Getting to Know Your Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are usually overlooked because they don’t contain the therapeutic constituents of other essential oils, but they can play an indispensable companion of topically applied oils. Let’s take a closer look at these carriers and why they deserve a place on the shelf of anyone who uses and loves essential oils.

What are carrier oils?

Carrier oils are also known as base oil or vegetable oil and are naturally derived from vegetarian sources and have a neutral smell. They are used to dilute essential oils before they are applied to the skin in massage and aromatherapy. They are not volatile like essential oils, which makes them an excellent medium for dilution and application.

How are carrier oils used?

Essential oils are volatile, which means they evaporate rapidly and contain the natural smell and characteristics of the plant. This can make them too strong to apply undiluted. Carrier oils do not evaporate or have a strong aroma, making them the perfect pair for diluting especially strong essential oils—reducing the concentration of the essential oil without altering its therapeutic qualities. When you dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil, you can also control its concentration before applying.

Like other substances that are high in fat, carrier oils have a limited shelf life, meaning that eventually they can go bad. Depending on the type, oils with a short shelf life should typically be used within six months, while oils with a longer shelf life may stay good for up to a year. It’s important to store oils in their original air-tight containers in a cool, dark place, such as the pantry, to maximize shelf life.

Carrier oils can vary widely in their consistency, absorption, aroma, shelf life, and other characteristics. Carrier oils can be blended to change or combine their properties, so you can mix and match until you find the blend that’s just right for you!

An example of how carrier oils are used.

Let’s say you want to use tea tree oil on your face to fight acne and improve your complexion.  If you applied the recommended topical dose which is about 1-3 drops this would not be enough to cover your chin, forehead, nose and neck.  However by combining the same 1-3 drops of tea tree oil with about half a teaspoon of any carrier oil, you can now apply the mixture to every area on your face and neck.

Get to know some of the more popular carrier oils!


  • A proprietary Young Living formula combining fractionated coconut oil, grape seed oil, sweet almond oil, wheat germ oil (contains a lot of vitamin E and acts as a natural preservative), sunflower oil, and olive oil
  • Moisturizes and nourishes the skin
  • An excellent carrier oil for all your best essential oils and applications

**Caution: May cause a reaction to those with nut allergies.

Grapeseed Oil

  • Light and thin consistency
  • Well suited for massages; leaves a light glossy film over the skin
  • Moisturizing
  • High in linoleic acid
  • Relatively short shelf life

Sweet Almond Oil*

  • Slightly sweet, nutty aroma
  • Medium consistency
  • Absorbs relatively quickly; leaves a slight hint of oil on the skin
  • Rich in vitamin E and oleic acid
  • Moisturizing
  • Good all-purpose carrier oil

*Caution: May cause a reaction to those with nut allergies.

Jojoba Oil

  • Slightly nutty aroma
  • Medium consistency
  • Superior, non-greasy absorption, similar to the skin’s natural oils
  • Moisturizing for skin and hair
  • Long shelf life

Olive Oil

  • Popular, easy-to-find oil used in both topical and culinary applications
  • Thicker consistency; leaves an oily feel on the skin
  • Stronger aroma
  • Good source of oleic acid (omega fatty acid)
  • Relatively short shelf life

Fractionated Coconut Oil

  • Unlike coconut oil, fractionated coconut oil is liquid at room temperature
  • No noticeable aroma
  • Absorbs well; leaves skin feeling silky and moisturized; non-greasy
  • High in essential fatty acids
  • Long shelf life

Coconut Oil

  • Solid at room temperature
  • Distinct coconut aroma
  • Solid white colour
  • Leaves a moisturizing, oily feeling layer on top of the skin
  • Long shelf life

Argan Oil

  • Absorbs quickly and it’s gentle enough to use on sensitive skin
  • Does not leave a greasy feeling on the skin
  • Has a nutty aroma and is rich in vitamins A and E, and monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Long shelf life, store in a cool, dry place at room temperature

Avocado Oil

  • Has very little scent
  • Cream coloured
  • Is a deeply, penetrating monounsaturated oil and is best suited for very dry, mature, irritated, or sun-damaged skin and hair.

Cocoa Butter

  • Solid and difficult to work with at room temperature
  • Best used when melted and blended with other carrier oils
  • Sweet, chocolate aroma

Shea Butter

  • Solid at room temperature
  • Nutty aroma
  • Cream coloured
  • Moisturizing to skin and hair; leaves behind a moisturizing, waxy-feeling layer


Just like you would when applying a new essential oil to your skin, I recommend doing a small skin patch test first before applying it to a larger area of your body. Although most of these carrier oils are gentle enough to be used on sensitive skin, you want to be sure that you don’t have an allergy or sensitivity to this new carrier oil.

Most of the carrier oils discussed in this article can be found online or in your local health food store. Most carrier oils can be stored in the refrigerator or in a dark, cool place be sure to store your carrier oils in a dark glass jar with a tight fitting top. Remember, over time carrier oils can become rancid (bad), which causes the oil to have a strong, bitter odour. If you notice that the scent of your carrier oil has changed, throw it out and buy a new one.


Which carrier oils do use and keep on hand?

Love to hear your comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *