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All About Carrier Oils
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All About Carrier Oils

All About Carrier Oils

What are carrier oils?

Both essential oils and carrier oils are oils derived from plants. Essential Oils are very potent and can cause irritation or just be wasted when applied directly to skin. Essential Oils are diluted into more balanced oils so that you can then “carry” them to your skin or even into your body. 

In order to best keep the pure therapeutic properties of the essential oils usually oils are chosen that are unscented of lightly scented. Usually these oils can but used all by themselves in order to hydrate and nourish your skin or even to consume with meals. 

WARNING: Be very careful consuming carrier oils and essential oils. Be sure your oils are food grade if you are going to attempt it and consult a nutritionist or doctor. Also remember to always consult a physician when you have a medical condition. 

Below are some tips on which carrier oils you might want to use for what purposes. 

Selecting the best carrier oil for your purpose

There are many carrier oils out there on the market. Here we will discuss about 14 or them maybe more will be added in the future. Most carrier oils are suitable to use with any essential oil. If you like the oil and it makes you have a positive response then use it! The information here is just intended to add depth to your experience and maybe give you a chance to explore every once in a while.

Here are a few things to consider before choosing an oil

  • Odor: Most carrier oils have little aroma but there is always something there. This is often a characteristic smell from the original plant but can also often be caused by the extraction process. Be mindful of the smell of your oils and search around to find different variations. 
  • Skin: Different skin types will have different reactions. Quite often people have no reaction. Some oils may irritate skin, burn, sweat, or worsen a skin condition such as acne. 
  • Absorption: Your skin can absorb some carrier oils better than others. Some leave a residue and some do not. 
  • Shelf life: Be careful to always use oils that are not spoiled and to pay attention to how long you have had them for.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate carrier oils labeled for use as cosmetics. They do, however, regulate edible cooking oils that may serve double-duty as carrier oils.Only buy therapeutic or higher grade carrier oils from a source you trust.

I recommend buying organic whenever possible because those oils are inspected and tested and are more likely to be what you think you are buying. Go with products that are cold-pressed, 100 percent pure, and additive-free.

If you want to use a cooking oil as a carrier oil, choose cold-pressed, organic varieties.

The tip here is that you can use any oil you like as a carrier oil. Below are some of the most popular and why. 

For Your Face

If you’re applying a carrier oil to the skin of your face, look for thinner oils that are comedogenic like sunflower oil and grape seed oil. However it’s ok to experiment as certain oils may react differently to your skin. Generally you don’t want a lot of residue clogging your pores if you are worried about acne. If you skin is dry try oils that have hydrating properties. 

Jojoba Oil is another option. It is very similar to the skin’s sebum and can be balancing and moisturizing for your skin. Lab research suggests that jojoba oil can enhance antimicrobial activity of essential oils while at the same time reducing their potential for toxicity.

Oils labeled as noncomedogenic means they have received a low rating on a comedogenic scale and may be less likely to clog pores and lead to acne. However, the ratings scale isn’t standardized and how skin responds can vary widely between individuals.

For Example, Oils that are typically considered more comedogenic, such as coconut oil, may be problematic and lead to acne in some people, whereas other individuals may not have any problem.

NoncomedogenicComedogenic
Argan Oil (0)Apricot Kernel OIl (2)
Grapeseed Oil (1-2)JoJoBa Oil (2)
Neem Oil (1-2)Olive OIl (2)
Castor Oil (1)Black Cumin Seed (2)
Rosehip Oil (1)Fractionated Coconut OIl (2-3)
Sunflower Seed Oil (0-2)Avocado Oil (3)
Sweet Almond Oil (2)Coconut Oil (4)
The Comedogenic Traits of Carrier Oils

For Your Hair

Applying oils to your hair can help if you’re dealing with dry, dull, or damaged hair. A thinner oil such as Grape Seed or Argan oil may be better suited to those with fine hair, while thicker oils such as coconut oil are better suited to those with coarse, dry, or damaged hair.

