Essential oils are natural. There are no doubts about that. However, there is a misconception that everything that is natural is safe. Everything natural is not safe. As an extreme example, snake poison is natural; but unsafe. We use many such poisonous substances in our daily life, but in limited quantity. Wrong information and exaggerated benefits, especially about essential oils, cause people to try essential oils without any precautions. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of cases of poisoning due to essential oils have doubled, according to a study. What is more alarming is that the four out of five cases reported, occur in children. Ingestion of the oil is the primary reason for poisoning. However, application of the essential oil on the skin in excess quantity also produces poisoning. An excessive dose of any essential oil can be harmful. It is in this context, that carrier oils become important.
What Is A Carrier Oil?
Essential oils are a concentrated solution of the plant extracts. Essential oils have many medicinal properties. If you use essential oils in its pure form, it will cause many issues. If excess quantity of essential oil enters human body, it may even cause death. These issues arise due to high volatility and concentration of the essential oils. Use of carrier oils avoids such a situation. Carrier oils, on the other hand, do not exhibit extreme characteristics of essential oils. Carrier oils are generally extracted from vegetarian sources. The neutral nature of the essential oils makes it an excellent for diluting essential oils.
Carrier Oils are cold pressed from fatty portions of the vegetables.
Any essential oil can be harmful, if the dose exceeds tolerance levels. And, the tolerance level depends on various factors including the type of oil used, the age of the person using the oil, the amount of carrier oil used, etc. In essence, just using a carrier oil is not enough.
Always add essential oils to carrier oils, and not the other way around. Always!
The essential oils should always be kept out of reach of children. The good smell of essential oils attract kids. They think it is good, because of the smell. Whenever you need, you should add small quantity of essential oil to the carrier oil in the correct proportion. Note that the quantity of the essential oil should be small in comparison to the carrier oil.
It is important to know that vegetable fats and butter like substances are not substitutes for carrier oils. They are meant to be used in kitchen. Similarly, petroleum byproducts like mineral oils are also not suitable as replacements for carrier oils.
Best Carrier Oil For Essential Oils
There is no single best carrier oil with a universal nature. The best carrier oil, depends on many factors including the essential oil, the person who is using, the target use, application, etc. Having said that, the following carrier oils find most common use.
Jojoba Carrier Oil
As the name indicates, jojoba oil is produced from jojoba plant, a plant native to America. Jojoba oil contains more than 97% wax and tiny amount of triglycerides. Hence, the terms jojoba wax and jojoba oil are used interchangeably to describe the same thing. This wax like composition accounts for its long shelf life. It also has extreme resistance to high temperature, unlike many other carrier oils.
Jojoba oil has a golden yellow appearance with slight nutty odor in unrefined form. When refining the oil through cold pressing, it becomes colorless and odorless. The native American community used extracts of the jajoba oil for various purposes. The oil is well absorbed by human skin. The oil has medium viscosity.
Make sure the jojoba oil you get is cold-pressed. Application of heat during extraction makes the oil useless.
Jojoba oil contains a lot of minerals and vitamins. The vitamins and minerals in jojoba oil helps nourishing the skin. Vitamin E, present in jojoba oil makes skin soft and smooth. In the purest form, jojoba oil has an SPF of 4 and is used as base for sunscreen lotions. Jojoba oil mixes well with other carrier oils and most essential oils.
Almond Carrier Oil
Almond oil is known to humans for long. Historical evidences point to use of almond oil in ancient Roman empire. No wonder, it was because of the medicinal properties of the oil and abundant availability of almond.
There are two types of almond oils – bitter and sweet. Humans, mainly use sweet almond. Bitter almond, although has many medicinal usages, contains poisonous substances like cyanide. Hence, it is best avoided.
Do not use bitter almond without medical supervision.
The oil, does not cost much. It is light in viscosity and works well with most skin types. It can nourish skin and repair certain damages on the skin. People with dry and sensitive skin will love almond oil. The oil mostly contains Vitamin E, which nourishes skin. The amount of other vitamins and minerals in the oil is negligible.
As a carrier oil, almond oil mixes well with most essential oils and carrier oils. However, if you have allergy for nuts, then it is best to avoid this oil and use jojoba oil instead. This oil has approximately 10 months shelf life. In case you find not using much of sweet almond oil with essential oils, you can apply it directly on your skin.
Grapeseed Carrier Oil
Grapeseed oil is extracted from grape vine. Usually, cold pressing of the grape fruit produces excellent quality grapeseed carrier oil. Grapeseed is rich in vitamins E, C and D. It enhances the skin and reduces skin problems. It heals skin issues that finds its use in the treatment of sunburn. The oil is rich in linoleic acid.
Grapeseed oil is light and has thin consistency. It has good moisturizing properties and hence finds use in massaging, too! It forms a thin coating over the skin, protecting it from external environment. The oil penetrates well into the skin and delivers the benefits with ease. This property is extremely useful as it complements a weakness of essential oils. Hence, this oil acts as an excellent carrier. The oil does not stain cloths as well. On the downside, the oil has relatively less shelf life.
Coconut Fractionated Carrier Oil
Coconut oil is one of the best carrier oils out there. It has a pleasant smell and good properties that enhances the skin. In Kerala (a part of India), people use this oil for everything from cooking to hair care to bathing. In fact, the name Kerala derives from the local name for coconut. More importantly, it is an integral part of Ayurvedic system of medicine, for treatment of various diseases.
The coconut oil, however, solidifies at lower temperatures. The virgin coconut oil solidifies at lower temperatures. So, mixing solid coconut oil with essential oils becomes difficult. Especially, when you try to apply it on your skin or face. So, fractionated coconut oil is the oil after removing the organic chemicals which helps the coconut oil solidify. Upon removing the component, the oil stays in liquid form, making it easy to keep for longer periods. The virgin coconut oil has a short shelf life.
