A Complete Guide to Carrier Oils

guide to carrier oils

From hair treatment and face serum, to massage lotions and anti-ageing products, carrier oils are at the heart of every beauty product. Find out more about these amazing oils and how to choose the right carrier for your homemade creation.

If you are just starting out on your essential oil journey and beginning to look at ways of making your own gorgeous beauty products, then the chances are you’ll have come across the phrase ‘carrier oil’ more than a few times. But what are they? Why do we need them and which ones should you choose? We’ll answer all those questions and more in this comprehensive carrier oil guide.

What is a carrier oil?

As the name suggests, carrier oils are oils that are safe enough to use directly on the skin and can be used to dilute essential oils. Mostly unscented, carrier oils typically come from nuts or seeds and have high vitamin and nutrient content, meaning they are great for your skin.

Why do we need to use carrier oils with essential oils?

Essential oils like ours, which are 100% pure, can cause severe irritation if applied directly on to the skin. When used with a suitable carrier oil, the potency of essential oils is watered down making them OK to apply topically. Put simply, carrier oils dilute essential oils, making them safe to use on your skin. But that’s not all…

Carrier oils are miracle workers in their own right. Most contain essential fatty acids, vitamins and nutrients that do amazing things for our hair and skin. Carrier oils are also often anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants and humectant, meaning they keep the skin hydrated.

By combining the superpowers of carrier oils with the wonderful benefits of essential oils, you can create amazing pure homemade skin and hair care products that are brimming with goodness and no nasty chemicals.

What are free radicals?

To understand the role of antioxidants, first we need to know a little bit about free radicals. Without getting too bogged down in science, free radicals are molecules that contain an unpaired electron. Because electrons like to be in pairs, free radicals are on a mission to find a partner for that single electron.

While that all sounds perfectly reasonable, trouble comes when a free radical pulls an electron from another molecule making that molecule a free radical and causing a chain of destabilisation which often leads to cell damage. Both internally and externally, cell damage caused by free radicals has been linked to various health conditions, skin complaints and the speedup of the natural signs of aging.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are chemical compounds that both prevent the production of, and reduce the damage caused by, free radicals. Antioxidants are able to donate spare electrons to free radicals without damaging themselves, thereby stopping free radicals destabalising other molecules. Unfortunately, while our bodies produce some antioxidants on their own, it’s not enough and production actually slows with age.

To combat an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants we’re always being told to eat antioxidant-rich foods, like colourful fruits and vegetables. When it comes to our skin, dermatologists recommend using creams and products containing antioxidants that will help increase your outer defence against free radicals caused by UV exposure and pollution in the air.

What are anti-inflammatories?

Anti-inflammatories are, as their name suggests, substances that work to control inflammation in the body. They can come in both medicinal and natural form, with many vegetables, nuts, and fruit believed to be naturally anti-inflammatory.

While in some instances inflammation can be a good thing when it comes to protecting the body from infection or injury, in other situations, chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of disease and conditions. Our skin can also suffer from inflammation caused by conditions. like dermatitis and psoriasis which often lead to skin irritations and redness, so many believe that by applying anti-inflammatory oils you can help control milder cases of inflammation.

What are fatty acids?

Fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms and chemical bonds that serve as energy for the heart, muscles and other organs in the body. Critical to proper function of the body, Essential Fatty Acids cannot be produced by the body so the bulk must come from your diet.

A lack of Essential Fatty Acids can also lead to a number of skin complaints, however using carrier oils high in good fatty acids directly on the skin has been shown to be an effective way of delivering the good types of fatty acids both to the skin and, eventually, the rest of the body.

While there are lots of similarities between the best carrier oils for topical use, there are also subtle differences that make some better than others for certain skin types and beauty products. Knowing what you are looking for from your carrier oil will help you choose the right option for you. Let’s start by exploring some of the most popular carrier oils and their favoured uses.

Virgin Argan Oil

The big list of carrier oils

There are as many as 50 recognised carrier oils that can be used for essential oils but many of them are hard to find, expensive or have more suitable replacements. So, to keep this guide digestible we’ll focus on 15 of the most popular and useful carriers.

1. Sweet Almond Oil

Our number one best-selling carrier oil, sweet almond oil is brilliant for hydrating dry skin and soothing irritation. Known for its ability to soften and re-condition the skin by boosting collagen production, sweet almond oil is protein-rich and high in vitamin D.

It’s great for sensitive skin types, is easily absorbed and has a relatively low comedogenic meaning it won’t clog and block your pores. Use it in everything from hair care to facial moisturisers.

