Diluting essential oils with a suitable carrier oil when applying them topically is a must, except for tea tree or lavender essential oil, which are safe even if applied undiluted.
Chiropractor and aromatherapist Eric Zielinski, the author of the book The Healing Power of Essential Oil, says:
“Yes, essential oils are ‘natural,’ but they’re still manufactured in the sense that you don’t walk into a field of lavender and find a pool of lavender essential oil.
Our bodies weren’t meant to interact with them directly, so you need to respect and honor the fact that they’re super-concentrated, as potent as medicine, and should be treated as such.”
Here is how Dr. Axe explains it:
“Carrier oils are used in combination with essential oils in order to dilute them and alter their absorption rate. Essential oils are extremely potent, so you only need a very small amount to take advantage of their many benefits.
Carrier oils allow you to cover a larger surface area of your body with essential oils, without needing to use too much. So when you use a carrier oil, you are reducing the chances of causing any adverse skin reactions and following the guidelines of essential oil safety.”
In addition to this:
“Another important role of carrier oils is to prevent easy evaporation of essential oils. This is important because essential oils are made of very small particles that are absorbed into the skin quickly and easily.
Ever notice that just a few minutes after applying lavender or peppermint oil to your skin and you barely smell it anymore? That’s because it’s been absorbed.
But because carrier oils are made from the fatty portions of a plant and don’t evaporate as quickly, adding them to essential oils will help to slow down the absorption rate, allowing for a larger and longer impact.”
Carrier oils are vegetable oils derived from the fatty portion of a plant, the nuts, kernels, or the seeds. They can be unrefined or refined. Unrefined carrier oils have not been processed or processed at all, and have been either cold-pressed, or expeller pressed.
RA Goods explains:
“The expeller pressed method is done with mechanical pressure, without the use of chemicals or heat. That being said, some heat is created from the friction of moving parts in the machine.
At times this heat can be high enough to cause the oil to lose some of its nutrients. The cold pressed method is done by filtering the seeds with air pressure, to remove any impurities, then milling the seeds into a paste. Pressure is then applied to force the oils to separate from the paste.”
Unrefined carrier oils have retained all their nutrients and quality, and cold-pressed oils are believed to be superior to expeller pressed ones. Yet, they are less stable than the refined oils and have a shorter shelf-life and a weaker aroma.
On the other hand, refined carrier oils also undergo the process of expeller or cold pressing,” but the process is then taken several more steps.
After being pressed, some oils are then heated, up to 450℉, or subjected to cold temperatures, as low as -30℉. Often they are solvent treated to deodorize them, and some are even bleached to further remove the scent or to make them a more desirable color.”
Their scent is almost entirely gone, but they are far more stable than their unrefined counterparts. After being processed, many of their nutrients are gone as well but offer many of the benefits of unrefined oils.
Therefore, unrefined oils contain all the active compounds readily available for the skin to absorb. Yet, it comes down to your personal preferences and the purpose for the oil to decide.
When it comes to choosing the right carrier oil, most of us usually decide to use jojoba, olive, coconut or sweet almond oils. However, you should know that you have much more options for possible carrier oils that can be added to your oil blends.
Each of these carrier oils possesses its unique traits due to the composition of nutrients and essential fatty acids, so they can be used in different situations based on various factors like the way of application, skin-type, and the time the mixture is intended to be stored.
Most of the benefits offered by these carrier oils are due to the presence of these essential fatty acids (EFAs). First of all, we will give you a description of the major EFAs found in the carrier oils listed below.
1. Linolenic Acids
Linolenic acids can be of three forms and are found in most carrier oils. These include:
- Alpha-Linolenic acid
This is an 18-carbon chain, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, found in highest concentrations in flaxseed oil, hemp seed, kukui nut, rosehip seed and wheat germ oils. Mix it with more stable carriers to boost its shelf life, as it oxidizes fast.
- Gamma-Linolenic Acid
This 18-carbon chain, polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid, is mostly found in evening primrose oil, as well as hemp and borage.
It has natural anti-inflammatory properties and treats skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. It regulates the hormonal balance in the body and strengthens the immune system.
- Punicic acid
It is also known as trichosanic acid or conjugated linolenic acid (CLA) and represents an 18-carbon chain, polyunsaturated fatty acid, mostly found in pomegranate seed oil.
It has powerful anti-cancer properties, especially against prostate cancer, helps weight loss, accelerates metabolism, and boosts the formation of lean muscle mass.
4. Linoleic Acid
This 18-carbon chain, polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid is found in most seed oils. It treats inflammation and supports heart health.
5. Oleic Acid
This is an 18-carbon chain, monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Its name comes from olive oil, meaning “related to or derived from olive oil”. It improves heart health, lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol and raises HDL “good” cholesterol, reduces blood pressure.
It possesses powerful anti-inflammatory properties and improves insulin sensitivity (i.e., reducing insulin-resistance) by protecting insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells.
6. Capric Acid
Capric acid is also known as decanoic acid, and it is a 10-carbon medium chain, saturated fatty acid, found in palm kernel and coconut oil. It helps the cellular regeneration, boosts metabolism, helps weight loss, and prevents seizures.
7. Stearic Acid
It is an 18-carbon chain, saturated fatty acid, and it is also known as octadecanoic acid. It is also one of the most common saturated fatty acids found in nature, present in plant oils, especially in tamanu oil. It seals in moisture when applied to the skin, and is great for excessively dry skin.
8. Caprylic Acid
Caprylic acid is also known as octanoic acid and represents an 8-carbon medium chain, saturated fatty acid, primarily found in coconut and palm kernel oils. It provides powerful anti-microbial effects, and its internal use boosts metabolism and accelerates the weight loss process.
9. Palmitic Acid
Palmitic acid, or hexadecanoic acid, is a 16-carbon long-chain, saturated fatty acid, found in palm fruits. It should be blended with healthier fats, as in high concentrations, it can increase the risk of heart disease by increasing LDL “bad” cholesterol.
10. Lauric Acid
Lauric acid is also known as dodecanoic acid and represents a 12-carbon medium-chain, saturated fatty acid. It is found in palm fruit carriers such as babassu, coconut, and palm kernel oils.
It is highly resistant to heat and oxidizes slowly, so it gives a long shelf life to carrier oils. This fatty acid increases HDL “good” cholesterol levels and contains strong anti-microbial qualities, that nourish and moisturizes the skin, treating skin disorders and severely dry skin.
11. Palmitoleic Acid
This fatty acid is also known as hexadecenoic acid, palmitoleic acid, and is a 16-carbon chain, monounsaturated omega-7 fatty acid, found in avocado oil.
It is naturally synthesized from palmitic acid by the human liver and possesses natural anti-inflammatory properties. It protects the pancreatic beta cells that release insulin and thus improves the body’s sensitivity to this hormone.
12. Eicosenoic acid
This is a 20-carbon chain, monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, found in a variety of plant and nut oils. Its excessive use can lead to loose stools, even though it is non-toxic to humans.
13. Erucic acid
This is a 22-carbon chain, monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, which, if ingested in high amounts, can be toxic to the human heart. It is easily absorbed in the skin and is found in jojoba oil.
14. Myristic Acid
It is a 14-carbon long-chain, saturated fatty acid, and deeply moisturizes the skin, so it is especially beneficial for dry and under-nourished skin.
Now, here is a compiled list of 21 carrier oils, with a description and the health benefits offered:
1. Argan (Oleic acid – 43%, Linoleic acid – 37%, Palmitic acid – 12%)
Agran oil offers a myriad of health benefits, both, when used topically, and internally. It is obtained by being cold-pressed from the fruit of the Moroccan Argan Tree (Argania Spinosa), and is a rich source of vitamin E, that promotes cellular regeneration and naturally protects against sun damage.
