What is a Carrier Oil?
A carrier oil is a natural resource derived from a part of a plant just like an essential oil however it is usually found in the seeds or nuts of a plant. It is generally found in the fatty part of the plant. What does that actually mean? Lets think of it in these terms. A seed is a promise of a plant and if we plant that seed it will grow, if properly nurtured into said plant. However, there is a period of time between planting that seed and when that seed sprouts roots where it cannot absorb nutrients from the soil. If the roots are where a plant obtains the nutrients and minerals needed to grow, and they are; exactly how does it start to grow before it has roots – the classic question, what came first the chicken or the egg?! Not really but anyway. The answer is much simpler – the seed contains all the necessary fats, nutrients and minerals in the form of an oil needed for the exact amount of time that it takes for the roots to sprout and so the seed uses these oils as it’s food source. Seeds are activated in water which starts the whole process. Have you ever heard of activated nuts? Basically this means they have been soaked in water so that the growth cycle (germination) and oils in them are ‘activated’.
What is the purpose of a carrier oil when mixed with an essential oil?
Apart from having excellent qualities and compounds themselves the purpose of using a carrier oil with an essential oil is for dilution. It can also aid in absorption and enhance the qualities and benefits within the essential oils themselves.
How many carrier oils are there out there?
A LOT. Basically any oil that has been extracted from a seed or nut can be classified as a carrier oil. There are too many to list them all but I will list some along with their benefits at the end of this blog.
What is the difference between a carrier oil, an emulsifier and a disperser?
A carrier oil will dissolve the essential oil or at least combine with itself effectively diluting it or forming a new ‘solution’, the 2 oils will remain combined.
An emulsifier will not only allow an essential oil to bind with a certain amount of water but will stop them from separating or splitting.
A disperser of essential oils is a compound that will allow an essential oil to disperse through it but will not dissolve the essential oil.
How do I use or determine if a carrier oil is necessary?
I have said it before and will keep on saying it, dilute dilute dilute. It is best to dilute the essential oils before use so as to minimise any reaction that you may have. The only way to properly dilute an oil is with an oil or in other words to use a carrier oil. However, you can use other substances that are actually dispersers or emulsifiers to dilute depending on their end use
If you are going to use an essential oil with a dispersing agent such as liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, salt or sugar (scrubs/bath salts) etc, then you need to remember that that dispersing agent will dissolve in water but the essential will not.
If you going to put the product in a large amount of water before you use it, then a dispersing agent is not what you need for the purpose of dilution. If you are going to add small amounts of water, say for a shampoo or conditioner, then it should be fine.
A good example of wrongly using a disperser as a dilution agent are bath salts.
Some people like to add their essential oils neat in their bath salt recipe thinking that the salt is diluting the essential oil but this is just not the case. The salt is acting as a carrier whilst in it’s crystal form, but once dissolved it leaves the essential oil undiluted – it will sit on the top of the water in blobs. Some essential oils can be used neat so this is not the worst thing to happen however if you use those bath salts with children that oil could end up in an eye or as a large dose landing on a single location on their little bodies. So if you are going to make bath salts, use a carrier oil to properly dilute the oil first.
Just like with the dispersing agent, an emulsifying agent such as Witch Hazel will allow oil to evenly distribute in water. However, it is dependent on the volume. If you use too much water then it will not emulsify and you will be left with blobs of essential oil on the top of the water.
So to answer the question, when do you need a carrier oil? You will need a carrier oil when you need to dilute.
What is my go to carrier oil?
Personally, my go to carrier oil is doTERRA’s Fractionated Coconut Oil. Excerpt: “doTERRA Fractionated Coconut Oil is a natural carrier oil that readily absorbs into the skin, making it an ideal oil for topical delivery. Its feather-light emollient effect provides a soothing barrier without clogging pores and is excellent for dry skin. It leaves skin feeling silky smooth and non-greasy, unlike other vegetable carrier oils. Fractionated Coconut Oil is completely soluble with all essential oils and is colourless, odourless, and will not stain.”. There are other oils I use when needed for a specific formulation however this one is always my favourite for general application.
List of carrier oils
Now for my list of Carrier Oils and some of their benefits. This is only what I have researched thus far, there may be many other benefits not noted here and if you know of some please let us all know in the comments. As previously mentioned this list is by no means complete there are so many out there this blog would turn it a book!
Antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, reduces inflammation, improves skin issues, improves healing, reduces aging, beneficial to burns, eczema, psoriasis dandruff, dermatitis, natural UV blocker, good face cleanser and moisturiser, vitamin E, lauric acid, improves cellulite and stretch marks.
Apricot Kernel Oil
Rich in omega 6 gammalinolenic acid, vitamin A & E, relatively quick absorption, good for all skin types, excellent hydration and healing qualities and great for very dry skin, vitamin k.
Sweet Almond Oil
Vitamin E, natural UV blocker, odourless, quick absorption, good for all skin types.
Thick consistency, one of the healthiest oils for the skin, vitamin A & E, collagen boosting plant sterolins, best oil for using in serums or mixed with other oils.
Roughly 80% fatty acids so it is easily absorbed by our skin, hair, nails etc and has fantastic hydration. Improves elasticity, reduces fine lines and wrinkles.
Rose hip Seed Oil
Highest concentration of vitamin A, reduces wrinkle depth, fine lines and age spots, improves damaged skin, increases new skin cell generation, increases collagen, rich in essential fatty acids omega 6 & 3 (linolenic acid), light weight.
Carrot seed oil
Antioxidant, carotenoids, boosts immune response to UV/sun damage, increases skin cell regeneration, detoxifies skin, good for eczema and psoriasis.
Pomegranate seed oil
High antioxidants, punicic & allegic acid, improves elasticity, improves cell regeneration, improves eczema and psoriasis, heals dry, irritated, burned damaged skin.
Rich in vitamin b complex, sooths razor burn, improves acne and scaring, helps dry skin and dandruff, humectant, moisturising, antibacterial, antioxidant vitamin e, non-comedogenic, regulates sebum, hypo-allergenic, improves collagen, healing, reduces inflammation, helps eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis
Till next time readers, have a fantastic day!!!