2. Jojoba Oil

Another hugely popular carrier, jojoba oil is rich in vitamin E and B-complex vitamins
which help to repair damaged skin and soothe irritation. With antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, this cold-pressed oil absorbs well and is suitable for almost all skin types.

With a subtle, nutty aroma, jojoba oil won’t block the pores of the skin and is claimed by many to ease the effects of acne and eczema. Use it to make beautiful face serums and nourishing hair products.

3. Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil is high in antioxidants, high levels of essential fatty acids and rich in skin-nourishing vitamins. A brilliant choice for skincare products, rosehip carrier oil is suitable for most skin types and is recognised by many as a natural remedy for the signs of ageing and sun damage.

Known to calm and relax a busy mind, rosehip oil is often used by aromatherapists and massage therapists as well as skin care professionals. It’s best kept in the fridge and will be easily absorbed by your skin without clogging your pores.

4. Fractionated Coconut Oil

We’ve all heard about the health-promoting benefits of coconut oil and so it should be of little surprise to see this fractionated coconut oil on the best carrier oil list. An intense moisturiser that softens and smooths the skin, unlike traditional coconut oil this fractionated version is liquid at room temperature and won’t block your pores.

The downside of fractionating coconut oil is that you lose some of the most beneficial fats, however, the resulting carrier oil is still rich in a few essential fatty acids and makes a good base for skin and hair care products.

5. Argan Oil

Brilliant for skincare, argan oil is claimed to offer a wealth of restorative benefits including helping to fade scars, treat acne and smooth and soften the skin. Packed with the good kind of fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, argan oil is a fabulous moisturiser that won’t clog your pores and is easily absorbed.

With a light, nutty fragrance, argan oil is used in everything from anti-ageing creams to shampoos and aftershave lotion, and is wonderfully versatile with a long shelf-life.

6. Grapeseed Oil

Favoured in massage oils, grapeseed oil is a light, odourless carrier that is easily absorbed by the skin. Considered by many to be a good treatment for acne, grapeseed oil contains high levels of antioxidants, essential fatty acids and has anti-inflammatory properties that can all help to nourish and improve your skin.

Also used in hair care products, grapeseed oil is an intensive natural moisturiser which can improve hair’s shine and vitality. Recent studies in Japan have even shown that this nutrient-rich oil may stimulate hair growth and reduce the effects of hair loss.

7. Avocado Oil

We all know the benefits of eating avocados, so it should be no surprise that this all-purpose carrier oil is packed full of goodness. Cold-pressed from the pulp of the fruit, avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, full of vitamins and contains beta carotene.

A fabulous moisturiser, regular use has been attributed to the purification of pores and reduction of pore size. It’s even claimed to reverse the signs of ageing and is often recommended for dry skin conditions like eczema.

8. Neem Oil

Heralded for its skin healing properties, neem oil is mostly used as a carrier oil in skincare treatment. With strong antibacterial properties, it’s high in essential fatty acids and other nutrients, but with a strong, sometimes harsh fragrance, it’s less suitable for everyday moisturisers and might be best saved for homemade scrubs, salves and deodorants.

Studies suggest neem oil can promote the healing of minor skin complaints, making it a good carrier oil for natural products designed to offer relief from skin irritation, inflammation or redness. Also, thanks to its natural pesticide and germicide properties, neem oil is often used in homemade insect repellents.

9. Castor Oil

This thick, sticky oil is known for its emulsifying properties and is commonly used in massage lotions and hair care products. Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, castor oil is also often used in natural moisturisers where it’s thick, humectant properties help to retain moisture and keep the skin hydrated.

Used for thousands of years to treat a range of ailments, castor oil is a cost-effective carrier which is best enjoyed when diluted with another skin-friendly carrier oil. Use it in skin scrubs, homemade face wash, salves and other skincare products.

10. Apricot Kernel Oil

Rich and nourishing apricot kernel oil is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant and antibacterial. High in vitamin A, this soothing, moisturising oil is great for smoothing out blemishes, wrinkles and fine lines making it a good choice carrier oil for skincare products and massage.

Light and gentle, apricot kernel oil is easily absorbed and said to be highly beneficial for the treatment of acne; it may even help reduce the signs of ageing.

11. Vitamin E Oil

A crucial ingredient for protecting skin cells and membranes, vitamin E oil is claimed to play a valuable role in limiting skin damage from UV rays and reducing the signs of ageing. Deeply moisturising, vitamin E is a natural preservative and brilliant carrier oil for combining with other ingredients.