Use argan oil to prevent stretch marks, heal scars and small wounds, and prevent the signs of aging. It will also help you to boost the appearance and strength of nails and cuticles and to repair split hair ends.
2. Olive (Oleic acid – 75%, Linoleic acid – 16%, Palmitic acid – 8%)
Olive oil is obtained from the fruit of Olea europaea, and is the richest natural source of oleic acid. It has a long list of innumerate health benefits, and despite in cooking, it can be applied topically and repair damages skin and hair, moisturize, and soften any skin type. It is light and won’t clog the pores, but will leave the skin radiant and healthy.
3. Flaxseed (Alpha-Linolenic acid – 55%, Oleic acid – 20%, Linoleic acid – 15%, Palmitic acid – 7%)
Flaxseed, or linseed, oil, is one of the best-of-the-best natural carrier oils, obtained from the seeds of Linum usitatissimum, the flax plant, which are the richest source of alpha-Linolenic acid in the natural world.
Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a natural remedy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and it also relieves pain and treats inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
4. Babassu (Lauric acid – 50%, Myristic acid – 20%, Palmitic acid – 11%, Oleic acid – 10%)
Similar in appearance and texture to coconut oil, Babassu (Attalea speciosa) oil is very similar to coconut oil, as it contains almost the same fatty acids.
Yet, its smell is not that fruity, and it is better for oily skin, since it soaks in faster. Moreover, this oil creates a cooling sensation, so it would be excellent during the hot summer days.
5. Avocado (Oleic acid – 65%, Linoleic acid – 15%, Palmitic acid – 14%, Palmitoleic acid – 6%)
This is one of the thickest and most nourishing carrier oils you can use. The fruit of the avocado tree (Persea Americana) is about 30% oil; and it contains high amounts of palmitoleic acid, which is a fatty acid that is naturally present in human adipose tissues, so the body finds it familiar, and absorbs it easily.
It is ideal for mature skin, regenerates the skin, and is a great base for aromatherapy massage oil blends. To make the oil blend a bit lighter, mix it with 20% sweet almond oil.
It is abundant in nutrients and antioxidants, and possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties. The high content of chlorophyll, lecithin, and potassium, as well as vitamins A, D and E, this carrier oil effectively treats damaged tissues, and inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
6. Coconut Oil (Lauric acid – 49%, Myristic acid – 16%, Palmitic acid – 9.5%, Decanoic acid – 8%, Caprylic acid – 7%, Oleic acid – 6.5%)
Coconut oil is the most popular carrier oil, offering thousands of different skin and hair benefits. It is also a popular nutritional food source.
It has strong antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal qualities, and effectively lowers cholesterol, hormone, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.
Coconut oil cleanses and nourishes the skin, and improves the appearance and health of the hair, teeth, and nails. Therefore, it is an ideal base for almost any blends, exceptions being cases of coconut allergies.
7. Apricot Kernel (Oleic acid – 70%, Linoleic acid – 23%, Palmitic acid – 4%)
This carrier oil is extracted from the stones from apricots harvested from Prunus armeniaca, the most popular species of apricot tree. Its fine texture makes it ideal for oily skin, and its powerful anti-aging properties will be easily reaped if used in facial massage and moisturizing blends.
Moreover, apricot kernel oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the dry, damaged, irritated, or sensitive skin, and can be used in numerous whole-body massage blends.
8. Hemp Seed (Linoleic acid – 60%, Alpha-Linolenic acid – 20%, Oleic acid – 12%, Palmitic acid – 6%)
This carrier oil is one of the healthiest oils on the planet, sourced from Cannabis sativa. It is abundant in Linoleic and alpha-Linolenic acids and can be used both, internally or externally.
It is a powerful natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and prevents blemishes and premature skin aging promotes skin healing and regeneration and acts as a natural analgesic. Add this oil to your pain-relief blends and deep tissue massage oils, or use it for all skin types facial mixtures.
