Bottles of oils surrounded by pink flowers and green leaves. As well as, bundles of crystals.

What is carrier oil?

With so many essential oils available, you’d be forgiven for thinking carrier oil is like any another. In fact, carrier oil is – as its name implies – the oil world’s delivery guy. They dilute essential oils, which can irritate the skin in their pure form, allowing them to safely be transported to your skin during aromatherapy treatments and massages. In this article, we’ll explain how to choose a carrier oil to complement your essential oils, why you should use one, and how to best use them.

How to choose a carrier oil

Be conscientious when choosing a carrier oil that some have a scent, which may be problematic if you plan to use them in aromatherapy treatments.

Consider these factors before choosing a complementary carrier oil:

  • Some carrier oils have a distinct smell, including sweet almond oil, olive oil, and coconut oil.
  • Absorption. Carrier oils including grapeseed, canola, and rosehip are absorbed by the skin much faster than other oils, including avocado and castor.

  • Skin sensitivity. Some individuals with sensitive skin may react to some varieties of carrier oil. Coconut, argan and avocado are typically considered safe for all skin types.

  • Oil rancidity. Although essential oils do not go off, carrier oils do. Choose a carrier oil with long shelf-life like coconut, avocado, or pomegranate, rather than oils like rosehip or grapeseed, if you don’t plan to use it immediately.

Different benefits of carrier oils

Different carrier oils have various benefits. Consider their characteristics before choosing a carrier oil to complement your treatment:

  • Coconut oil is incredibly moisturising1 , thanks to its high fatty acid and polyphenol content, making it great for massage treatments.

  • Rosehip oil has been proven to help improve skin tone and can reduce the appearance of imperfections, making it an excellent choice for beauty-boosting treatments2.

  • Avocado oil may3 in its simple form, help to lend a youthful glow to the skin. However, be advised that it does have a nutty scent.

  • Sweet almond oil helps smooth and improve the appearance of skin tone4. Although scented, many people like the scent, so incorporate almond oil into aromatherapy and massage treatments.

Why use a carrier oil?

Essential oils are so potent and concentrated that they can be incredibly irritating to the skin – they can even cause chemical burns. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin. Even when using them in a diffuser, or you may experience headaches and spikes in heart rate5.

Carrier oil uses

Use a carrier oil with your favourite essential oil, in these ways:

  • Diffuse: for no more than 30 minutes, otherwise you may experience respiratory tract irritation

  • Inhale: pour your aromatherapy formula onto a cotton pad or cloth and inhale deeply for a soothing, on-the-go treatment

  • Massage: into areas of the body experiencing stiffness or tension

  • Dilute: into cleansers to enjoy their benefits while showering.
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Last Updated: 9th February 2021

Expertly reviewed by:

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AromatherapySkincare

Doaa Al Mosawi,
International Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: Mar 2019

BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science

After completing her BSc in Biomedical Science, Doaa worked in Research and laboratory for 3 years. Doaa was also a member of a product development team in a manufacturing company specialising in sun care and personal care products, researching and providing regulatory advice regarding international regulations.