Carrier oils are the vehicle we use to dilute essential oils before applying them to our skin. Carrier oils are vegetable oils with little-to-no scent that are used to dilute essential oils. They are not volatile like essential oils, and are shelf-stable.
Using a carrier oil does not mean that the essential oil is any less effective. Carrier oils can help the essential oil absorb into the skin before the essential oil evaporates, and can help control the amount of essential oil used.
Dilution is also necessary for certain “hot” essential oils, and always a good idea when using any oils with children, elderly or for those with sensitive skin. I discuss hot oils below. When in doubt, always dilute.
Which Carrier Oil is Best to Use?
What many people don't stop to consider is which carrier oil to use. In the essential oil world, fractionated coconut oil seems to be the go-to for most users. However, there is an entire world of different carrier oils available, each with different properties and benefits. Some may be better for people with acne, some may be better for people with dry skin, or maturing skin, and some would be better for using with soaps or lotions.
Keep in mind that it is best to use a carrier oil that is 100 percent pure. This way, the essential oil’s chemical profile is preserved, and the oil is easily dissolved. Otherwise, the carrier oil has the potential to change the results or specific benefits you desire.
Substances like butter, vegetable shortening, and petroleum jelly should not be used as carrier oils because they do not absorb into the skin at the needed level.
Following is a collection of a few of the more popular carrier oils available, as well as links to my favorite brands on Amazon*. Dive into some of the different carrier oils here and choose one or two to try. Take note of which come from nuts and which do not in case you or a client has a nut allergy.
Sweet Almond Oil - Sweet Almond Oil is generally a good all purpose oil. Almond oil is very thick and sticky which makes it particularly good for dry skin since it takes longer to absorb and is highly moisturizing. It does have a slightly nutty smell to it, but nothing overwhelming. Be aware, however, that it is not for those with nut allergies as it is often produced in the same factories as peanut oil
St. John's Wort Oil - Usually a maceration of the flower of the hypericum plant and sunflower oil . Its is a beautiful bright orange color and is amazing for treating the aches and pains of rheumatism. It is reputedly also great for use in treating women who suffer from stress incontinence. Be sure to consult with your primary medical practitioner because it may potentially neutralize many medications.
Fractionated Coconut Oil - Coconut oil is high in antioxidants and Vitamin E. It is fabulous for hair treatments, and facials to treat very dry skin. However, do not use this oil on facial treatments for oily skin or skin prone to breakouts.
Be sure to use Fractionated Coconut Oil because it has been processed a way to make always stay liquid, unlike the thick kind we use for cooking which hardens in cooler temperatures. Nothing is added to the oil itself to make it this way. This gives the oil a much longer shelf life and creates an oil that is non-greasy, light, and better for absorption.
Jojoba Oil - Despite being called an oil, jojoba (pronounced ho-ho-ba) is actually a liquid wax. Odorless and golden yellow in color, jojoba is another popular carrier oil because it is great for hair and leaves skin hydrated without a lot of heavy shine, and is quickly absorbed. It is very similar to the oil that your skin produces naturally, and can be good for oily or acne prone skin.
Apricot Kernel Oil - This is oil very light but extremely full of nutrients, especially oleic acid which is very nourishing to the skin. It penetrates the skin easily and because it has virtually no scent, it is perfect to use with essential oils as it will not overpower the scent of the essential oil.
Calendula Oil - A bright yellow oil. Great for arthritis, rheumatism, eczema, and psoriasis. It is a great treatment for irritated skin and in recent years, has been used to treat radiation burns of women who have been treated for breast cancer. It is a very healing oil. One way to use this is to make a cream for cracked nipples, or diaper rash for babies.
Grapeseed Oil - This oil is high in linoleic acid and is very moisturizing, especially for delicate skin. You’ll often see it listed on the ingredients list of many cosmetics. It can be a good carrier oil to use for occasional blemishes. Grapeseed Oil is an inexpensive option that is light and easy to use without a strong scent. You can even pick up Grapeseed Oil from the grocery store shelf. Try to grab one that is 100% pure and organic.
Macadamia Nut - This is a very refining oil. It can smooth hair follicles and take the frizz out of hair, as well as condition the scalp and skin. It absorbs into the skin quickly. It brings a nice elasticity to the skin.
How and What to Dilute
Once you’ve found your carrier oil of choice, you can then begin to dilute essential oils according to the dilution ratio you need. Babies, children under the age of 6, and elderly should always start with a 0.5% - 1% dilution. Children over the age of 6 can use a 2% dilution. Sensitive adults should stick with 2% - 5%.
The following dilution ratios should give you a good idea where to start:
For one teaspoon of carrier oil add:
- 1 drop essential oil for a 1% ratio
- 2 drops for 2%
- 5 drops for 5%
One tablespoon of carrier oil:
- 3 drops essential oil for 1%
- 6 drops for 2%
- 15 drops for 5%
One fluid ounce of carrier oil:
- 6 drops essential oil for 1%
- 12 drops for 2%
- 30 drops for 5%
Some essential oils are safe to use Neat - or undiluted. These include oils such as:
Some oils are what we call "hot" and should always be diluted. These include:
- Cinnamon Bark
Some essential oils cause may cause some sensitivity for children, elderly, or anyone with sensitive skin and should likely be diluted for anyone in this category. These include:
- Black Pepper
- doTERRA Breathe®
- doTERRA Cheer®
- Deep Blue®
- doTERRA Forgive®
- doTERRA Motivate®
- doTERRA On Guard®
- doTERRA Passion®
- Slim & Sassy®
These oils may be used neat for anyone not in this category. If unsure, you can always test it by diluting it in a carrier oil and putting it on a small patch of your skin.
Have fun trying different carrier oils. Don't be afraid to experiment and find one that works for you. Comment with your favorite.
Do you need to pick up essential oils for this recipe? I choose to use doTERRA essential oils with my family. They are the purest, highest quality and only brand I trust.
* Keep in mind that I may receive commissions when you click my links and make purchases. However, this does not impact my reviews and comparisons. Whenever possible, I have used and purchased all of these items myself,and would never recommend something I wouldn't use myself. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.