For Bath Oils

In a bath the water is much more diluted and so some of the risks of over exposure subside. Your favorite oils can either be rubbed on skin or poured directly into the bath. Always do a patch test before you do a full soak if you have never used the oil before. Often people opt for essential oils that you find relaxing in a bath.

For Massage

For a massage, the massage oil should have some staying power to allow the massage therapist’s hands to glide over the skin and an aromatherapy portion can be very beneficial to the massage experience. Proper massage oils include fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, or apricot kernel oil. It’s also best to use less essential oils as not to exceed a 1% dilution (one drop of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil) for massage oil since it will be used generously and usually over a large region of the body. You can always use a diffuser in the room to increase the full effect. 

For Homemade Soaps

If you are making your own soaps, carrier oils are a way to make the soap more moisturizing and to blend in the scent from the essential oils. Most carrier oils will work well in soap recipes. You could try apricot kernel oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil.Another option is to use unscented liquid soap as a carrier for essential oil in the same ratios as you’d use for carrier oil.

Dilution

Carrier oils are often mixed with an essential oil in a dilution of 0.5% to 5% for an adult; however, the dilution depends on the type of essential oil, where the oil is applied, and the size and health of the person.

To mix carrier oils with essential oils, first measure out the carrier oil into a container and then add drops of essential oil to the carrier oil. Many essential oil bottles have a sealed cap that lets out one drop at a time. If not use a dropper and be careful not to spill. Start with a low dilution and then add more drops if desired. Shake the oil mixture to blend it before each application and then apply it.

Most carrier oils have a shelf life of six months or more, so you can make a large batch for later use. If the oil starts to smell rancid, discard it.

DilutionEssential OilCarrier Oil
Light Massage0.5%3 drops1 oz (2 tbsp, 30 ml)
Heavy Massage1%6 drops1 oz (2 tbsp, 30 ml)
Local Massage2%12 drops1 oz (2 tbsp, 30 ml)
Soaps and Body 4%24 drops1 oz (2 tbsp, 30 ml)
Medium Perfume5%30 drops1 oz (2 tbsp, 30 ml)
Very Strong Perfume10%60 drops1 oz (2 tbsp, 30 ml)

Always discuss essential oil use with a physician if you plan to use a carrier oil mixture on children. The dilution should also typically be kept between 0.25% to 2.5% for kids.

Doing a Patch Test

It’s recommended to do a patch test before normal application of essential oils and carrier oils to see if you develop any skin reactions. If at any point during the patch test you develop signs of an allergic reaction (hives, rash, difficulty breathing), rinse the area with water and seek medical attention. Follow these steps for a patch test:

  • Dilute the essential oil in a small amount of carrier oil that’s preferably twice the concentration that you plan to use. For example, if you plan to use a 1% dilution, you would make a 2% dilution (1 drop of carrier oil in a 1/2 teaspoon of carrier oil) for the patch test.
  • Apply two or three drops of the diluted mixture to a Band-Aid or Dermal Patch and apply it directly to your skin. Often the forearm is a good place to test for sensitivity. 
  • After 24 to 48 hours, remove the Band-Aid and check for any signs of a skin reaction (rash, redness, itching, blisters). If the skin is irritated or inflamed in any way, avoid using that oil on your skin.

Try to keep your skin as dry as possible during the patch test, especially in the first 24 hours after you apply it.

Precautions

  • Certain oils may trigger allergic reactions, especially among individuals with nut allergies. 
  • Diluting an essential oil in a carrier oil doesn’t necessarily reduce the risk of certain side effects from the essential oil (such as allergic contact dermatitis, or skin reactions after sun exposure).
  • The total amount of essential oil that comes in contact with the skin and is absorbed is what matters. Ingesting the oil can result in systemic adverse reactions such as liver, kidney, or neurological toxicity.
  • When blending essential oils and carrier oils, it’s crucial to avoid direct skin exposure to the essential oils and to work in a very well-ventilated area for only short periods at a time.
  • f you plan to spend time outdoors, avoid using blends that contain citrus essential oils, such as orange or lemon, since research suggests that these essential oils may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and more likely to burn or become irritated.
  • Pregnant and nursing women and children should always consult their primary care providers before using essential oils.

