Maybe you use and know all there is about carrier oils, that’s great. Comment here and share your knowledge with us about your favorites! This will not be an all inclusive list, but more of a defining list, so you can identify and understand the differences and the wide varitiy of uses that carrier oils play in a holistic wellness regimen.
Primarily, a carrier oil can be defined as a fatty oil (usually plant based, but can be animal based). These fatty oils are most commonly used to dilute essential oils. They can also be used as a base carrier to infuse fresh/dried herbs.
In essential oil usage, especially when using quality, therapeutic grade essential oils which are highly concentrated, dilution is key to not only safety of use, but also it is just economical.
Besides being “just” a carrier oil/dilution tool/base oil.. Various types of carrier oils contain their own healing benefits, from being simply a nourishing moisturizer for skin care, to containing many vitamins (especially vitamins E & A), antioxidants, essential fatty acids and trace minerals that feed the skin nutrients while also disinfecting or healing.
I like using sweet almond oil for diluting essential oils as I see it as being fairly scentless. When using my essential oils I don’t want a base that has its own strong scent that will be masking my essential oil scents. But there are so many carrier oils that I haven’t even tried! There are many options for people these days let’s look at some of the common and perhaps not so common in this post.
Olive oil – widely used in cooking, this is a strong scented oil that is pressed from fresh olives. This oil is known to be antimicrobial (especially in its raw or ‘extra virgin’ state) so a great option for making healing oils. (we’ll talk more about types of preparations and how to infuse herbs into carrier oils and how that is different than diluting essential oils; so keep reading). Since it does have a stronger scent and I find it fairly ‘greasy’ on the skin, I don’t use this one a lot. Typically nicer for folks with very dry skin.
Sweet almond oil – this is a nut oil and as I mentioned before it is a mild smelling (to no scent at all). It is typically nicer for those of us with naturally oily skin as it absorbs nicely. I use this in herb infused lip balms and almost all of my roller blends. With vitamin A it is suggested for acne, and the vitamin E helps keep skin cells healthy and also helps protect from UV rays.
Coconut oil – as a raw/unrefined oil, it is a solid at room temperature and cooler, melting on contact with skin. The unrefined versions also smell very fragrant of, well, coconut. You can get a refined version that does NOT smell like coconut, and is still solid. You can also purchase fractionated coconut oil, so that it remains liquid at any temperature (making it more versatile). The solid version is great for making herb or oil infused healing balms. From chest rubs with mullein herb and eucalyptus oils, to cracked heel/body rubs with lavender, peppermint oils, and chickweed, plantain and slippery elm herbs. There are a lot of great ways to use coconut oil. In it’s fractionated form, it is one of the most common in roller bottle blends with essential oils.
Avocado oil – this oil is made from the flesh of the fruit, (not the nut/seed) and is a dark, stronger scented oil. In my experience it is thick and nourishing. Excellent for deep moisture preparations. It has loads of antioxidants and is considered and healthy fat
Argan oil – an oil that is made from the kernels of the argan tree found in Morocco, this has become a popular oil to add to beard oils. It is great for adding shine and softness to hair. Often blended with essential oils that are good for scalp and healthy hair, like rosemary, cedarwood, lavender and others. (other tree oils like spruce, cypress, pine are popular as ‘manly’ scents for beard oils, too). But it can be found in all kinds of cosmetic moisturizing preparations as well as used in culinary recipes as you would use olive oil. High in vitamin E.
Jojoba oil – (pronounced hu-ho-buh) is anti-inflammatory containing both E and various B vitamins, it is actually a liquid wax obtained from jojoba tree nuts. It is one ‘oil’ that is most like our skin’s natural sebum (the natural ‘oily’ secretions our skin produces to naturally moisturize our skin). This is a great face serum oil and is supposed to help calm inflamed, chapped and irritated skin.
Shea butter – (pronounced Shay) is a solid oil at room temp, and is technically considered a fat derived from the nut of african shea tree. Unrefined shea butter is ivory or cream to tan in color and has a strong natural scent. (which I personally find unpleasant, maybe it’s just me?). Refined is a much milder scent (to practically scentless) and a very pale, white color. Again, this vegetable fat has high concentrations of fatty acids and vitamins that make it great for cosmetics and for softening skin. You find this fat in many body butter recipes as it makes blends whip nicely and turn your moisturizer into a beautiful, fluffy cream.
Vegetable shortening – similar to butter or lard, this vegetable alternative can be used in cosmetics (as well as pie crust recipes! ha!). I like to use this as a base for all of our ointments as it is cost effective, all natural, and is simply a ‘carrier’ for the medicinal herbs it is infused with. This is a ‘true’ base oil that is really just a vehicle to administer whatever oils or herbs you put into it.
Wheat germ oil – the only oil derived from a gluten source (Note, if you are gluten intolerant, this could present a negative reaction for you. Spot test on your forearm before using if you have a concern). But other than having an intolerance, wheat germ oil is considered an anti-aging super oil. It is a great source of vitamins B6, folic acid and E. Definitely a great one to add to your anti-ageing serums or moisturizers.
Grapeseed oil – as the name suggests, this is an oil derived from grape seeds! It is a plentiful by-product of winemaking. It is most often suggested in hair moisturizing oils as it helps treat and heal brittle hair. The emollient, antioxidants and other nutrients are supportive of healthy hair growth.
Before I sign off here let’s talk a minute about how diluting essential oils in carrier oils is different than infusing herbs into carrier oils.
Diluting essential oils is as simple as it sounds. I often do a 1:1 ratio. One drop of essential oil to one drop of prefered carrier oil, or more. It really depends on the application and what oils you are using. With cinnamon bark (a warming oil that can stimulate blood flow to the skin surface) I dilute much more like a 1:5 ratio. Diluting for children and babies is also more heavy dilution. But just always remember, you can always add more essential oil as you go, it’s not easy to take it away when you get too much!
Infusing herbs into a carrier oil. Much simpler than it sounds! There are a few ways to do it. A cold infusion: pour carrier oil(s) over dried plant material in a jar and allow it to sit for at least 2 weeks (up to a month). Strain off bulk herbs and you have a cold infused herbal oil. Heat infusion: pour carrier oil(s) over dried or fresh plant material in a crock pot heat for 2 hours (no more) uncovered. Strain off bulk herbs and you have a heat infused herbal oil. For either infusion, you can also add essential oils to them after straining for added benefits of the scent and natural benefits.
What carrier oils did I miss that should have absolutely been in this list? I know I didn’t get them all, I literally just wrote about the ones off the top of my head. If we get more suggestions perhaps I’ll do a write up of them all and make a “part 2” for this post! Let me know in the comments or an email or by carrier pigeon. Thanks for reading.