What is a carrier oil?
A carrier oil refers to a vegetable oil, wax, fat, or other oil that an essential oil is mixed with. The carrier oil (or base oil) "carries" the essential oil and dilutes it so it can effectively be spread over a larger area.
Applying essential oils directly on your body without any kind of dilution is often referred to as applying the oil "neat."
Since essential oils are so potent and powerful, and because some oils may irritate your skin, you can reduce the chance of experiencing any irritation by diluting your oil with a carrier oil - such as fractionated coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, etc.
Because essential oils are so potent, using more is not necessarily better. To achieve optimum results, 1-3 drops of oil per application are usually enough.
The bottoms of your feet are one of the most common areas to apply essential oils because you have larger pores there, so the oils absorb more quickly. Some other areas that absorb oils quickly include behind your ears and on your wrists.
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When massaging essential oils into a large area of your body, it is recommended to dilute your oils by 15% to 30% with a carrier oil.
When applying essential oils to infants and small children, it's best to dilute the oil with a carrier oil. Use 1 drop of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil for infants, 1 drop to 1 teaspoon for children, and 3-6 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil (or other carrier oil) for adults.
Why The Quality Of Your Essential Oil Matters
Because essential oils are fat-soluble (which means they dissolve in fats but not water - remember oil + water don't mix), when they are applied directly to the skin ("neat"), their chemical compounds are readily absorbed and enter the bloodstream. This is only one reason why the QUALITY of your essential oils is important.
Many high-quality oils are safe to use "neat," and one of the most universally accepted locations for "neat" application of oils is the bottoms of feet.
Carrier oils are used not only for dilution but also to prevent evaporation. Using a carrier oil PRIOR to applying an essential oil will slow down the absorption process, but will not prevent absorption, and therefore slowing down the therapeutic onset.
Applying a carrier oil AFTER essential oil application enhances the therapeutic onset of the oil.
Either way, the carrier oil will help prevent the potential rapid evaporation of the essential oil.
Click here to learn more about using quality essential oils for yourself and your family.
Is It Best To Use Pure Essential Oil Or Diluted Oil?
Here is an interesting video that discusses whether it's better to use pure essential oil (applied "neat") or if you might want to dilute your oil first:
This video brings up some important things for you to consider when using essential oils:
- Evaporation rates: the neat (or undiluted) oil evaporates much more quickly, so you potentially lose much more oil to the surrounding air when applying them undiluted
- Effects on the skin: pure orange essential oil left the skin looking dry and cracked whereas the diluted orange oil left no visible traces on the skin
- This video concludes that using diluted essential oil produces less waste and is better for your skin
Essential Oil Absorption and Dilution
By taking the time to massage an essential oil thoroughly into your skin, you'll get better absorption because of increased blood flow in that area. Ultimately, this gives your skin a better chance to efficiently absorb all the oil's chemical compounds so you get maximum benefits.
Applying essential oils with a carrier oil and then massaging the skin or applying warm heat (such as a rice bag or moist cloth compress) helps drive the oil deeper into the surrounding tissues. This is especially helpful for promoting feelings of relaxation and lessening tension.
Carrier oils also protect your skin from irritation. Children, the elderly, and those with sensitive skin or compromised immune systems are advised to always use a carrier oil.
Some of the most popular carrier oils include: fractionated coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil .
Competing aroma is one main consideration when selecting your own carrier oil because you may not want the smell of your carrier oil to take away from the natural aroma of the essential oil.
Fractionated coconut oil is a popular carrier oil and is created by removing the fatty acids from regular coconut oil. Regular coconut oil is solid at 76 degrees. Fractionating, or removing the fatty acids, keeps the oil in a liquid state, making it easier to use and to combine with essential oils in containers such as spray and roll-on bottles.
The fractionating process also increases shelf life and makes it odorless and colorless. This is a great carrier oil choice to use on your skin and won't clog your pores.
Another great way to dilute and apply essential oils is to combine your essential oil (or essential oil blend) with your favorite unscented lotion. For example, since my sister Brenda (who's a licensed Esthetician here in Arizona) recommends using Frankincense oil on your skin, I've been adding one drop of Frankincense essential oil to my favorite unscented facial moisturizer (which includes sunscreen) and applying that every morning. After a few weeks of regular use, I can honestly say that the skin on my face has never looked (or felt) better!
Click here to learn more about purchasing essential oils at wholesale prices.
Carrier oils are usually cold-pressed oils that are produced from the fatty portions of a specific plant. Carrier oils do not evaporate like essential oils do, but carrier oils can go rancid where your high-quality therapeutic essential oils should not. Instead, essential oils "oxidize" and lose their therapeutic benefits, but they don't go rancid.
Typically most oils purchased at your local grocery store will not be cold-pressed, with the exception of olive oil and a few others, so be sure to read the labels. Oils that are not cold-pressed have been heated during processing and will therefore have minimal therapeutic effect.
