What is a "Carrier" Oil? And why you should use one

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With the rising awareness of essential oils as a genuine natural remedy and Self Care tool, it’s important to know about a particular type of oil which helps you get the most from your essential oils.

It's called a "Carrier" Oil and there are specific reasons why you should use one when using essential oils to support you and your families health.

What Exactly Are Carrier Oils?

A carrier oil is a plant-based oil derived from seeds, kernels or nuts of fruits and vegetables.

In addition to providing beneficial qualities for the skin and body, they also serve to "dilute" and actually improve the efficiency of essential oils when applied topically to the skin.

Pure Essential Oils are highly concentrated, which means they're extremely potent.

For example, 1 drop of essential peppermint oil carries the same amount of nutrients as approximately 28 cups of peppermint tea!

Occasionally, if you over apply certain essential oils directly to the skin, in some cases, they can result in reactions including:

  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Burning

...but this is pretty rare and not the main reason why you should use a Carrier Oil.

Essential Oils tend to evaporate quickly and sometimes the consistency makes it difficult to spread evenly over the skin.

This is where a Carrier Oil comes in.  You simply get more bang for your buck!

And with Essential Oils, less is more. In other words, the more drops you use, doesn't necessarily multiply the benefit.

Carrier oils not only help to dilute essential oils and avoid any adverse reactions, but also enable you to cover a larger area or your skin and promote better absorption.

Essential Oils have long played an important role in “aromatherapy” i.e. for aromatic use, to assist physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

When you incorporate "topical" application, it adds a whole extra dimension to your daily Self Care routine.

What’s The Difference Between Carrier Oils & Essential Oils?

Carrier oils are usually made through a process of “pressing” the seeds, nuts and kernels of plants which retains most of their nutritional compounds, however, this makes them susceptible of becoming rancid or “going off”.

Pure Essential Oils, on the other hand, are normally extracted through the distillation of leaves, bark, roots and other aromatic parts of plants.

Although this gives them a super concentrated scent it also makes them “volatile”, whereby they can evaporate quickly and over time, oxidise and lose their therapeutic benefits.

Benefits Of Using A Carrier Oil

Normally dilution of a substance makes it weaker and not is powerful.

However, in the case of using essential oils topically, diluting them with a carrier oil can actually improve their effectiveness and reduce the risk of any unintended consequences.

Carrier oils can:

  • Prevent skin “sensitisation” which can lead to your body producing an allergic response
  • Slow down the evaporation and volatility of essential oils when used topically
  • Enable greater dispersion across larger areas of the skin with smaller quantities of E.O.
  • Offer a range of complementary benefits in their own right
  • Save you money!

Best Types Of Carrier Oils

Thanks to the abundance of botanical life on earth, there are actually a whole plethora of plant oils that can be used as carrier oils.

However just as each plant species has its own particular characteristics, qualities and health benefits, so do each of the oils.

As a result, you have several options to consider and can choose one based on your skin and hair type, as well as health and beauty goals.

What’s common amongst the majority of carrier oils is that they’re packed full of essential fatty acids, free-radical fighting antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and skin-boosting vitamins and minerals.

Here are our top 5 carrier oil choices based on versatility, availability and complementary benefits that they also provide aside from functioning as a carrier…

1. Fractionated Coconut Oil

Commonly known by its abbreviation, FCO, Fractionated Coconut Oil is derived from coconut oil and filtered in a way that primarily removes the long chain fatty acids, essentially making it "liquid coconut oil" that will always stay 'runny', even in colder temperatures.

Although no longer a whole and complete oil, this process has several distinct benefits that makes FCO our top choice in terms of carrier oils.

Benefits:

  • Highly Stable
  • Odourless
  • Colourless
  • Totally preserves fragrance & therapeutic benefits of essential oils
  • Non-greasy
  • Readily absorbed
  • Affordable

Other Uses:

  • Facial Skin Moisturiser
  • Hair Conditioner

Raw Organic Coconut Oil will also work just fine, although keep in mind that it will solidify in cooler temperatures, making it more difficult to use, it will be greasier and more prone to staining fabrics.

