Monday, February 17, 2014

Carrier Oils

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This information is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or diagnose any disease or condition; nor am I prescribing. I am merely sharing collected information and my personal experiencesThe decision to use, or not to use, any of this information is the sole responsibility of the reader.

In my last post, I discussed inhalation of essential oils (AKA aromatherapy). Before I get into the second approach of using essential oils - topical application - I want to explain what carrier oils are.

Carrier Oils

Carrier oils come from the fatty parts of plants like nuts and seeds, therefore they are loaded with great fats for nourishing the skin with essential nutrients.  A few examples of these oils are: Avocado, Coconut, Jojoba, Olive, Flaxseed, Grape Seed, and Sweet Almond.

Carrier oils can be used for absorption, dilution, and aiding in skin conditions.


Carrier oils aid in the absorption of the highly volatile essential oils. This allows the EOs to retain their scent and healing properties for longer periods of time. 

Here's my understanding of how that works:

Imagine putting essential oils directly on your skin; this is referred to as "neat". Essential oils evaporate extremely quickly. They are also not very slippery, so they get concentrated in one space. Here's a rough drawing where the blue dots are essential oil molecules:

Essential Oils applied "neat" to skin

Now, imagine that you've mixed the essential oils with a carrier oil. Carrier oils have big molecules that maintain their texture and aid in lubrication. These bigger molecules help spread out the smaller essential oil molecules, giving them more surface area for absorption.  They also decrease the evaporation of the essential oils leading to further duration of the therapeutic scent.

Here's a rough drawing where the large, orange molecules are the carrier oil. The small, blue ones are the essential oil. Note that the blue molecules are spread out and fewer have been evaporated than in the previous picture.

Essential Oils applied with Carrier Oils

This picture also shows why it is called a "carrier" oil. It carries the essential oil onto the skin. 


Carrier oils can also be used to dilute essential oils.  Some EOs are considered "hot" oils because they have such a warming sensation to the skin. (Think peppermint, clove, cinnamon. Hot.) These need more carrier oil than other oils.

Young Living Dilution Instructions
There's really not a structured rule on how much carrier oil is needed.  Quality and potency of the EO are going to vary from company to company.  There should be dilution instructions on the label. 

The pictures to the right are for Young Living's Lavender and Lemongrass essential oils. Based on dilution directions, it should be obvious which one is the "hot" oil. :) Please note: the lavender bottle says no dilution necessary unless you have sensitive skin.
These dilution directions are for adults.  A general rule of thumb for infants is 1-3 drops of EO in 1 Tablespoon carrier oil. For children ages 2-5, use 1-3 drops EO in 1 teaspoon carrier oil.

At our house I dilute a couple of different ways, but I hardly ever measure the carrier oil.  Here are my ways:

  • Pour some carrier oil in my palm, then add essential oil drop(s).  From there I will apply topically.
  • Apply carrier oil to skin, then add essential oil drop(s). Massage in.  This works best for me when I am applying to someone else (like an upset tummy). 
  • Add some carrier oil to an essential oil bottle and put a roller top on it. (I do this for oils I'm going to give the kids. They really like to apply liberally with the roller ball because it tickles. I know that it's diluted so it's not getting "wasted" quickly.)

If the oil begins to feel hot, I just apply more carrier oil. NEVER APPLY WATER.  Oil and water do not mix. The water will just push the oil into your skin faster. Use a carrier oil.

My boys call carrier oils the "antidote".  LOL. I love it. So true!

Skin Conditions

Even without using essential oils, carrier oils are beneficial for our skin. They hold in moisture and protect the skin. They can help with skin conditions such as psoriasis, wrinkles, scars, and eczema.  Some carrier oils also have a sun protection factor (SPF).

I'm not going to go into all the different carrier oils and skin conditions; however, I have compiled a few sites that will explain this further for those who have interest:

By Skin Type (oily, dry, etc)
Healing Properties
SPF list

Picking Your Carrier Oils

Carrier oils should be natural and undiluted. Using organic, cold pressed carrier oils are your best bet because they are not damaged by heat nor chemicals.  An addition of Vitamin E is acceptable as it is a natural preservative.

Carrier oils may have a slight, nutty, pleasant scent. If it has a strong scent, it has most likely gone rancid.  Essential oils do not go rancid, but carrier oils do because of the breakdown in their fatty hydrocarbons.   Some suggest throwing out carrier oils every 6 months, so consider that when purchasing. It may be more cost effective to buy a smaller bottle of carrier oil if you aren't going to use very much of it.

Store you carrier oils in a cool, dark place. Some require dark bottles (ex. grape seed oil). Some require refrigeration (flax oil). Others should not be refrigerated (avocado oil).

What Carrier Oils do I Recommend?

My family generally just uses coconut oil or olive oil.  These work fine for every day uses.  I have not gotten into making my own lotions and such yet, but when I do I will certainly delve into all the wonderful properties they have to offer!

If you want something pre-made that utilizes several carrier oils and their properties, Young Living has a blend called V-6.  I have not used this, but I am sure it is fabulous. :)

So, do you have a favorite carrier oil?

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Earlier Posts in this Series:
What are Therapeutic Essential Oils?
Inhaling Essential Oils

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