Below are Descriptions of Some to Most Popular Carrier Oils

Water 

Water is not a carrier oil but I use it most often with essential oils as a solvent to distribute the oil in a spray. When I am trying out new combinations or just want to relax I like to put some oils in a spray bottle with distilled water and shake it up before I spray it on myself. This mixture will separate because it’s water and oil but I find it works great and is an easy way for me to judge the pute profile of an oil mixture without any other aromas in there. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is an edible oil made from the meat of mature coconuts. It’s available in refined or unrefined varieties. It seems to be the most popular oil among health circles although it has been found that consuming large amounts of coconut oil can have some health risks. 

The fatty acids in coconut oil can kill numerous types of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Lauric acid, makes up 50% of the fatty acids in Coconut Oil and is the most effective fatty acid for battling bacteria. Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammation caused by conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, and other skin conditions. Coconut oil is also be used to treat dry skin and hair. It improves their moisture content and can be a great remedy for dandruff and remedy for eczema. Coconut Oil accelerates the healing process in skin by contributing fresh antioxidants and increasing collagen levels.

Unrefined Coconut Oil comes from fresh coconut meat. It’s not processed with chemicals and retains its coconut aroma and flavor. This type of oil is great for hydrating the skin. Raw coconut oil is solid and creamy at room temperature. 

Refined Coconut Oil comes from a dried coconut meat called “copra.” It’s been bleached and deodorized to remove all contaminants much like white flour. The distinct coconut aroma and flavor is gone. Refined coconut isn’t all-natural and isn’t recommended for use as a carrier oil.

Fractionated Coconut Oil is made from regular coconut oil, through the process of fractionation. Fractionation is a process which is used to different types of fats that are normally found in some oils. Fractionation is possible because of different melting points of various fats. To prepare fractionated coconut oil, coconut oil is heated above its melting point and is then left to cool. Solid fraction of the oil is then separated from the liquid fraction. This process of fractionation can take several hours to complete and the result remains high in essential fatty acids. 

Unlike raw coconut oil fractionated oil is liquid at room temperature and has no noticeable aroma. It is popular because it absorbs very well and leaves the skin feeling silky and moisturized, not greasy. It also has a long shelf life. 

Uses: Coconut oil contains skin-nourishing fatty acids and polyphenols, which make it a great carrier oil for massage oils and skin care preparations. 

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil is another edible oil made from the kernels of sweet almonds. It has a strong sweet nutty aroma and a medium consistency. This oil is lightweight, absorbs quickly and easily, and is rich in vitamin E and oleic acid making it a great moisturizer for dry skin.

Sweet Almond Oil is also used in general aromatherapy, but its strong scent may mask an essential oil’s aroma. It can also compliment it if you plan your mixture correctly. I personally like diluting the Oil of the Five Thieves Oil in Almond Oil because I feel it adds to the texture and brilliance of the oil.

Uses: Sweet almond oil is popular in massage oils, bath oils, and soaps and is one of the most popular carrier oils for skin care.  Warning: Beware of nut allergies! Much almond oil is produced in the same factories as peanuts. 

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba is a yellow oil that comes from the seeds known as coffee berry or deer nut of the jojoba plant which grows in the southwestern United States and parts of Africa and is commonly used in massage. Its acorn-shaped seeds are rich in oil and liquid wax, which are said to possess healing properties.

It has a very delicate and nutty aroma and a medium consistency. Technically jojoba isn’t an oil but a wax and has powerful emollient properties meaning it can soften and sooth the skin. By trapping moisture in the outermost layer of skin called stratum corner the cornoecytes (which are skin cells) become hydrated relieving dryness, flaking, and itching. Jojoba wax is thought to closely mimic sebum, the skin’s natural oil. This is  a reason for it to be very popular in mixtures that will be applied to the skin and the hair. 

