We love using essential oils in our home. We use them to help manage emotional issues, clean our home, and for supporting our bodies in a variety of other ways.
The safest ways to use essential oils are topically and aromatically. When we talk about topical use of essential oils, you often will see people refer to a carrier oil. A carrier oil is used to dilute an essential oil.
Why Use a Carrier Oil?
Essential oils are powerful, up to 70x more powerful than when used as an herb, so they need to be used with care and appropriate dilution.
You will find some people arguing to use essential oils “neat”, or without dilution. Not only can this cause skin sensitization, but much of the oil is lost to evaporation and never even makes it onto your body or into the tissue. I recommend diluting essential oils to below 20% for adults, and below 10% for children. 1% – 2% for infants and toddlers, making sure the oils aren’t contraindicated for that age group.
Every drop of essential oil added to 1 tsp or 5mL of carrier oil will increase the dilution 1%. So if I’m using a 10mL roller ball, every 2 drops in that container will raise the dilution percentage 1%.
What is a Carrier Oil?
A carrier oil can be anything you use to dilute and disperse an essential oil. You can use anything with a lipid or fat base. Liquid oils such as jojoba, olive, and fractionated coconut oil will work well, and so will more solid choices like shea butter, lotion, or regular coconut oil.
Simply choose the carrier oil that is going to compliment the purpose of the essential oil application, or one that is convenient.
Here are 5 commonly used carrier oils and their benefits.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil, or FCO, probably one of the most common carrier oils. It is used frequently by massage therapists because it provides a non-greasy barrier that does not clog pores.
FCO is different than the coconut oil you might use for cooking. It is, as the name implies, a fraction of coconut oil. The medium chain fatty acid, lauric acid, is removed, leaving the other medium-chain fatty acids caprylic and capric acids. This process makes FCO stay liquid at room temperature.
Fractionated coconut oil is my “go-to” when filling roller ball containers and when diluting essential oil samples for friends and customers. Choose fractionated coconut oil especially for it’s anti-fungal properties and when you need a smooth gliding application.
Good old coconut oil is a great carrier oil. Coconut oil is antifungal, making it a great carrier oil to use to protect the skin. It also moisturizes deeply, which makes it a good choice for carrying essential oils down into the tissues.
Coconut oil solid below 76*F. It can be whipped into a more lotion-like state if desired, but it melts easily with the warmth of your body, so I often just leave it alone.
Some kinds of coconut oil are scentless (like Wildly Organic’s expeller pressed coconut oil), while others smell coconutty (like their raw cold pressed oil). Be aware of the scent profile when choosing coconut oil, but it is a great anti-fungal.
Jojoba oil has many benefits for our skin and body. It is, however, more expensive than most oils. Jojoba oil penetrates the skin easily, and is especially a good choice for more mature skin.
Jojoba is actually a liquid wax, and not a true oil. It’s structure closely resembles that of our skin’s natural sebum, and therefore works very well in harmony with the skin’s natural chemistry. It is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
Choose jojoba oil if you have aging skin, or have severely damaged skin.
Olive oil is full of antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols, and therefore helps to prevent premature aging of the skin. Vitamin E helps to protect against UV radiation as well.
Olive oil penetrates deeply into the skin to moisturize and cleanse the skin without clogging pores. Olive oil is a great choice for facial products and can even be used as an aftershave.
There have been a lot of adulterated olive oils on the market lately, so make sure you are getting pure olive oil to get the maximum benefit.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil is a common oil to use in skincare products. It is rich in vitamins A, B, and E. Sweet almond oil is absorbed quickly by the skin, and doesn’t clog pores. Choose sweet almond oil when you need to soothe and hydrate your skin.
Five carrier oils. All incredible in their own right. So the next time you have an essential oil you need diluted, choose the carrier oil that’s right for you!