A carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from seeds, kernels, or nuts. The term carrier oil is generally limited to use within the practice of aromatherapy. In natural skincare, carrier oils are typically referred to as vegetable oils, fixed oils, or base oils. Not all fixed oils/base oils are vegetable oils. Emu oil (from the emu bird) and fish oils are also classified as fixed/base oils, but these animal-based oils are generally not used for aromatherapy work.
Carrier oils and essential oils are made from plants. Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils and “carry” them to your skin. That’s because essential oils are potent and can cause irritation when applied directly to your skin.
Most carrier oils are unscented or lightly scented and don’t interfere with an essential oil’s therapeutic properties. They may be used alone or with other oils to nourish your skin. You should only buy therapeutic-grade carrier oils from a manufacturer you trust. Look for oils that are cold-pressed, 100 percent pure, and additive- or preservative-free. If you want to use cooking oil as a carrier oil, choose cold-pressed, organic varieties.
The following list includes popular carrier oils used to dilute essential oils for aromatherapy, massage, and skincare. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start.
Coconut oil is an edible oil made from the meat of mature coconuts. It’s available in refined or unrefined varieties. Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconut meat. It’s not processed with chemicals and retains its coconut aroma and flavor.
Jojoba oil comes from the seeds of the jojoba plant. It has a delicate, nutty aroma. Technically, jojoba isn’t an oil, but a wax with powerful moisturizing properties. It’s thought to mimic sebum, the skin’s natural oil closely. Using jojoba oil may help reduce the skin’s oil production in acne-prone people by making the skin think it’s produced enough oil. Jojoba oil absorbs easily in the skin and doesn’t clog pores. This makes it a good carrier oil option for massage oils, facial moisturizers, and bath oils.
Apricot kernel oil
Apricot kernel oil is made from apricot seeds, also known as kernels. It’s an emollient oil high in fatty acids and vitamin E. It absorbs easily into the skin and has a slightly sweet, nutty scent. You can buy edible apricot kernel oil or apricot kernel oil for cosmetic use only. Apricot kernel oil is thought to help soften and calm irritated, itchy skin. Use it as a carrier oil to make massage oils, bath oil, and hair care.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil has a strong, nutty aroma. It’s an edible oil made from the kernels of sweet almonds. The oil is lightweight and absorbs easily, and is a great moisturizer for dry skin. It’s also used in general aromatherapy, but its strong scent may mask an essential oil’s aroma. Sweet almond oil is one of the most popular carrier oils for skin care. It’s great in massage oils, bath oils, and soaps.
Olive oil comes from pressed olives. It’s best known as a healthy, edible oil with a fruity aroma, but it’s also used in aromatherapy as a carrier oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is the preferred variety for aromatherapy and skin care preparations. Olive oil’s scent may interfere with the scent of some essential oils. It’s packed with fatty acids and plant sterols, which make it great for cleansing
and moisturizing dry skin.
Argan oil is made from kernels found inside the fruit of argan trees, which are native to Morocco. The oil is edible and is traditionally used to nourish the body inside and out. It has a nutty aroma and is rich in vitamins A and E, and monounsaturated fatty acids. Argan oil can help treat dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and skin inflammation.
Rosehips are the seeds of the Rosa rubiginosa bush or the Rosa moschata bush. The flowers of both bushes look different from traditional roses. When these flowers die and drop their petals, the rosehip is left behind. Rosehip oil is pressed from rosehips. Rosehip oil doesn’t smell like a rose, though. It has a nutty, earthy scent. Rosehip oil is high in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is a natural retinoid that helps fight age, and both vitamins can help reverse the effects of the sun on your skin. Use it as a carrier oil for dry skin remedies, massage oils, and moisturizers.
Avocado oil is a heavy, thick, edible oil made from avocado fruit. It has a nutty aroma. Avocado oil is high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid thought to help dry, damaged skin. This can be a good carrier oil for dry skin remedies and body creams — unless you’re dealing with acne. Avocado oil may increase sebum production, so if your skin is acne-prone, check with your dermatologist before use.
Sunflower oil is an edible oil extracted from sunflower seeds. It has a neutral odor. The oil is said to act as a skin barrier against toxins and germs that cause infection, making it a great choice for irritated skin. It’s thought to help soften skin, moisturize skin, and soothe irritation, so add this carrier oil to your massage oils or use it for general skin care.
The carrier oils listed above are the best base oils to blend with your essential oils, providing a wide range of properties for a variety of applications. Keep in mind that it’s possible to use any carrier oil for the blends below, as long as you stick to your own personal safety guidelines and dilute the essential oils accordingly.