Using jojoba oil may help reduce the skin’s oil production in acne-prone people by making the skin think it’s produced enough oil. It also has a long shelf life. It may also help wound to heal and aid in the overall health of your skin and hair. 

Uses: Jojoba oil absorbs easily in the skin and doesn’t clog pores. This makes it a good carrier oil option for massage oils, facial moisturizers, and bath oils.

Olive Oil

Olive oil comes from pressed olives, it’s popular and easy to find and is very versatile being useful in topical as well as culinary applications. It’s best known as a healthy, edible oil with a fruity aroma, but it’s also used in aromatherapy as a carrier oil. In fact it’s the best known massage oil in Greece at the time of Hippocrates for use in athletes and to treat all kinds of muscle afflictions. 

Extra-virgin olive oil is the preferred variety for aromatherapy and skin care preparations. Olive oil’s scent may interfere with the scent of some essential oils. It has a medium to heavy consistency and is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and of oleic acid.

Uses: It’s packed with fatty acids and plant sterols, which make it great for cleansing and moisturizing dry skin. Use olive oil as a carrier oil for massage, facial cleansers, hair care, and homemade soaps.

Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip oil doesn’t smell like a rose, it is a nutty earthy oil. The flowers look different than traditional roses as well. However, they are related. Rosehips are the seeds of the Rosa rubiginosa bush or the Rosa moschata bush. When these flowers die and drop their petals, the rosehip is the part that is left behind. Rosehip oil is pressed from rosehips.

Rosehip Oil is rich in essential fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid. It has been shown to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects and is used to treat various skin conditions. It is also rich in vitamins C and E.

Uses: Rosehip Seed Oil is high in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is a natural retinoid that helps fight aging, and both vitamins can help reverse the effects of the sun on your skin. Use it as a carrier oil for dry skin remedies, massage oils, and moisturizers.

Grape Seed Oil

Grape seed oil comes from grape seeds it is considered to be an all-purpose oil that is commonly used in cooking, aromatherapy, massage and skin and hair care. It’s a byproduct of the winemaking process and is rich in vitamin E and is a good moisturizer. 

It is light and thin in consistency and it’s aroma is also light and slightly sweet and nutty. It is transparent with almost no color. It leaves a glossy film when used on the skin. It’s has a relatively short shelf life. 

Uses: Grape seed oil is lightweight, easily absorbed by the skin, and has a neutral scent. It’s a good carrier oil to use with essential oils to make body oils and massage oils.

Castor Oil

The advantages of Castor Oil were made popular by Edgar Casey, a man who was considered to be “the Father of Holistic Medicine.” He taught the public about its healing properties for a vast range of health issues and the potent Castor Oil remedy became known as “Palma Christi,” or “Hand of Christ.” 

Ricinus communis, better known as the Castor plant, is native to the Mediterranean region as well as the tropical regions of Africa and India, but it also grows in other tropical regions. The oil is extracted from the castor beans. I create a viscous greasy liquid oil with very slow absorption. It has a slightly bitter aroma and a low comedogenic rating. 
The main chemical constituents of Castor Carrier Oil are: Ricinoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid (Omega-6 Fatty Acid), α-Linolenic Acid (Alpha-Linolenic Acid – Omega-3 Fatty Acid), Stearic Acid, and Palmitic Acid. Many popular oils contain many of these valuable acids but castor oil is special because of it’s high concentration of ricinoleic acid. 

RICINOLEIC ACID is known to relieve pain caused by muscle aches and joint pain, soothe itching, swelling, inflammation, cuts, and fungal infections, fight acne-causing bacteria and relieve acne-prone skin, exhibit antimicrobial activity, clear congestion, boost circulation, boost hair growth, often and hydrate both hair and skin with deep moisture while repairing breakage, balance hormones, eliminate bodily toxins by supporting the lymphatic system, and makes up almost 90% of Castor Oil.

Uses: Castor Oil is used in hair and skin products with great results there are also other uses for Castor Oil in holistic medicinal practices. 