Cold-Pressed = unheated = retains beneficial properties
Unrefined = little refining = retains richness and strength
Some carrier oils are odorless, but generally speaking, most have a faintly sweet, nutty aroma. If you come across a carrier oil that has a strong, bitter aroma, the carrier oil may have gone rancid.
More Carrier Oil Options:
Apricot Kernel Oil: A good oil for using on your face; high in Vitamins A and B which aid in rejuvenating skin cells (12 month shelf life)
Argan Oil: Contains a variety of antioxidants and is high in Vitamin E - has a lightly nutty scent (2 year shelf life)
Avocado Oil: Good for dry and aging skin; rich and heavy oil with a slightly nutty aroma (12 month shelf life)
Borage Oil: Penetrates skin well, but may leave behind a slightly oily feeling (6 month shelf life)
Calendula Oil: A good all-over body oil; an excellent moisturizer for dry or damaged skin (12 month shelf life)
Camellia Seed Oil (Tea Oil): Rich in anti-oxidants, including Vitamin E, essential fatty acids and non-essential fatty acids oleic acid and omega-9 fatty acid (12-24 months shelf life)
Cocoa Butter: Not a carrier oil, but its natural beneficial properties make it suitable for aromatherapy; has a distinctive chocolate aroma that will compete (and possibly complement) with essential oil aroma (up to 5 year shelf life)
Fractionated Coconut Oil: Highly stable at all temperatures and in all environments, odorless and colorless oil (Indefinite shelf life)
Virgin Coconut Oil: Solid at room temperature and has a distinctive aroma of coconut (Indefinite shelf life)
Emu Oil: Penetrates deeply into skin and is a natural source of Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids for skin nourishment (12 month shelf life and refrigeration is recommended)
Evening Primrose Oil: Good as an antioxidant oil; can be mixed with other carrier oils to extend their shelf life (6 month shelf life)
Grapeseed Oil: Excellent as a general massage oil; very light and penetrates the skin quickly (6-12 month shelf life)
Hazelnut Oil: Good for facials; loaded with vitamins, minerals and proteins (12 month shelf life)
Hemp Seed Oil: An oil with a slightly nutty aroma; loaded with omega-6 fatty acid and omega-3 essential fatty acid (6-12 month shelf life)
Jojoba Oil: Good for either very dry or very oily skin; can be added to other carrier oils to extend their shelf life (Indefinite shelf life)
Kukui Oil: Penetrates the skin well and nourishes the skin thanks to high essential fatty acid content (12 month shelf life)
Macadamia Nut Oil: Aroma may overpower your essential oil if not diluted with another base oil (12 month shelf life)
Meadowfoam Seed Oil: Rich in Vitamin E and anti-oxidants and virtually colorless and odorless (Indefinite shelf life)
Olive Oil: Good for most aromatherapy applications; "extra virgin" oil has the highest amount of vitamins and minerals (12-24 month shelf life)
Peanut Oil: Good basic aromatherapy oil; rich in vitamins and proteins; may leave skin with an oily film (12 month shelf life)
Pecan Oil: Best when diluted with another vegetable oil; leaves oily film on skin but has good penetration (12 month shelf life)
Pomegranate Seed Oil: Incredibly rich in anti-oxidants and a helpful soothing and skin softening oil (12 month shelf life)
Rose Hip Oil: Excellent for soothing and supporting many skin conditions. It is expensive and is usually blended in a small (often 10%) dilution with other carrier oils. It goes rancid rather quickly (6-12 month shelf life)
Rice Bran Oil: Non-greasy, smooth and creamy oil that's very high in Vitamin E and fatty acids (12 month shelf life)
Sesame Oil: Good for a supporting a variety of skin conditions; rich with Vitamin E, minerals, and proteins (12 month shelf life)
Shea Butter: Soothes and nourishes the skin (up to 2 year shelf life)
Sunflower Oil: Good for massage, body lotions, and body oils; rich in Vitamin E (12 month shelf life)
Sweet Almond Oil: Commonly used as a massage oil; loaded with protein; absorbs into the skin rapidly; odorless (12 month shelf life)
Soy Oil: Good as a massage oil; high in Vitamin E and easily absorbed (12 month shelf life)
Walnut Oil: Good for supporting dry skin; absorbs easily (12 month shelf life)
Watermelon Seed Oil: A highly stable oil that nourishes the skin and absorbs well (24 month shelf life)
Wheatgerm Oil: Very high in Vitamins A, D, and E (be careful when used on anyone with wheat allergies) (12 month shelf life)
Estimated average shelf life under proper storage conditions (cool area, out of direct sunlight).
Vegetable butters are not carrier oils, but the beneficial properties of vegetable butters like Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter make them suitable for use in aromatherapy.
Vegetable butters are similar to vegetable oils but are solid at room temperature. Vegetable butters are processed by a wide variety of methods, so it's especially important to check the method of extraction when shopping for butters. Always try to use butters that are cold-pressed.
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