Written by, Becki Andrus
Carrier oils are also sometimes called a “base” oil, and they are used to dilute the essential oil when it is applied topically to the skin. Don’t get carrier oils confused with essential oils… because they are NOT essential oils since they don’t have the concentrated aroma and therapeutic compounds that are available in pure essential oils.
Essential oils are potent, and a small amount of essential oil can go a long way– so carrier oil is used to spread the essential oil over a larger area of skin in a diluted form. Remember that some essential oils are “hot,” which means that they may irritate your skin if they are applied without a carrier oil. Diluting an essential oil with carrier oil will help you to avoid skin irritation, especially if your skin is sensitive.
The best way to use essential oils is to refer to a trusted source to determine the dilution that should be used for each specific oil. I like to refer to the information provided by the company that sells the oil, most of the companies will have charts and/or guidelines for each oil.
If the essential oil can be used “neat,” then it means that the oil can be put directly on the skin without a carrier oil. Keep in mind that only a small amount of essential oils are needed because they are so potent… if you are using a high quality essential oil, only a drop or two is needed. Many of the dilution instructions will specify 1:2 or 1:3 (or even more), which means 1 drop of essential oil to 1 drop of carrier oil, etc.
Even though there are many vegetable oil options available on the shelves at the grocery store, they are usually not the type of carrier that you would want to use with your essential oils. The grocery store vegetable oils are not typically cold pressed, which means that the nutritive benefits have been removed from the oil.
There are many types of carrier oils that can be used, my personal preference is either coconut oil or almond oil. Extra virgin coconut oil is in a solid form at room temperature, so you can place a little in your hand and it will quickly melt. Or, fractionated coconut oil can also be used, which is often more convenient because it is in a liquid form at room temperature. Some people are allergic to almond oil, so if you develop skin irritation from the almond oil try using coconut oil instead. It is best to always use a pure carrier oil, free from contaminants, pollutants, pesticides, etc.
Here are a few facts about the differences between essential oils and carrier oils:
- Essential oils are produced by distilling specific parts of the plant– usually the roots, bark, flowers, or leaves. Carrier oils are usually produced from the nuts, kernels or seeds of a plant.
- Essential oils are highly concentrated and they contain volatile compounds which are beneficial for therapeutic use. Carrier oils are not as concentrated, which is why they are often used alog with essential oils.
- Because of the volatile compounds, essential oils can evaporate. Carrier oils do not evaporate.
- Over time, carrier oils may go rancid, but a pure essential oil will not go rancid. An essential oil may eventually begin to “oxidize” which will result in a decrease in the therapeutic benefits, but they will not turn rancid.
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