Neem Oil

Neem Oil comes from the seed of the tropical neem tree, also known as the Indian Lilac. Although it has a harsh odor it is high in nutrients and other fatty acids and is used in a variety of Beaty products like creams, lotions and hair products. 

Neem Oil is made primarily of unsaturated fatty acids and triglycerides. The primary fatty acids found in the oil are oleic acid, linoleic acid, steric acid, and palmitic acids. There are also several sterols and tocopherols found in the oil with the main sterol being beta-sitosterol. 

The oil should be cloudy and slightly yellow in color with a slightly mustard like scent with hints of garlic. You can dd small amount of it to other carrier oils so they might gain it’s effects if the smell is too much for you. Try 10-50% mixture with coconut, jojoba or grapeseed oil. 

Uses: Need Oil is great in skin care and can take the frizziness out of your hair just make sure use organic cold pressed oil and to test it out on yourself first and consider diluting it with other carrier oils. 

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil is an edible oil extracted from raw sunflower seeds (helianthus annus). It has a neutral odor.

The oil is said to act as a skin barrier against toxins and germs that cause infection, making it a great choice for irritated skin. It is also know to prevent bacterial infections, to be anti-fungal, and to help the heal thing of atopic dermatitis. It is a free flowing liquid that is slow to absorb into the skin. 

Uses: It’s thought to help soften skin, moisturize skin, and soothe irritation, so add this carrier oil to your massage oils or use for general skin care. Also useful for hair preparations. Blends well with essential oils because of how odorless it is. 

Apricot Kernel Oil

Apricot kernel oil is made from apricot kernels. It’s an emollient oil high in fatty acids and vitamin E. It absorbs easily into the skin and has a slightly sweet, nutty scent. You can buy edible apricot kernel oil, or apricot kernel oil for cosmetic use only.

It is known to be anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and is a free-flowing lightweight, non-greasy liquid oil that absorbs into the skin very rapidly. 

Uses: Apricot kernel oil is thought to help soften and calm irritated, itchy skin. Use it as a carrier oil to make massage oils, bath oil, and hair care preparations.It is also known to be useful under the yes at eliminating wrinkles and swelling. 

Argan Oil

Argan oil is made from kernels found inside the fruit of argan trees, which are native to Morocco. The oil is edible and is traditionally used to nourish the body inside and out. It has a nutty aroma and is rich in vitamins A and E, and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Being good for dry skin psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, join pain, skin inflammation and is rumored to prevent the loss of hair. It is a free-flowing, non-greasy liquid oil that has medium absorption. It ahas a very mild and neutral odor and is very low on the comedogenic rating scale. 

Uses: Argan oil can help treat dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and skin inflammation. This makes it a terrific carrier oil for general skin care and massage oils. Many anti-agin serums use Argan Oil. 

Black Seed Oil

Black seed oil is made from the Nigella sativa plant. It’s lesser known than other carrier oils yet rich in saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and thought to have anti-inflammatory abilities.

It is a slightly musty, peppery, and earthy oil thats reputed to hydrate, soother, smooth, and nourish the skin. It should be a light amber color and have a medium viscosity which absorbs at an average speed. 

Uses: Black seed oil is often used as a folk remedy to soothe skin conditions including eczema, acne, and psoriasis. With this in mind, it’s a great choice for facial care, massage oils, and general skin care.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is a heavy, thick, edible oil made from avocado fruit. It has a nutty aroma. It is useful in skin and hair remedies but is also popular in cooking. 

Avocado oil is high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid thought to help dry, damaged skin.

Uses: A good carrier oil for dry skin remedies and body creams. Avoid using to treat acne or in people who are prone it it. Avocado oil may increase sebum production.

We Aren’t Finished Yet

Carrier Oils make Essential Oils much safer. They also help nourish and moisturize your skin and can increase the benefits of essential oils. Not all oils make good carrier oils, though. You should avoid using things like butter, petroleum jelly, and mineral oil.We haven’t been able to get to every carrier oil here. If you want us to add an oil please leave a suggestion in the comments!


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