Coconut oil mixes well with other essential oils and carrier oils. Good quality virgin coconut oil has an excellent smell. It helps in moisturizing the skin and hair. Unrefined coconut oil can help solve many hair related problems, as well.
Rosehip Carrier Oil
Rosehip oil is one of the best kept secrets. It one of those oils which found its use in ancient civilizations. Today also, many celebrities use rosehip oil. Rosehip seeds when subjected to cold pressing, produces rosehip oil. The seeds for extraction of the oil is comes from Chilie and other Latin American countries. For extraction purpose, only seeds of a particular variety of essential oils finds its use.
Rosehip oil is one of the best oils that can enhance and moisturize human skin. The oil is rich in many vitamins like Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. The oil also contains beta-carotene, which is a form of Vitamin A. In addition, the oil contains significant amount of anti-oxidants, which acts as an anti-ageing formula along with other vitamins. It can even clean the black spots on your face.
This oil can act as another great carrier oil. The oil is light and non-greasy. It mixes well with other essential oils. It mixes well with other carrier oils as well.
Hazelnut Carrier Oil
Hazelnut oil is an excellent carrier oil. Cold pressing hazelnut produces hazelnut oil. This oil has a pale yellow color. This oil is one of those all rounder oils out there. It finds its use almost everywhere. The oil is rich in good fatty acids and Vitamin E. The rich vitamin E contents, makes it good for application on the skin.
The extraction process for hazelnut essential oil involves cold pressing of hazelnuts. The oil has a pale yellow color and a good aroma. this oil is a good base for some essential oils like sandalwood oil, linaloe oil, etc.
On the flip side, hazlenut oil is expensive. The oil has limited shelf life, at about eight months.
Apricot Carrier Oil
Apricot oil is yet another carrier oil which finds its use as a carrier oil. Cold press extraction of apricot seeds produces apricot oil its purest form. Although there are chemical extraction and purification methods available, cold press extraction is better due to the organic nature of the process. During cold press extraction, chemical properties of the oil does not change.
Apricot oil majorly contains Vitamin E and other acids which helps protecting our skin. In addition, the oil has excellent moisturizing and anti-ageing properties. Because of this, the cosmetic industry loves apricot oil. In fact, many expensive cosmetics use apricot oil as one their ingredients. The light nature of apricot oil helps in its use with essential oils, making the absorption by the skin easy.
Please note that apricot oil is not safe for ingestion. Human digestive system converts a substance in apricot oil to cyanide. This situation can be fatal. Hence, you should use only refined oil for ingestion purpose.
Avocado Carrier Oil
Avocado oil is one of those carrier oils which does not find its origin from seeds. The oil is extracted from pulpy region of the avocado fruit. Avocado is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, etc. Unrefined avocado oil has a yellow to yellowish green color. Like other oils, be sure to use cold pressed variation of the oil.
Avocado oil is good for hair and skin. It suitable even for oily skin. The natural moisturizing properties of the oil helps your skin. Avocado oil works with most essential oils. It also combines very well with other carrier oils.
Mixing Essential Oils With Carrier Oils
The crucial part of using essential oils is ensuring safety. You should take utmost care, while applying the essential oil on your skin. Improper topical usage of essential oil, either in neat form or in excess quantity can produce undesired effects. There are a lot articles on the web advocating for neat or undiluted application of essential oils on the skin. I have seen many popular websites suggesting neat usage of lavender essential oil and tea tree essential oil. We practice and advocate for defensive aromatherapy.
Do not apply undiluted essential oil on your skin, even is small quantity!
When in doubt ask an experienced practitioner. Resist the temptation to guess, when you are in a dilemma. The best suggestions I have seen recommended by many practitioners range from 1% to 2% for regular oils. However, do not use even that amount for some highly volatile oils. Most essential oils come with printed literature, informing you about suggested usages. When in doubt, always cross check with reliable sources.
For every 30 ml carrier oil, add maximum 12 drops of essential oil. For kids and elderly, add only half the quantity.
In most cases, I do not add more than 10 drops. There is a strong reason behind holding back two drops. I prefer insufficient quantity of essential oil to overdose and resulting complications. Insufficient quantity may lead to extended duration of treatment. However, that extended duration of treatment is better than endangering yourself.
Pregnant women and infants should not use essential oils, even if it is diluted with a carrier oil.
Improper use of essential oils may lead to severe allergic reactions in your body. Since many of the essential oils are strong enough to cause permanent damage to your skin, caution is always advised.
Diffuser & Carrier Oil
Essential oil diffusers are the most popular way to practice aromatherapy. Do you need to add carrier oils when you use essential oils in diffusers? In most situations, the answer is no. Normally, one would not use essential oil diffuser like an inhaler. So, you would be inhaling the essential oil that reaches you through air, at a distance. Hence, the amount of oil reaching your body is minimal. So there is no need to use a carrier oil in normal course.
Even then, there are certain cases which does call for use of carrier oils. Most noteworthy is in connection with the usage of essential oils like citrus oil, lemongrass oil, etc. In such cases, the essential oil may react with diffuser construction material or even reach inside our body in excess quantity. To avoid such situations, some practiotiners suggest usage of such oils with a carrier oil.
As you can see, most carrier oils act very smoothly on our skin and body. They are absorbed well by our skin, and helps carrying essential oil, present in minute quantity, to the the skin. Do test for allergy or any reactions on your skin by applying on a small area.
Essential oils, if used injudiciously, can cause more problems and bring more benefits. The problems created by such a usage will stay with you for your lifetime. Essential oils are poisonous. Not just for humans, for pets as well. Always use recommended methods of mixing essential oils with carrier oils. Lastly, resist temptation to guess and experiment!