What is a Carrier Oil?

Have you ever asked, "What is a carrier oil?"

The term 'Carrier Oil' is used on pretty much every Essential Oil post, conversation or writings. But what exactly does it refer to?

Carrier Oils  are non-aromatic oils derived from the fatty portion of plants and are usually from nuts, kernels or seeds. They are used on their own or as a base to dilute and add therapeutic value to Essential Oils.

This blog post was created at Soulful Sister Aromatherapy in Victoria, BC, Canada. Come and see what we're all about at www.soulfulsister.com.  Love Social? Join our soulful community on Facebook  & Instagram!


Essential Oils should not be applied directly to the skin. The first rule of safety when using EO's is they need to be added to a carrier oil in proper dilution before being applied topically to the skin. The essential oils need some fat to bind to, so they attach to carrier oils. The carrier oils then CARRY the essential oils deep in the skins layers. Without the carrier oil, the essential oils would be extremely intense on the skin then evaporate, all those mind & body benefits you're after would be lost.

Carrier Oils ALLOW Essential Oils to absorb deep into our skin.

We often call the carrier oil the 'Base Oil' in aromatherapy recipes because there is so much more carrier oil than essential oil. So if you purchase a bottle of massage oil, there is likely 90 - 95% Carrier Oil and 10 - 5% Essential Oils.

Natural oils absorb easily into the skin, protect the skin’s barrier and prevent moisture from evaporating out of the skin. The top layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum, is composed of dead skin cells held together by lipids (or oils). Keeping this layer constantly supplied with healthy oils will protect your skin from the elements and give your skin the youthful and healthy glow to match your inner fire. Salves are often made from carrier oils that are solid at room temperature, like cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil. Most likely Vitamin E or Wheat Germ Oil or both are added to oil based products to naturally extend their shelf life. Another option for diluting essential oils and protect the skin is to add them to Sea Salts and Epsom Salts and enjoy them in a bath.

Any time you want to make yourself a topical application using EO's, you need carrier oil. Now, which one to use?

Each carrier oil has their own individual healing properties, some can be used on their own (we call this 100% use base oil), some are best blended with other carrier oils to form the base, and some are specific to add only a small percentage to base (like Vitamin E Oil). Using carrier oils on your body for natural moisturizing and healing is a wonderful way to keep your face and body healthy, hydrated and nourished. 

Here are 8 great carrier oils to use on their own, or mix with your favorite essential oils:

Apricot Kernel Oil (Prunus armeniaca) - Great for sensitive, inflamed and aging skin. A 'Go To' carrier oil base particular to the face. A nourishing, moisturizing and lubricating oil that absorbs easily into the skin and helps retain elasticity and suppleness. Rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins A & E this oil helps slow signs of aging.  Excellent for all skin types from babies to mature skin.

Coconut Oil  (Cocos nucifera) - This oil is high in saturated fat and most closely resembles the fat under our skin. It is solid at room temperature so t it can be warmed in your hands or even on low heat and then blended with other oils. It is wonderful for damaged, itchy, dry and sensitive skin. Also great to use for quick and easy homemade salves.

Grapeseed Oil (Vitus vinifera) - Loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, Grapeseed Oil is a staple of natural beauty care because it is light, easily absorbed and tightens and tones the skin. The oil also contains linoleic acid, which is great for promoting skin health, repairing sun damage and wound healing. Wonderful as a massage oil or face oil to treat acne, tighten pores, remove dark circles under eyes, nourish and soften the skin. Most massage oils contain some Grapeseed oil because of it's excellent 'glide' qualities, lightness and quick absorption.

Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia chinensis) - Is similar to the skin’s own oils (sebum). It is very healing and soothing to inflamed or irritated skin and is helpful for many skin conditions. Jojoba is technically a liquid wax, it can used as 100% of carrier oil, but is often blended with Apricot Kernel Oil and other nutrient specific oils for use on the face. Natural perfumes are most often use Jojoba Oil as 100% base because of it's indefinite shelf life and beautiful feel on the skin.

Olive Oil (Olea europaea) - Full of nutrients, vitamins A and E, antioxidants, and natural compounds that benefit our bodies inside and out. The antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals and repair cell membranes. Very good for dry or inflamed skin. It can be used on it's own but is slightly thick, so often blended with other oils, and great for use as a salve base. Olive oil is used often in 'home remedies' because it's a commonplace ingredient in kitchens.

Rosehip Seed Oil (Rosa rubignosa) -  Packed with Vitamin C, this oil is known for its cell regenerative properties making it popular in 'anti-aging' oils, for treatment of scars, sun damage, rosacea, and eczema. Good for extremely dry skin. Often combined with other carrier oils like Apricot Kernel Oil, Grapeseed and Vitamin E Oils.

Sweet Almond Oil (Prunus dulcus) - A wonderful 'All Purpose' carrier oil. Can be used as either a 100% base or blended with any other carrier oil. Contains Vitamins A, B & D and magnesium. Soothes inflammation, sore muscles and great for sensitive, dry or itchy skin. Helps balance the moisture in your skin. Can be used for all skin types.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol) - An amazing oil used for it's super healing and cell regeneration properties.  You will find Vitamin E most often listed as tocopherol in almost every natural body or face product because of it's superpower of naturally extending product shelf life. Only a small amount needed in a base oil blend, like 1-2%.

Remember, always test any new oils (both carrier and essential oils) on a small area of skin to check for sensitivities.

Which carrier oils do you use? Do you experiment with all kinds, or stick to your tried and true favourites?

Thanks For Reading Our Blog. Please Visit our Homepage to see our Essential Oils and Aromatherapy Products. www.soulfulsister.com


  • Janese Sanders

    I am highly sensitive to scents, fragrances and the scent in alcohol. Therefore, I struggle finding fragrance and alcohol free hair products to use. So I thought I’d make my hair cream. However, most recipes call for oils. I don’t want to make hair creams that’s just as harsh to me as over the counter bought products. Are the carrier/ base oils usually unscented and fragrance free.

  • Mazher

    Very useful and informative article, and very close to my search about essential oils and vitamin E oil

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