Simply put, a carrier oil is any cold-pressed, unrefined vegetable, seed or nut oil used to dilute full-strength essential oils.
Now, what does that really mean?
If you Google coconut oil, you’ll be met with a million articles about how it can cure everything and make you look like you’re 20 years old. It is some pretty good stuff, and it smells delicious, too. Because it absorbs into the skin more slowly, coconut oil makes a good carrier when you want to enjoy the aromatherapy benefits of your essential oils a little longer (as in, when you make a eucalyptus oil rub for a chest cold). Coconut oil solidifies at 76 degrees, so when you’re mixing up topical treatments, warm it a little, add your essential oils and mix thoroughly. It melts beautifully later when you apply to skin.
Got achy joints? Avocado oil plus PanAway. Got achy teeth or problems with your gums? Avocado oil plus Thieves oil. Need a good carrier oil for a sensual massage? Avocado oil plus jasmine essential oil. Sunburn? Wait for it… Avocado oil plus lavender. Plus, it’s super-good in salad dressing. If you have sensitivities to nuts, this may be the carrier oil for you. As with anything, test a little on your wrist before going all the way.
Yeah, we hardly need to discuss the benefits of olive oil, right? Most of us have a big bottle in the kitchen already, making it easy to mix with essential oils. Look for extra virgin, cold-pressed oil because it’s worth the money. Olive oil is one of the slowest to absorb into the skin, so it makes a great carrier oil when mixing up oils for babies and kids. If you’re feeling brave and don’t mind rinsing out the shower afterward, mix ¼ cup used coffee grounds, 1 tablespoon EVOO and five drops of rosemary essential oil and give your scalp a good scrub. Yep, it’s messy, but try it and see how you feel.
The chemistry of jojoba oil closely mimics human skin oil, making it the go-to choice for people who suffer from acne or flaky skin. Be patient—it can take a week or two to see results from any new skin regimen. Southwestern Native Americans used jojoba oil as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory for skin wounds, too, so keep that in mind when you’re mixing oils together. It keeps well at room temperature, but you should still try to buy just what you need rather than storing it for a long time. Best part? A little goes a long way because it spreads so nicely. (By the way, it’s pronounced ho-HO-ba.)
Lots of vitamin E and protein make almond oil a nice choice as a carrier oil. Those who suffer from psoriasis and eczema may prefer it over other choices. If you like to put oils on your feet, try mixing them with almond oil to give those rough spots a little extra TLC. If you’re mixing capsules to take internally, almond oil adds just a touch of trace minerals that may help your body heal faster. Every little bit counts! Gentle for babies, too. If you’ve been using baby lotions, try a nice massage with almond oil instead. Almond oil typically absorbs quickly, so when you mix it with essential oils the properties of each oil go into your skin right away.
If you’re making home-made beauty products with essential oils and want the best carrier oil, shea butter might be the one. Or, maybe it isn’t—depends on the results you want from your DIY adventures. Shea butter is water resistant, meaning it creates a protective barrier that keeps water away. Good for hand moisturizing if you tend to wash your hands frequently (say hello to all the nurses and day care providers in your life!). However, this also means the shea butter stays on the surface of your skin after the essential oil has been absorbed. It’s a toss-up, and you should decide after trying various carrier oils for various purposes.
For those who find other carrier oils greasy and unpleasant, grapeseed oil may be the answer. It’s quick to absorb and leaves behind a silky feeling. When you’re mixing essential oils with a carrier oil for kids, it can be hard for them to be patient until the oil absorbs into their skin, so grapeseed oil might be the perfect carrier. Read labels and study brands very carefully, though. Grapeseed oil is often extracted using chemicals and traces of bad stuff can be left behind after processing, so look for expeller-pressed oils that are crushed using mechanical processes rather than chemistry.
And of course, there’s always V-6, which you can order directly from Young Living.
No matter what kind of oil you use, try to get organic, non-GMO brands. If you’re trying to be healthful by using essential oils, you might as well go all the way, right? Please take care of your oils, too. Many can be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf-lives, and some can go in the freezer and remain liquid. If your oil has been in room-temperature storage for a few months, smell it—if there’s any hint of “off” odors, just throw it away and start over.