Getting to Know Your Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are usually overlooked because they don’t contain the therapeutic constituents of other essential oils, but they can play an indispensable companion of topically applied oils. Let’s take a closer look at these carriers and why they deserve a place on the shelf of anyone who uses and loves essential oils.

What are carrier oils?

Carrier oils are naturally derived from vegetarian sources and have a neutral smell. They aren’t volatile like essential oils, which makes them an excellent medium for dilution and application.

What aren’t carrier oils?

Vegetable shortening, butter, and margarine are best left in the kitchen—they’re not intended for topical use. Mineral oil and other petroleum derivatives like petroleum jelly should also not be used as carrier oils.

How are carrier oils used?

Essential oils are volatile, which means they evaporate rapidly and contain the natural smell and characteristics of the plant. This can make them too strong to apply undiluted. Carrier oils do not evaporate or have a strong aroma, making them the perfect pair for diluting especially strong essential oils—reducing the concentration of the essential oil without altering its therapeutic qualities. When you dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil, you can also control its concentration before applying.

Like other substances that are high in fat, carrier oils have a limited shelf life, meaning that eventually they can go bad. Depending on the type, oils with a short shelf life should typically be used within six months, while oils with a longer shelf life may stay good for up to a year. It’s important to store oils in their original air-tight containers in a cool, dark place, such as the pantry, to maximize shelf life.

Carrier oils can vary widely in their consistency, absorption, aroma, shelf life, and other characteristics. Carrier oils can be blended to change or combine their properties, so you can mix and match until you find the blend that’s just right for you!

Get to know some of the more popular carrier oils!

Grapeseed Oil

  • Light and thin consistency
  • Well suited for massages; leaves a light glossy film over the skin
  • Moisturizing
  • High in linoleic acid
  • Relatively short shelf life

Sweet Almond Oil*

  • Slightly sweet, nutty aroma
  • Medium consistency
  • Absorbs relatively quickly; leaves a slight hint of oil on the skin
  • Rich in vitamin E and oleic acid
  • Moisturizing
  • Good all-purpose carrier oil
    *Caution: May cause a reaction to those with nut allergies.

Young Living V-6

  • A proprietary Young Living formula combining fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, wheat germ oil (contains a lot of vitamin E and acts as a natural preservative),v6 sunflower oil, and olive oil
  • Moisturizes and nourishes the skin
  • An excellent carrier oil for all essential oils and applications

Jojoba Oil

  • Slightly nutty aroma
  • Medium consistency
  • Superior, non-greasy absorption, similar to the skin’s natural oils
  • Moisturizing for skin and hair
  • Long shelf life

Olive Oil

  • Popular, easy-to-find oil used in both topical and culinary applications
  • Thicker consistency; leaves an oily feel on the skin
  • Stronger aroma
  • Good source of oleic acid (omega fatty acid)
  • Relatively short shelf life

Fractionated Coconut Oil

  • Unlike coconut oil, fractionated coconut oil is liquid at room temperature
  • No noticeable aroma
  • Absorbs well; leaves skin feeling silky and moisturized; non-greasy
  • High in essential fatty acids
  • Long shelf life

Coconut Oil

  • Solid at room temperature
  • Distinct coconut aroma
  • Solid white color
  • Leaves a moisturizing, oily feeling layer on top of the skin
  • Long shelf life

Cocoa Butter

  • Solid and difficult to work with at room temperature
  • Best used when melted and blended with other carrier oils
  • Sweet, chocolate aroma
  • Shea Butter
  • Solid at room temperature
  • Nutty aroma
  • Cream colored
  • Moisturizing to skin and hair; leaves behind a moisturizing, waxy-feeling layer