of their beneficial properties since they are not subjected to heat. It’s also best to choose unrefined oils that have no additives.
Butter and other animal fats are not good choices for carrier oil because the fatty acid profile doesn’t allow the oil to absorb into the skin. However, there are a few exceptions such as Emu oil. Many people use Emu oil as a carrier oil because it contains no phosphorus, allowing it to absorb well into the skin.
How to dilute essential oils with carrier oil
Here are some are rough guidelines for diluting essential oils in carrier oil. Some people will be more cautious, while some folks will go ahead with a stronger dilution. Do what feels right for you, and if you have questions or concerns, talk with your healthcare provider.
Use a 1-3% solution, higher for acute issues: Dilute 1-2 drops of EO per 1 tsp carrier oil
Use essential oils more sparingly on young children since they don’t need as much wellness support and are more delicate in constitution.
Children: Newborn to 6 months
Use essential oils sparingly and use a .25% solution: dilute 1 drop of essential oil per 1 1/2 TB of carrier oil
Children: 6 months to 2 years
Use a .25-.5% solution: Dilute 1 drop of EO per 1 TB of carrier oil
Children: 2 years to 6 years
Use a .5% solution: Dilute 1 drop of EO per 2 tsps of carrier oil
Children: 6 years to 12 years
Use a .5%-1% solution: Dilute 1 drop of EO per 1 1/2 tsps of carrier oil
Use a 1% solution: Dilute 1 drop of EO per 1 tsp of carrier oil
Good carrier oils
Vegetable oils are usually high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which means they are liquid at room temperature That makes them a great choice for use in spray bottles or roll-ons. Some vegetable oils are high in linoleic acid, which in studies is best for those with oily skin. While vegetable oils like olive oil are high in oleic acid, which is best for dry skin. Combination skin can use a mix of all vegetable oils.
There are some saturated fats that are great as a carrier oil, such as the ever-mighty coconut oil. (What can’t coconut oil do?)
If the percentage of polyunsaturated fat is high, like in borage oil and evening primrose oil, the oil can go rancid quickly, so store those in the fridge and toss after 6-8 months. Other oils should be ok in the fridge for 2 years or in a cool, dark place for at least 1 year. If they smell bad, toss ’em!
Carrier oil #1: Olive
Olive oil is a treasure from the Mediterranean and used for centuries in cooking, medicine and skincare. It’s high in antioxidants and phenols, which can soothe the skin. It does have a stronger aroma, is on the thick side and feels oiler on the skin. Olive oil is frequently adulterated with lower quality oil. Make sure you’re buying the good stuff.
Pros: You’ve probably got it in your kitchen right now. And it’s high in antioxidants and great for dry, mature skin.
Cons: It’s fragrance can interfere with aromatherapy. It’s also thick and oily on the skin.
Where to buy: You can find at grocery stores. Organic is best.
Carrier oil #2: Sweet Almond
Sweet almond oil has been used historically in Ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. High in vitamins A, D and E, almond oil is a very nourishing and moisturizing, making it great for dry skin. It can also help other, heavier oils absorb better.
Pros: High in vitamins, moisturizing, and has no odor.
Cons: Can stain clothes/sheets, needs to be refrigerated, and better for dry skin types
Carrier oil #3: Apricot
Dating back to 3000 B.C., apricot kernel oil was used in ancient Chinese medicine to treat nephritis. It’s rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins A and C, which make it an excellent rejuvenating oil, especially for oiler skin types. Apricot kernel oil has been used as an anti-aging oil and to smooth and tone the skin. It absorbs well without leaving a greasy feeling.
Pros: Great for oiler skin, absorbs well, and has faint odor.
Cons: It needs to be refrigerated and may sting super dry skin.
Carrier oil #4: Avocado
Though avocados have been around for a long time, it was only in 1918 when the British Imperial Institute brought up the possibility of extracting and using avocado oil. High in fatty acids and vitamins, avocado oil is used to increase collagen production for more youthful skin. It is a thick, “oily” oil and best in blended with other carrier oils for dry skin. Great for eczema.
Pros: Very hydrating. Excellent for mature and very dry skin.
Cons: Doesn’t absorb well into skin. Thick and heavy. Not a good choice for oiler or combination skin types.