9. Wheat Germ (Linoleic acid – 55%, Palmitic acid – 16%, Oleic acid – 14%, Alpha-Linolenic acid – 7%)
Being extracted from the heart (aka “germ”) of Triticum durum (aka wheat) grains, this oil contains 25% of the grain’s proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
It is extremely rich in vitamin E, and has a long shelf life. Its use will heal environmental and sun damage, heals scars, restores skin elasticity and reduces the signs of aging, and promotes skin cell regeneration. Its anti-inflammatory properties relieve the symptoms of dermatitis.
10. Borage Seed (Linoleic acid – 39%, Gamma-Linolenic acid – 20%, Oleic – 18%, Palmitic – 10%)
This oil is obtained from Borago officinalis, and it is the richest source of one of the healthiest fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
Therefore,it is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory carrier oils, and is suitable for all skin types. It soothes dry, damage, and irritated skin, and nourishes and softens the skin. It is also amazingly beneficial in anti-aging oil blends.
11. Tamanu (Linoleic acid – 38%, Oleic acid – 34%, Stearic acid – 13%, Palmitic acid – 12%)
This carrier oil is extracted from the nuts of the Ati tree (Calophyllum inophyllum), native to Southwest Asia and the Pacific islands. It is one of the best anti-aging oils you can use, with powerful skin-healing and rejuvenating effects.
It is a strong natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial, and treats various inflammatory skin conditions and acne. It accelerates skin cell regeneration, and heals and prevents scarring from wounds.
12. Black Cumin Seed (Linoleic acid – 58%, Oleic acid – 24%, Palmitic acid – 14%)
Black cumin seed oil is extracted from the seeds of Nigella sativa, the black caraway flower, and it has the highest ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of all natural plant oils on the planet – at 56:1. This is the reason why it is considered to be “the cure for everything but death”.
It has powerful anti-cancer, anti-fungal, and powerful anti-bacterial qualities, supports heart health, regulates blood sugar, improves liver health, strengthens the immune system, helps weight loss, prevents neuro-degenerative diseases, and stimulates cellular regeneration to help heal skin and prevent scarring.
13. Sweet Almond (Oleic acid – 62%, Linoleic acid – 29%, Palmitic acid – 9%)
Sweet almond oil is obtained from the dried kernels of the almond tree, and it is high in vitamin E, that promotes skin regeneration, and balances the skin’s natural oils.
It locks in the moisture and prevents excessive drying, so it is ideal for the dry and irritated skin. The use of this oil will soothe irritations and inflammation, hydrate and nourish the skin, and increase the antioxidant levels in the skin, thus protecting against sun damage.
Since it does not soak in very fast, it is excellent for massage oil blends, and facial moisturizing mixtures, as it does not make the skin too greasy, but prevents premature skin aging.
14. Hazelnut (Oleic acid – 74%, Linoleic acid – 17%, Palmitic acid – 8%)
This carrier oil is pressed from the roasted kernels of the common hazel tree, Corylus avellana, and is ideal for the treatment of acne-prone skin and other inflammatory skin conditions. It is moisturizing and softening, and goes perfectly well in aromatherapy blends, due to the characteristic nutty scent.
15. Palm Kernel (Lauric acid – 48%, Myristic acid – 16%, Oleic acid – 15%, Palmitic acid – 8%)
This skin-nourishing oil is harvested from the fruits of Elaeis guineensis, or the African oil palm, but do not confuse it with palm oil. This one is similar to coconut and babassu oil, and has a higher melting point.
It is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins that repair the damaged skin leaving it soft and moisturized. It also supports the growth of stronger and thicker hair.
16. Kukui Nut (Linoleic acid – 40%, Alpha-Linolenic acid – 26%, Oleic acid – 25%, Palmitic – 6%)
This nourishing oil is harvested from the seeds of Aleurites Moluccans, or the “candlenut” tree. It is a light-weight oil, perfect for both, the skin and hair, and is excellent in massage oil blends.