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E oil works to balance free radicals and can be used in skin care products to help protect the body from pollution and sun damage.

12. Hemp Seed Oil

Not to be confused with CBD oil, hemp seed oil is a great choice for skin products and offers amazing moisturising properties. A good choice for treating dry, itchy skin conditions, hemp oil is high in essential fatty acids and proteins.

With anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties, hemp seed oil is a great carrier oil for essential oils and can be used to create gorgeous, skin-loving lotions.

13. Macadamia Oil

Thick and luxurious macadamia oil is deeply nourishing and moisturising yet, as a result, more likely to clog pores and, despite being easily absorbed, does leave an oily layer on the skin.

Naturally anti-inflammatory, macadamia oil can offer protection from free radicals. It’s rich in essential fatty acids, potassium and, uniquely, palmitoleic acid which makes it a great carrier oil for hair care products. Studies have shown that macadamia oil can be used to strengthen, tame and hydrate hair follicles.

14. Wheatgerm Oil

Very high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, wheatgerm oil is a brilliant carrier oil to use in massage thanks to its deeply nourishing qualities. A natural antioxidant, wheatgerm oil promotes circulation and the formation of new cells which can help repair sun-damaged skin.

High in vitamin E, wheatgerm oil has a thick, sticky consistency which is slow to absorb. Blend it with a lighter carrier oil, like sweet almond, to get the benefits of both.

15. Borage Oil

One of the lesser-known, readily available carrier oils, borage oil is one of skincare’s best-kept secrets. Among the richest sources of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals known to man, borage oil is a fantastic option for encouraging healthy, calm and smooth skin.

More expensive than other carrier oils and with a slightly oily finish, we recommend combining borage oil with one of the lighter options on our list to ensure you don’t miss out on its wonderful benefits.

Best carrier oils for hair products

Carrier oils have been used for thousands of years to nourish and protect hair. A key ingredient in shampoos and conditioners, carrier oils not only add their own vitamins and nutrients, they also make it possible to use essential oils on your hair.

When it comes to choosing the best carrier oil for hair care products, we recommend:

Carrier oils for dull hair:

Macadamia oil, fractionated coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond, grapeseed oil, castor oil

Carrier oils for damaged hair:

Macadamia oil, fractionated coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond, grapeseed oil, castor oil

Carrier oils for thinning hair:

Castor oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil

Carrier oils for dry scalps:

Castor oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil

Best carrier oils for skin products

Carrier oils are a vital component of any natural skincare routine but with so many to choose from, it’s worth considering which carrier oil is best suited to your skin type. Whether your skin is dry, aging or oily, there’s a carrier oil to help. If you’re looking to handcraft skincare products for others, it’s best to choose a good all-rounder, like jojoba oil or sweet almond oil. 

Carrier oils for all skin types:

Jojoba oil, sweet almond oil

Carrier oils for dry or aging skin:

Rosehip oil, argan oil

Carrier oils for oily skin:

Castor oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil

Carrier oils for sensitive skin:

Castor oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil

Carrier oils for normal skin:

Castor oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil

For the best results, combine carrier oils to get even more benefits. Start with a base oil that ticks all the boxes, like jojoba or sweet almond, then top it up with one most suited to your skin type or the product you’re creating. Combine several carrier oils until you find your perfect mix.

Best carrier oils for face products

Just like skincare products, there are certain carrier oils that are best suited to face care. Depending on your desired effect, we recommend using oils that are easily absorbed and don’t leave your skin feeling greasy.  

Jojoba oil, sweet almond and argan oil are all fabulous all-rounders that are commonly found in ‘off the shelf’ face care products. Or, for highly acclaimed anti-aging properties, try rosehip oil or avocado oil to reduce the signs of sun damage and age spots. Again, mix and match your favourites and add a few drops of essential oil for a deeply nourishing, irresistible face oil.

Working with the best ingredients

When sourcing carrier oils, make sure you buy the best quality your budget allows. Where ever possible, choose cold-pressed, 100% pure and unrefined oils that have no added additives or preservatives. Doing so will ensure the ingredients you use retain all of those amazing fatty acids, vitamins and skin loving nutrients.

We pride ourselves on only stocking pure, unrefined carrier oils and essential oils at prices that are accessible to everyone. By working directly with farmers around the world, we cut out the middle men to bring you the purest carrier oils and unbeatable prices. Shop the full range today and you’ll be creating gorgeous beauty products in no time: