Carrier oils are a key part of aromatherapy, which is a complementary therapy that involves using essential oils to aid physical and emotional health. Types of carrier oils include coconut oil, black cumin seed oil, jojoba oil, and more.

Carrier oils dilute concentrated essential oils so that people can apply them to the skin without experiencing side effects.

People practice aromatherapy to help with a wide range of health issues, from acne to asthma.

This article examines what carrier oils are and how people can use them alongside essential oils.

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People make essential oils through the distillation of the aromatic leaves, flowers, barks, and roots of plants. If they apply these oils directly to the skin, however, they can cause reactions, such as severe irritation, flushing, or burning.

Carrier oils dilute the essential oils and help “carry” them into the skin. People also sometimes use aloe vera gels and unscented body lotions as carriers.

Carrier oils are usually vegetable oils, such as coconut oil or avocado oil, derived from the seeds, kernels, or nuts of a plant.

Many people obtain these oils through cold pressing. In this process, a person presses or crushes a plant without subjecting it to heat. This minimal processing can help preserve bioactive substances in oils.

Although some are odorless, most carrier oils have a faint smell that is sweet and nutty. Unlike essential oils, they do not evaporate.

Different carrier oils have different properties and uses. The carrier oil a person chooses for aromatherapy treatment will depend on their desired outcome.

The following sections look at some different carrier oils in more detail.

Coconut oil (Cocos nucifera)

People have been using coconut oil as a moisturizer for centuries. Some reports state that the oil has antimicrobial properties. This is largely due to its high lauric acid content, which is the main fatty acid in coconut oil.

A person may use coconut oil either as a carrier oil or on its own. They can apply it to the skin, hair, and lips, and it helps protect the skin by leaving a thin layer of oil behind.

Black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa)

Black cumin seed oil is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal. In its essential oil form, it may also help promote the healing of wounds and burns.

This oil is golden brown and has a mild earthy, woody smell that can be slightly spicy or peppery. Black cumin seed oil also absorbs into the skin quickly.

Jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis)

People often use jojoba oil, which is actually a wax, in massages. Due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties, it may also help treat acne.

In aromatherapy, it absorbs well and could be a good choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin.

Jojoba oil is yellow and has a distinct but pleasant smell.

Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)

Evening primrose oil has a long history as a natural remedy. Some studies report that it may improve quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis and may help reduce eczema symptoms.

Aromatherapists tend to blend evening primrose oil with other carrier oils. It has a high essential fatty acid content, meaning that it deteriorates and goes rancid quite quickly.

Rosehip oil (Rosa mosqueta)

Rosehip oil is rich in essential fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid. It may aid in physiological and physical relaxation, help reduce anxiety, and have other therapeutic effects.

Grapeseed oil (Vitus vinifera)

Grapeseed oil has documented antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It has a light aroma that is slightly sweet and nutty, and it is virtually clear in color. It leaves a glossy film on the skin.

This oil is the result of pressing the seeds of particular grape varieties.

Massage and body oils are made by combining essential oils with one or more carrier oils. It is important to follow guidance on the appropriate ratio of essential oils to carrier oils.

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommends using 2.5% to 10% essential oils when creating massage and body oils. A person should use a carrier oil for the rest of the mixture.

The ratio of essential oil dilution is lower in facial treatments. People with sensitive skin should use 0.5% to 1% of essential oils in facial treatments, whereas those with less sensitive skin can use 1% to 2.5%.

Aromatherapy involves using concentrated essential oils that a person has extracted from herbs, flowers, and other plants to soothe various health issues.

The term dates back to 1937, when French perfumer and chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse first coined the word “aromatherapie.”

Today, the term aromatherapy is widely accepted to refer to the use of essential oils to bring about holistic, therapeutic, or medicinal benefits. People often use aromatherapy alongside medical treatments to help relieve symptoms of various conditions.

People use aromatherapy oils for many different ailments, including:

Carrier oils make it possible for people to enjoy the benefits of applying essential oils to their skin without experiencing irritation and other skin symptoms.

Many carrier oils have their own therapeutic properties. This means that different combinations of carrier and essential oils can have unique health benefits.

People using essential oils in topical treatments should always follow dilution guidance.

Various essential and carrier oils are readily available for purchase.