What are Carrier Oils?

by Allison Huish

What are carrier oils? Carrier oils are vegetable oils derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually pressed from the seeds, kernels or the nuts. In this way, carrier oils are actually quite different from Essential Oils, which are not really oils at all, but more volatile liquid compounds.  

Essential oils are actually distilled from the leaves, bark, roots and other aromatic portions of a botanical plant, tree, flower, or herb. Essential oils evaporate and have a concentrated aroma. Carrier oils, on the other hand, are pressed from the fatty portions (seeds, nuts, kernels) and do not evaporate or impart their aroma as strongly as essential oils.

If applied to the skin undiluted, essential oils, absolutes, and other concentrated aromatics can cause irritation, sensitization, redness or burning, or other reactions in some individuals. Carrier oils are used to dilute essential and other oils prior to topical application. The term carrier oil is derived from their purpose in carrying the essential oil onto the skin. Aloe vera gel and unscented body lotion are commonly used as "carriers", however, there are many other carrier oils, including Fractionated Coconut oil, Sunflower Oil,  Palm oil, Avocado oil, Grapeseed oil, Jojoba oil and Almond oil.

Each carrier oil offers a different combination of therapeutic properties and characteristics. The choice of carrier oil can depend on the therapeutic benefit being sought.

Natural lotions, creams, body oils, bath oils, lip balms and other moisturizing skin care products are also made using vegetable (carrier) oils. From a simple essential oil/carrier oil blend to a more complex natural lotion, your choice of carrier oil can make a difference in the therapeutic properties, color, overall aroma and shelf life of your final product.

If you just started learning about essential oils you probably have a lot of questions on how to safely use them, how to store them and what carrier oils are most effective and why we should use the carrier oil. 



You should use carrier oils to make the application of essential oils more comfortable, more effective, or both. 

As we  mentioned above, some essential oils are too strong to be applied directly to your skin.  So you need a carrier oil to dilute the essential oil to a ratio that is better for your skin. These essential oils are also referred to as “hot” oils when they require dilution.  

Carrier oils can be used when topically applying any essential oil.  Using a carrier oil can help keep the essential oil on your skin longer.  You may have noticed that when you use an essential oil directly on your skin with no carrier oil, that it evaporates rather quickly and the aroma leaves sooner as well. However, if you dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil, then the aroma lasts longer as more of the oil is absorbed into your skin and is protected by the carrier oil from evaporating too quickly.



Everyone has their favorite carrier oils.  Make sure to pick one that fits your individual needs and is cold-pressed (using NO chemical solvents to extract the oils).  Here is a list of some of my favorite carrier oils.


Almond Oil

  • great for dry skin
  • brings with it loads of vitamins including Vitamin E which rocks for moisturizing and nourishing skin for a healthy glow
  • amazing for dry or itchy skin since it packs amazing soothing qualities
  • often used as a deep conditioner for dry hair in DIY Leave In Hair conditioners


Avocado Oil

  • Another deep moisturizer

  • packed full of vitamins A, D, and E which delivers huge antioxidant benefits for your skin

  • amazing for very dry and cracked feet, chapped skin, and dry or damaged hair


Coconut Oil ~ Virgin & Fractionated

  • two types of coconut oil for carrier oils – virgin coconut oil and fractionated coconut oil

  • virgin coconut oil is solid at room temperature

  • can be used for cooking, but also in DIY recipes for rubs and foot scrubs

  • Fractionated coconut oil is in liquid form and super for full body massages

  • Coconut oil has no odor and is my favorite for diluting oils for rollerball recipes

doTERRA Fractionated Coconut oil is a favorite carrier oil of mine.  You can go check out your options to purchase Fractionated Coconut oil right HERE


Jojoba Oil

  • great for use on oily skin

  • easily absorbed into your hair and skin and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling

  • great carrier oil in summer because it’s lighter in feel than some of other carrier oils


Grapeseed Oil

  •  goes on silky and smooth

  • absorbs quickly into the skin

  • has a slight wine smell, so it is great for diluting strong smelling oils like doTERRA On Guard


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