2. Sweet Almond Oil

As its name suggests, Sweet Almond Oil comes from the almond nut, which is a nutrient powerhouse loaded with an array of nutrients that are highly beneficial for the skin most notable of which is that it’s high in a powerful antioxidant known as vitamin E.

It makes a good carrier oil thanks to it being lightweight, easily absorbed by the skin. Additionally, its own aroma is mild so it won’t overwhelm that of the essential oils you’re using it with.

Benefits:

  • Skin rejuvenating
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Protects against UV radiation
  • Suitable for oily skin
  • Strengthens nails

Other Uses:

  • Relieves sunburn & skin rashes
  • Eases symptoms of Psoriasis & Eczema
  • Reduces stretch marks
  • Natural Makeup Remover

3. Rosehip Oil

A “Rosehip” is actually the seed pod of roses which is left behind when the petals fall off. Even though it comes from a plant with such a highly fragrant flower, Rosehip Oil has a light scent which could be described as “nutty”.

High in vitamin E and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, it's particularly effective at moisturising and soothing the skin and improving its appearance.

Benefits:

  • Skin-brightening properties
  • Reduces appearance of blemishes & scars
  • Non-greasy
  • Readily absorbed

Other Uses:

  • Anti-ageing Serum
  • Softens & promotes hair growth
  • Speeds up wound healing

4. Jojoba Oil

Technically jojoba is not an oil, but a liquid plant wax derived from seeds of the Jojoba shrub.

It has an almost identical makeup to the sebum, the natural oil our bodies produce to protect the skin. As a result Jojoba oil will penetrate deeply and not clog pores. Thanks to this characteristic, it’s an effective natural remedy for Acne & Skin Problems, as well as making it a desirable carrier oil.

Benefits:

  • Fixative qualities that take on the scent of what it’s mixed with
  • Ph balancing
  • Will not go rancid
  • Non-staining

Other Uses:

  • Acne treatment
  • Natural Makeup Remover
  • Lip Balm
  • Helps fight fungal infections

5. Avocado Oil

Widely known for its culinary applications, thanks to the incredible properties this superfood is blessed with, avocado oil by the same token also makes a superb carrier. 

Containing high levels of oleic and palmitoleic fatty acids, this combination makes avocado oil particularly good dry or damaged skin while also providing anti-ageing benefits.

Benefits:

  • Tightens skin & smoothes wrinkles
  • Suitable for dry, sensitive or irritated skin

Other Uses:

  • Massage Oil
  • Straightens, softens & nourishes hair
  • Speeds up wound healing

Learn more in 7 Good Reasons Avocados Are Considered “Super Food”

How To Use Carrier Oils

Although for the most part, carrier oils don’t tend to cause negative reactions, just like with essential oils it’s always best to do a “spot test” to make sure your skin or body doesn’t negatively respond to it in any way, before using larger amounts.

Thanks to their benign natural and non-toxic nature, you can’t really “overdose” or overuse carrier oils, which means you can generally use them liberally without any issues. However, with them serving the purpose of diluting much more highly concentrated essential oils, we’ve put together this reference chart to give you a rough idea about appropriate dilution ratios as a starting point.

Suitable For:

Dilution Percentage

# Essential Oil Drops/Carrier Oil

Long-Term Use/Face

1%

3/10ml (Approx 2 teaspoons)

Regular Daily Use/Full Body/Hair

2%

6/10ml (Approx 2 teaspoons)

Specific Localised Use

3%

9/10ml (Approx 2 teaspoons)

Injuries/Short-Term Use

5%

15/10ml (Approx 2 teaspoons)

Like with anything, if you notice anything adverse reactions, or experience discomfort of any type, stop use immediately.

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