More often than not, the fascinating benefits of essential oils are best achieved by diluting them. The media of dilution for essential oils are known as carrier oils. As can be aptly understood from the name, carrier oils are used in a major portion with a certain small quantity of essential oil, and retain all goodness from essential oils.
However, in context of aromatherapy, a “carrier” is something that is used to carry the benefits of essential oils into the skin. It can be cold-pressed oils, or even vegetable butters, lotions and aloe vera gel. These can be used in conjunction with essential oils for topical application. In this article, we will focus on the most commonly used medium for essential oil dilution, i.e., cold-pressed carrier oils.
What are Carrier Oils?
In general, carrier oils are derived from the fatty portions of the plant, for example- seeds, kernels and nuts. Different carrier oils have their own characteristic therapeutic properties. Unlike essential oils, carrier oils do not evaporate, nor they have a strong order. At most they can have mild aroma, and could get rancid if left unused over a long period of time.
Carrier oils are often known as vegetable oils or base oils outside aromatherapy. However, it is vital to note that not all base oils are carrier oils. Animal-derived oils can classify as base oils, but don’t come under the category of carrier oils for use in aromatherapy.
While properties of carrier oils tend to get overlooked and the focus is mainly concentrated on benefits of essential oils, it is important to note that certain essential oils should be paired with certain carrier oils so as to exhibit the best results.
Why Use Carrier Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated and tend to cause skin sensitization when used on their own.
They also cause allergies and reactions, in a worse case, leading to respiratory and/or long term allergies. It always advised to use diluted essential oils particularly for topical application.
Which Oils Can be Used as Carrier Oils?
Let us take a look at some of the carrier oils that are widely preferred and used in aromatherapy across the globe.
Olive oil is rich in oleic acid and other fatty acids, making it extremely nourishing for the skin. The olive oil that should be used in conjunction with essential oils is the cold-pressed, unrefined virgin oil. Being non-greasy and having nourishing nutritional properties of its own, olive oil is safe to use on both the skin and hair and can also be used to dilute essential oils. While buying olive oil for your own use, look for brands that sell unrefined extra virgin olive oil.
Perhaps the most commonly used carrier oil is the favorite coconut oil. Apart from being highly emollient, this versatile oil is often used on its own for its amazing antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is deemed excellent for dry skin and has a long shelf life as well. You can either opt for virgin coconut oil which tends to solidify at room temperatures, or fractionated coconut oil, which doesn’t have the aroma of coconuts and remains liquid at room temperature.
Sweet Almond Oil
This is one of the most multi-purpose and affordable carrier oil that one can find. It is also easily available and has a mild aroma which is not unpleasant. It works wonderfully with any essential oil, and finds several uses in aromatherapy as a concoction with essential oils. Sweet almond oil is a natural antioxidant, which is also moisturizing and doesn’t leave the skin feeling greasy.
Jojoba oil is one of the most preferred carrier oils because it actually resembles human sebum! Its high rate of absorption makes it excellent for use as carrier oil. It is a good choice for oily, acne-prone skin that cannot tolerate heavy-duty base oils.
This oil is not only rich in fatty acids, but also has traces of Vitamins A, D and E. Deemed excellent for dry, mature and sagging skin, avocado oil also finds wide usage for hairs. It is generally highly diluted before blending with essential oils. One should also take care to never refrigerate it, otherwise its characteristic properties can get affected.
Sesame oil also finds good use in aromatherapy but needs to be blended with other carrier oils because of its high viscosity. This ensures that it does not overpower an essential oil blend concocted on its own.
Also known as the “liquid gold oil”, this oil is now popular across the beauty industry for its unique properties. Not only is it highly nourishing, but also helps reduce stretch marks, and protect against UV rays. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties as well. You can use it along with tea tree essential oil to alleviate acne, or on its own to combat dryness.
Castor oil has amazing benefits for the hair, and helps improve blood circulation and digestion, enhance immunity in the body. It also has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. You can simply add an essential oil of your choice to castor oil for customizing a massage oil for the skin.
How to Mix Essential Oils with Carrier Oils?
A general dermal recommendation for use in adults is by creating a 2% dilution of essential oils in carrier oils. A good way to measure this is by taking 12 drops of essential oil in 30 ml of any cold-pressed carrier oil. However different uses of essential oils have different dermal recommendations.
For use in children above 2 years, generally 1% dilution is used. Similarly for certain essential oils, the dermal recommendation for any kind of usage is less than 2%. Higher concentration may be needed to eliminate certain localized discomfort.
While there are several other carrier oils to choose from, make sure you are not allergic to the carrier oil you opt for. Also research well among carrier oil manufacturers before you select the best quality carrier oil that suits your needs.