Plant Therapy Carrier oils
We use the words "carrier oil" a lot around here, but not everyone knows what a carrier oil is! Carrier oils are VERY important when using essential oils because essential oils are never supposed to be applied undiluted to the skin.
First things first, what is a carrier oil? A carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portions of a plant, usually the seed, nut, or kernels. Carrier oils also have their own different therapeutic properties, and your choice of the carrier oil should depend on what therapeutic benefit you're looking for. A carrier oil is used to dilute essential oils before they're applied to the skin.
When looking for a carrier oil to use with your essential oils, you should be taking into account the type of oil you need, the oil’s purity, and of course the value it adds to your essential oil blends!
What do carrier oils do, exactly, and how do they differ from essential oils? Well, at their core, carrier oils are cold-pressed plant oils—especially vegetable oils that are high in fat, like coconut oil and sweet almond oil—that are used to soften or dilute essential oils, among several other jobs. Otherwise known as base oils, this kind of oil gets the “carrier” name because it’s used to carry the essential oil to the skin. but there are also many other uses for carrier oils beyond making a certain kind of oil safe for direct skin contact. Here’s some important information about carrier oil properties:
Carrier oils (usually) aren’t scented—While some carriers, like tamanu oil and rosehip oil, do have a scent, they generally won’t drastically alter the scent of your essential oils. Think of most of these oils as neutral-smelling, so they work well in many applications.
Carrier oils make essential oils less irritating —Safety is a prime consideration when it comes to working with essential oils. Carrier oils can improve the safety of certain recipes by making them less volatile so they reduce any risk associated with directly applying them to the skin and other surfaces.
Carrier oils don’t evaporate—Another thing to know about essential oils is that they may evaporate and may not fully absorb into the skin. On the other hand, carrier oils are known as “fixed oils” because they stay fixed on the skin and allow for more absorption.
Carrier oils alter consistency—No matter if you’re making an essential oil face mask or an all-natural cleaning product, consistency matters. Carrier oils basically blend with essential oils and will help you make formulas thinner or thicker, depending on the type of carrier oil.
Carrier oils have a shelf life—Because they’re high in essential fatty acids, carrier oils do have a shelf life. Depending on the type of oil, it may last between six months and two years, so proper storage is important. Many should be stored in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. Some carrier oils, like meadowfoam carrier oil, last much longer than others.
Carrier oils are amazingly varied—Just like aromatic essential oils, carrier oils vary in terms of qualities, benefits and sources. They may be produced from nuts, seeds, stems or kernels. Because they differ in consistency, color, smell and benefits, there’s usually one that’s perfect for your specific applications.
Here are the ones we recommend for every new (or seasoned) oil-lover:
Fractionated Coconut Oil—By far our most popular carrier oil, fractionated coconut oil is a “fraction” of virgin coconut oil produced through a heating process that allows it to retain its high moisturizing ability without the extra color, odor and temperature considerations of typical coconut oil. Regardless of how it changes in temperature, this kind of unrefined coconut oil won’t solidify. Fatty acids in coconut oil create a thicker consistency, making this carrier oil ideal for skin care, especially creams.
Jojoba Carrier Oil—One of the best things about jojoba oil is that it’s rich in nourishing vitamin E. This makes it a popular pick for healing and soothing cosmetics, including creams, lotions and serums for healing wounds and revitalizing the skin. In fact, jojoba oil has a consistency that closely matches the natural sebum produced in human skin, so it’s an extremely popular choice in both commercial and homemade skincare.
Almond Carrier Oil—Aromatherapists, massage therapists and DIY apothecaries love almond oil as a carrier because it acts as a natural emollient which helps soften the skin and soothe dry, irritated areas. However, even though nut oils generally do not trigger allergic reactions when applied topically, almond oil may not be appropriate for people who have nut allergies.
Grapeseed Carrier Oil—The primary benefit of grapeseed oil as a carrier is that it’s one of the lightest carrier oils available, which makes it ideal for massage therapy. What’s more, the oil is a non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores) which makes it a popular pick for cosmetics or any application where it might be directly applied to the skin. In general, grapeseed oil is odorless, so it’s great for many applications.
Organic Argan Carrier Oil—You often see argan oil in all sorts of conditioners and softeners for the hair and skin. That’s not surprising, since this nut carrier oil is rich in vitamin E, linoleic acid and fatty acids, so it’s amazing for hydrating dry skin and hair. It’s great as a carrier oil because it features a typical consistency, which is easy to integrate with your essential oils, and acts as a non-greasy moisturizer in cosmetics. Because of the high content of vitamin E, argan oil is also one of the best carrier oils for softening scars.
Avocado Carrier Oil—While grapeseed oil is one of the thinnest carrier oils, avocado oil is one of the thickest, making it appropriate for oil recipes where a thicker feel is desirable, such as in creams, serums and lotions. Still, avocado is jam-packed with stuff that’s good for you and your skin, including vitamins A, B, D, E and beta carotene, so it’s also great for massage oils and aromatherapy applications.
Hempseed Carrier Oil—Made from the cannabis plant and rich with omega fatty acids and proteins, hempseed carrier oil offers a slightly nutty aroma. It’s wonderful for cosmetics and other applications where you don’t mind a slightly darker color. We recommend using our non-GMO, organic hempseed carrier oil for most applications.
Meadowfoam Carrier Oil—Even though it’s one of the least common and most expensive carrier oils, we think that meadowfoam deserves a spot on this list because it’s one carrier oil with a long shelf life. Meadowfoam carrier oil is naturally resistant to oxidation and is one of the most stable lipids known, which helps to give it a long life.