If you've been learning about the advantages of properly diluting essential oils, and now you want to know what to dilute them in, this post is for you!
Want a searchable database of this information? Click here: CarriersProfiles.com
Choosing a carrier to use with essential oils is more than a matter of personal preference. The carrier you use not only affects the absorption rate, but can also enhance therapeutic properties of the essential oil(s) you are adding to the carrier.
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Keep in mind that the maximum amount of an essential oil's constituents absorbed into the skin can be as much as 10% (source: Essential Oil Safety, by Tisserand & Young). This varies on a number of issues beyond the scope of this post.
Safety first – considerations for carriers
Essential oils usually have a shelf life of a year or more, depending on the essential oil. Carriers, however, generally have a shelf life of less than one year. It is recommended that you make small batches of blends to avoid being left with a blend in a bottle that has gone bad due to the carrier expiring.
Here are more tips:
- Avoid using most cooking oils, like canola and soy (a list of recommended carriers can be found further down in this post)
- Toss out any oil that appears cloudy, has a foul odor, or goes rancid
- Purchase raw and organic whenever possible – avoiding refined, processed, and non-organic carriers
Water-based carriers absorb into the skin more quickly
Water-based carriers absorb into the skin more quickly due to higher water content, as hydrated skin increases permeability and aids in essential oil absorption. If you need fast absorption, such as for acute pain, water-based carriers are what you want. These are also good options for situations where oil may aggravate the issue.
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Recommended water-based carriers
My three favorite water-based carriers are aloe vera gel, witch hazel, and lotion.
Tip for choosing aloe vera: Look for aloe vera produced without heat from organically grown aloe vera plants. Avoid synthetic or petroleum-based gel with aloe vera added. You might be able to find a good one in your local health food store. Lily of the Valley aloe vera gel (which is very watery) can be found locally or on amazon. My favorite thick gel is the Aloe Life Skin Gel with Herbs, which I get on amazon. Note: when adding essential oils to aloe vera, you must shakeshakeshake before using on the skin, as essential oils and aloe vera don't mix like a true oil.
Tip for choosing witch hazel: Be sure the witch hazel you are getting contains considerably more water than alcohol. Yes, alcohol must be contained in this product, as it is water-based, to preserve the witch hazel. One of my favorites is TN Dickenson's Witch Hazel. I've seen in Wal*Mart as well as on amazon, and only contains 14% alcohol. Note: when adding essential oils to witch hazel, you must shakeshakeshake before using on the skin, as essential oils and witch hazel don't mix like a true oil.
Tip for choosing lotion: Look for a lotion free from synthetic preservatives, chemicals, and artificial fragrances. The best way to do this is to make your own. I haven't found the time to begin making my own lotion yet, but if you're looking for a recipe, you can find one in this book: DIY Organic Beauty Recipes. I purchase my unscented lotion from Tropical Traditions, as the lotion is made from organic ingredients.
Recommended uses for aloe vera and lotion
Aloe vera or lotion is a good carrier choice for issues where the skin needs to breathe, such as nail fungus. Burns can also benefit from using aloe vera as a carrier instead of an oil. Itchy skin can benefit from using witch hazel as a base, as can acne-prone skin due to the witch hazel's astringent properties.
Why water is not recommended, and when water is recommended
Water and (essential) oil doesn't mix. We learned this in school. So we generally want to avoid adding essential oils to water, where they will float on the surface of the water, touching the skin at full concentration.
An exception would be making a throat spray to soothe soreness or help alleviate tonsillitis. If you do this, be sure to shakeshakeshake well before spraying, to ensure the essential oils have mixed as best as possible into the water before spraying. Pure essential oils directly on the skin can cause irritation and redness.
You can, of course, add essential oils to water when making a linen spray or cleaning sprays.
Carrier oils & butters linger longest on the skin
Oil evaporates more slowly than water, trapping the essential oils on the skin. Carrier oils (such as almond, coconut, jojoba, and tamanu to name a few) allow for essential oils to absorb more slowly into the skin. Although relief might take a little time, the effect will linger longer. This allows for therapeutic effects of the essential oils to work for a greater length of time.
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When you want the very longest staying power, look to butters. Butters are thick and prevent the essential oils from evaporating so quickly. Shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, and kombo butter are my top choices for carrier butters. Although kombo butter can be used on its own, as it is a more liquid consistency, shea, mango, and cocoa butters are solid and work best as an added ingredient when making body butter or a salve.
Recommended carrier oils
There are a number of useful carrier oils with a wide range of therapeutic benefits on their own. I purchase mine from various reputable sources including Aura Cacia brand on amazon.
Sweet Almond Oil
- Emollient and somewhat viscous, allows for slower absorption
- Calming properties enhance anti-spasmodic essential oils
- Soothes inflammation and peeling from burns
- Anti-pruritic (relieves itching)
- Helpful for dry skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis
- Contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and E
I recommend this organic sweet almond oil.
Apricot Kernel Oil
- Readily absorbed due to low viscosity
- Emollient and nourishing for the skin
- Similar in composition to sweet almond oil, but slightly more expensive
- Relieves itchy skin (is anti-pruritic)
- Helpful for eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis
- Useful ingredient in lotions due to its skin-softening properties
I recommend this apricot kernel oil.
- Powerful antioxidant due to high vitamin E levels
- Anti-aging action makes it great for applications on the face
- Restructuring properties make it useful in hair care
- Preserves elasticity of the skin
- Using 1-2 drops on the face at night before bed can help regenerate and firm the skin
- Delicious hazelnut-like aroma
I recommend this organic argan oil.
- Healing properties make it useful for inflammation of the skin
- Prevents premature aging and helps to soften skin
- Contains vitamins A, B1, B2, D, as well as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, sodium, and copper
- Highly penetrating, moisturizing, and emollient
- Tip: do not refrigerate, as this harms some useful constituents
I recommend this avocado oil.
- Contains 16-23% GLA, making it the richest source of GLA available
- Excellent remedy for stretch marks and wrinkles (and prevents them)
- Regenerates the skin best when combined with sweet almond oil
- Useful for eczema and psoriasis sufferers
- Can be consumed as a dietary supplement
- Tip: store in a cool, dark place
I recommend this cold-pressed, unrefined, organic borage oil.
- Effective for healing the skin – so effective, it is not recommended to use on deep wounds, as the top layer of skin will heal faster than the inside
- Anti-septic action makes it useful for cleansing acne and impetigo
- Wrinkles are encouraged to fade due to it's astringent properties
- Helps to heal bumps and bruises
- Can be useful in relieving spasms and cramps
- Is a great first choice for a number of skin irritations, such as rashes, stings, and even burns
I recommend this organic calendula oil.
- Very stable fat, lasting up to 5 years
- Because it melts at body temperature, it is useful as a base for suppositories and pessaries
- Helps to fade scarring on the skin
- Reduces the appearance of stretch marks
- Makes for a delicious base for lip balms and body butters
- Slightly stimulating due to presence of caffeine
I recommend this raw, unrefined, food grade cocoa butter.
- Emollient, and great for massages
- Nourishes the hair and scalp
- Used in suppositories due to its solid nature which melts at body temp
- Great ingredient for making soap, as it lathers well
- Provides an excellent source of lauric acid when consumed
- Anti-bacterial properties make it effective as a cleanser while oil puling
- Note: fractionated coconut oil is not a complete oil and is inferior to regular solid coconut oil
I recommend this cold-pressed, unrefined, organic coconut oil.
Evening Primrose Oil
- Promotes wound healing
- Wards off wrinkles in the skin
- Beneficial for dry skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema
- Useful in keeping dandruff at bay
- Vitamin F content makes it helpful for hormonal issues
- Can be used internally for PMS and bloating (Solgar EPO supplement)
- Note: Evening Primrose Oil is highly unsaturated and thus less stable than other oils. Store in a cool, dark place.
I recommend this evening primrose oil supplement.
- Reduces the appearance of stretch marks and fine lines around the eyes
- Regenerative properties helps to restore damaged tissue
- Absorbs quickly into the skin due to low viscosity
- Smooth finish does not leave a greasy residue on the skin
- Hypoallergenic, tasteless, and colorless
- Note: this is often a refined oil, which is why it keeps well and has a long shelf life
I recommend this grapeseed oil.
- Low viscosity makes for fast absorption and a great base for sore muscles with the addition of essential oils
- Nourishing and soothing
- Astringent action makes it useful for oil skin and acne
- Does not leave an oily residue on the skin
- SPF of 10
- Contains vitamins B1, B6, E, nicacin, folic acid, as well as magnesium and potassium
I recommend this hazelnut oil.
Jojoba Oil (technically a wax)
- This wax has a 25 year shelf life as it is able to resist hydrolysis and oxidation
- Anti-inflammatory action allows for relief from rheumatism and arthritis
- Excellent for a variety of dry skin conditions such a eczema and dry scalp
- Composition similar to skin's sebum
- Non-greasy due to low viscosity
- Note: be sure you are getting unrefined, yellow jojoba, not refined, bleached, or deodorized
I recommend this organic jojoba oil.
- Resists rancidity due to high monounsaturated fatty acid content
- Great massage oil, as it lubricates, is easily absorbed, and is non-greasy
- High levels of palmitoleic acid make it beneficial for elderly skin
- May reduce scarring
- Contains niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, potassium, and phosphorus
- Shown to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels when used internally.
I recommend this organic macadamia oil.
- Moisturizing properties make it a good ingredient when using in a recipe for dry skin
- Mild aroma helps it blend well for use in various applications
- Helps to smooth wrinkles and fine lines on the skin due to anti-oxidant properties
- Softens dry and calloused skin
- Anti-inflammatory action makes it useful for eczema and psoriasis
- Long shelf life
I recommend this raw, organic mango butter.
Mango Seed Oil
- Antioxidant properties
- Can be used on dry skin with success
- Good “after sun” oil
- Contains vitamin E
- Makes a great addition to daily skin care
- Added to facial regimen can reduce appearance of wrinkles
- Note: must be kept in a cool, dark place
- Very stable oil with a shelf life of 2-3 years
- Small molecular structure helps it to penetrate the skin
- Delays aging and reduces appearance of wrinkles
- Can be heated without turning bad
- Great ingredient to add to other products
I recommend this meadowfoam oil.
- Anti-inflammatory, making it soothing for burns, bites, and itching
- Helps relieve the pain of sprains
- Anti-septic and anti-wrinkle properties
- Astringent and good for bruising
- Can be used to alleviate periodontal issues
- Used internally, can lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase bile secretion
- Note: applying to the scalp can aggravate dandruff
Palm Kernel Oil
- Contains 15 times more beta carotene than carrots; these carotenoids, which give this oil its red color, are destroyed if the oil is boiled
- Rich in co-Q10, and vitamins A and E
- Great for skin health due to the mixed tocopherols
- Solid at room temperature
- Shelf life of 6 months
- Note: this oil is the second most widely produced edible oil; it is not endangered as some would have you believe
I recommend this high quality virgin palm oil.
Peach Kernel Oil
- Non-irritating and a good choice for sensitive skin
- Relieves itching
- Useful for eczema
- Emollient and nourishing
- Slowly absorbed, allowing longer protection
- Great for dry, aging facial skin
- Faint aroma, blends well with other oils
- Produced in the USA
Rosehip/Rose Hip Oil
- Excellent for scars due to its skin regenerative properties
- Great choice for wound healing
- Useful in healing burns
- Can help relieve eczema and acne
- Benefits aging skin, minimizes wrinkles, and can help prevent premature aging due to tissue regenerating properties
- Note: needs to be kept cool and stored away from light
I recommend this organic rosehip seed oil.
- Can help repair psoriasis and eczema
- Relieves rheumatism
- Useful for treating lice
- Used internally, is soothing to the digestive tract
- Contains vitamins A, B, and E, as well as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus
- White seeds provide a better oil than black seeds
- Very stable oil
I recommend this organic sesame oil.
- Cinnamic acid and latex content provides decent UV protection
- Anti-inflammatory properties for use on aching muscles and rheumatism
- Healing properties make it useful for eczema, burns, wounds, and scrapes
- Excellent for reducing appearance of scars and stretch marks
- Remedy for aging skin and dry hair
- Cell regenerating and circulatory
I recommend this raw, organic shea butter.
- Helps soothe hemorrhoids, sinusitis, and rhinitis
- Can be helpful for bruising and ulcers
- Contains vitamins A, D, E, and also calcium, zinc, potassium, iron, and phosphorus
- Used internally, has diuretic and expectorant properties
- Note: be sure to obtain organic oil, which is cold pressed and not refined by using a solvent
I recommend this cold pressed, food grade, organic sunflower oil.
- Anti-bacterial action makes it useful for acne and blemishes
- Eczema and psoriasis are soothed due to its anti-inflammatory properties
- Excellent choice for healing scars
- Topical yeast infections can be helped with an application of this oil
- Analgesic properties are found in this oil, making it useful for topical pain issues
I recommend this organic tamanu oil.
- A blend of herbs (Calendula, Arnica, and St. John's Wort) infused in olive oil (the one I link to below uses cold pressed, certified organic olive oil)
- This synergistic blend packs a powerful punch when it comes to topical skin issues
- Works for a wide range of bumps, bruises, scratches, cuts, and wounds
- Anti-inflammatory action helps with swelling and inflammation
I recommend this trauma oil.
- Relieves itching and peeling; excellent for dandruff
- Relieves pain from burns, including sunburns
- Contains calcium, folic acid, iron, and magnesium
- Used internally to increase lactation and help with heart disease, such as myocardial infarction
- Shelf life 12 months if kept in a cool, dark, place
- Note: non-organic oil has been bleached
- Richest food source of vitamin E, an antioxidant
- Can be used as a preservative
- Contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, E, F, and magnesium, zinc, and iron
- Helps to maintain healthy bone growth when used internally; anti-coagulant
- Useful for dry skin and achy muscles
- Softens skin and regenerates cells, making it a great choice for mature and aging skin.
I recommend this organic wheatgerm oil.
This information is included in my ebook, Essential Oil Profiles: Aromatherapy Reference Manual for the Beginner and Beyond.
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