Carrier oil #5: Jojoba
Jojoba oil has only been commercially cultivated for the last century, though researchers don’t know for sure how long Native Americans have used it. This oil’s composition is closest to our sebum, or the body’s natural oils, than any other oil! It is moisturizing without being greasy. However, it can clog pores in some people. It contains vitamins A and E, which are great for healthy skin. Jojoba oil may also help treat acne.
Pros: Absorbs well, great for oily or normal skin types
Cons: Has a slight nutty aroma and may go rancid if not stored properly
Carrier oil #6: Argan
Moroccans have been using Argan oil for more than 3500 years as a skin moisturizer, hair conditioner, and to cure skin blemishes and chicken pox scars. Rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, Argan oil is great for all skin types. However, it does have a nutty scent which may interfere with aromatherapy.
Pros: Great for acne or dry skin. Very potent.
Cons: Expensive and has a distinct odor which may interfere with essential oils
Carrier oil #7: Sunflower
Indigenous to North America, sunflowers began to be grown for their oil sometime in the mid 19th century in Russia. Sunflower oil is an affordable and versatile oil and is excellent oil for eczema and psoriasis. High in oleic acid and lecithin, sunflower oil is great for dry skin types.
Pros: Cheap, faint odor and best for dry skin types
Cons: Could cause breakouts for people with oily skin
Carrier oil #8: Coconut oil (unrefined)
The medium chain fatty acids give coconut oil an antimicrobial property, which makes it a great all around oil for skincare (think diaper rash, fungus, and cuts). Because of its high saturated fat content, the oil is thick and creates almost a lather or film to protect the skin. Though coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it melts quickly when applied. It can also be mixed with other oils it can be more fluid.
Pros: Very moisturizing and therapeutic. Good for all skin types. Absorbs relatively well and very stable with almost zero chance of rancidity.
Cons: Strong aroma, solid at room temperature
Carrier oil #9: Coconut oil (refined)
Fractionated coconut oil is a good choice since it doesn’t stain clothing and has no scent. It’s much thinner than unrefined coconut oil and is liquid at room temperature. It is more processed, and loses its therapeutic properties. You could use an MCT oil, as an alternative, which is probably cleaner since it’s food grade.
Pros: Works in spray bottles, roll ons, and DOESN’T STAIN CLOTHES
Cons: Processed and not therapeutic
Water as a carrier “oil”
Say what?! I thought oil and water don’t mix. Well, that’s true… but… The key is you have to add something to EMULSIFY the water with the EO, as oil and water indeed do not mix without it. A mixture of more water/less oil is a lotion and a mixture of more oil/less water is a cream.
Commercial products use toxic emulsifiers called polyethylene glycol which are derived from petrochemical gasses. These emulsifiers can cause skin irritation and damage and have been associated with kidney damage in animals. Even the CDC admits they are not without risk.
Natural emulsifiers can, however, be used to keep the water and oil from separating in lotions when you don’t want as much of an oily or greasy feel.
Aloe vera gel
Great in sunburn ointments or other products designed to heal skin. Aloe has also been used in Ayurvedic medicine to heal and soothe skin wounds, acne and eczema. It is antiseptic and anti-fungal, which helps lengthen the shelf life of your product.
High quality sea salt can help improve circulation, which helps promote healing. It is also used as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells.
Antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial, witch hazel is a great choice when making cleansers. Witch hazel can also be used as an astringent and may reduce inflammation and redness.
Choose Castile soap when you’re making a cleanser or aromatic product. Also great for household cleaners. Just be sure not to add Castile soap to any household cleaner that contains vinegar, lemon juice or other acid. Castile soap is a base; mixed with an acid it turns into a messy glop of oil.
So which is the best carrier oil to use?
Of course, the best answer is to try several oils and use the one that you like best! That said, here are some of my go-to oils.
- When I’m making a roll-on with essential oils, I use apricot or almond oils.
- When I’m making a spray, like a sitz spray, I use a blend of witch hazel and filtered water.
- For a massage, I use fractionated coconut oil since it doesn’t stain!
- With my facial essential oils, I use unrefined coconut oil, rosehip or argan.
- If I’m in a rush to apply a little EO topically, I’ll just use some olive oil out of the kitchen.
Start with those oils if you like, and experiment with others from there!