It hydrates the skin, conditions the hair and scalp, and treats acne. Furthermore, kukui nut oil relieves pain and burns due to chemotherapy radiation, and heals the damaged skin. Yet, note that it oxidizes easily, so store it in a cool and dark place to prolong its quality and shelf-life.
17. Jojoba (Eicosenoic acid – 77%, Erucic acid – 12%, Oleic acid – 9%)
Jojoba oil is extracted from the seeds of the jojoba tree, or Simmondsia Chinensis. It has some of the longest-chain fatty acids, whose combination imitates the natural sebum of the skin, and absorbs better than many other carrier oils.
This oil is a powerful natural fungicide, that fights fungal infections, and nourishes the skin, hair, cuticles, and nails. It is easily absorbed, and has a very long shelf-life.
18. Pomegranate Seed (Punicic acid – 78%, Linoleic acid – 7%, Oleic acid – 6%, Palmitic acid – 3%, Stearic acid – 3%)
This oil is found in pomegranate seeds, and is rich in a rare type of linolenic fatty acid – conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), known as Punicic acid.
It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, and increases the epidermal cellular regeneration. Therefore, it is excellent for treating damaged skin and prevents premature skin aging.
19. Evening Primrose ( Linoleic acid – 75%, Gamma-Linolenic acid – 11%, Palmitic acid – 6%, Oleic acid – 6%)
This carrier oil is obtained from the seeds of the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and contains huge quantities of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
It effectively treats hormonal imbalances and digestive disorders, inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, dandruff, and leads to a healthy skin and hair.
20. Sesame (Oleic acid – 36%, Linoleic acid – 41%, Palmitic acid – 8%, Stearic acid – 5%)
Its high concentrations of vitamins B-complex and E, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and lecithin, make it an excellent moisturized of irritated and dry skin.
It effectively treats psoriasis, eczema, and various other inflammatory skin conditions. It is best for the treatment of mature skin. Note that it is thick on its own, so you should blend it with some other lighter carrier.
21. Rosehip Seed (Linoleic acid – 47%, Alpha-Linolenic acid – 29%, Oleic acid – 15%)
Rosehip seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the musk rose, Rosa moschata. It is rich in all-trans retinoic acid, a natural form of vitamin A, and alpha-Linolenic acid.
Therefore, it is an excellent way to naturally treat the skin. It heals scars, blemishes, and irritations, prevents premature aging and stretch marks.
The North American Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Experts advise:
“As a general rule of thumb for an essential oil to carrier oil ratio, mix 1-2 drops of essential oil to every 1 ounce of carrier oil. Some home remedies will call for different amounts of essential oil to carrier oil ratios, depending on the desired goal.
Carrier oil shelf life can last anywhere from 6-24 months, with most lasting approximately 18 months before decreasing in quality.”
When blending an essential oil with some of these carrier oils in order to make up massage oil, follow these recommendations by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy:
Infants and young children
- 0.5 to 1 percent dilution = 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
- 2.5 percent dilution = 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
This dilution is recommended for most healthy adults during aromatherapy.
- 3 percent dilution = 20 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
This dilution is usually used to treat temporary health concerns, such as muscle pain or injury.
- 5 percent dilution = 30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
- 10 percent dilution = 60 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier
In the end, keep in mind these additional guidelines by Dr.Axe in order to optimize the effects of your carrier oils:
“Just like you would when applying a new essential oil to your skin, I recommend doing a small skin patch test with any new carrier oil before applying it to a larger area of your body.
Although most of these carrier oils are gentle enough even for areas of sensitive skin, you want to be sure that you don’t have an allergy or sensitivity to a new oil.
Most of the carrier oils can be found online or in your local health food store. Make sure to store your carrier oils in a dark glass jar that has a tight-fitting top.
Most carrier oils can be stored in the refrigerator or in a dark, cool place. Over time, carrier oils become rancid, which causes the oil to have a strong, bitter odor. If you notice that the scent of a carrier oil has changed over time, throw it out and buy a new one.”