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CARRIER OILS: What Are They & Why Are They Important?

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

What is a carrier oil?

A carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually the seed, nut or kernels. A carrier oil is used to dilute essential oils before they are applied to the skin. A carrier oil will also help “carry” the essential oil into the skin. There is a range of different carrier oils, each with a various therapeutic properties. Choosing an oil will depend on the area being massaged, the presenting conditions and the client’s sensitivity and requirements.

Why use a carrier oil?

Carrier oils should be used when applying the oils topically (that is directly to the skin) to help dilute the potency of pure therapeutic grade essential oil. That is particularly important for the “hot” oils such as lemongrass, oregano, wintergreen, cinnamon bark and cassia, and for any oil where you experience sensitivity. Not all oils are recommended to be applied “neat” so please consult with your wellness advocate to check to see if you should be diluting the oil first before applying topically.

For babies, infants and children, it is recommended that you always dilute the essential oils first with a carrier oil before applying to the skin.

Carrier oils are often used in massage to enhance or slow the penetration of oils. A carrier oil with higher viscosity will result in longer periods of time that the essential oil will remain on the surface of the skin. For instance, grapeseed oil is very thin and will absorb into the skin quickly, whereas olive oil is much thicker and will penetrate the skin more slowly. Although some essential oil may be applied neat (without any dilution), applying a neat essential oil directly to the skin may result in the essential oil partially evaporating off before full absorption into the epidermis - as such most experts now agree that using essential oils together with carrier oil, or lotion is best.

What are the most popular types of Carrier Oil?

Carrier oils that you purchase should be natural and unadulterated. Exceptions include carrier oils that have natural vitamin E added because Vitamin E acts as a natural preservative. Avoid “mineral oils”. All carrier oils should be kept cool, and away from strong light, to prevent rancidification. Rancid oils should be avoided.

Below is a list of the most popular carrier oils used today.

Almond Oil - May have a sweet, nutty odour. Leaves a slight oily feeling on the skin. Absorbs semi-quickly.

Avocado Oil - Good for dry & aging skin types; rich and heavy with minor sunscreen effects. Can be overpowering when combined with essential oils due to its heavy moisturising properties, so use sparingly.

Fractionated Coconut Oil - Fractionated coconut oil or FCO for short, is a fraction of the coconut oil from which almost all the long-chain triglycerides are removed, thus leaving mainly the medium-chain triglycerides and making it an absolutely saturated oil. This saturation gives it a very, very long shelf life and greatly increased stability. It is stable at all temperatures and in all environments. It is also non-aromatic and therefore does not alter the aromatic properties of essential oils. It is odorless, colourless and non-staining.

Olive Oil - good for most preparations; “extra virgin” has the highest amount of vitamins and minerals. Olive oil is very soothing and possesses disinfecting and healing properties. The smell can be a little bit overwhelming to use for massage.

Jojoba Oil - good for both very dry or very oily skin conditions. It has a very long shelf-life and is very stable. It also has absorption properties similar to our own skin, and so is not likely to block pores. Although a more expensive oil, it is light and silky and absorbs well.

What dilution ratio should I use?

For healthy adults, the ratio for non-hot oils can be 1:1 (e.g. 1 drop essential oil to 1 drop carrier oil).

For hot oils such as cassia, cinnamon, clove, oregano, and thyme, more carrier oil should be used for a ratio of 1:3.

For children under the age of 12, and people with sensitive skin, a ratio of 1:3 may be used.

For young children, all essential oils should be diluted heavily 1 drop to 10ml of carrier oil.

For more information…

Please consult your existing Wellness Advocate or essential oil adviser. If you do not have one, you are welcome to email me at


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