Carrier oils are high-quality vegetable oils used to dilute essential oils. Carrier oils include almond, apricot, hazelnut, olive, grape seed, walnut and sesame seed oils, but there are many other carrier oils to choose from.

Vegetable oil molecules are large and do not penetrate the skin. This makes them great “carriers” for essential oil molecules which are absorbed by the skin.

Dilution Percentages for Aromatherapy Blends

A good rule of thumb for dilution is 2 drops of essential to 98 drops of carrier oil. This translates to 10 to 12 drops of essential oil to every ounce of carrier oil. When it comes to aromatherapy, less is usually better, so it’s rarely necessary to exceed a 3% dilution. As a matter of fact, a 1% dilution (6 drops essential oil / 1 ounce carrier oil) is better for massage oils because so much of it is used during a massage. The lower dilution is better for both the client and the person doing the massaging.

  • 1% Dilution: 5 to 6 drops of essential oil for each ounce of carrier oil
  • 2% Dilution: 10 to 12 drops of essential oil for each ounce of carrier oil
  • 3% Dilution: 15 to 18 drops of essential oil for each ounce of carrier oil

Benefits of Carrier Oil

Carrier oils used in aromatherapy are usually vegetable oils made from nuts and seeds. This means they are naturally high in vitamins A, E and F. They make the best carrier oils because they are softening, soothing, skin-nourishing and rich in nutrients. Vegetable oils are ideal for body care, because they moisturize and protect your skin.

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Choosing a Carrier Oil

Look for either expeller-pressed or cold-pressed vegetable oils. This means the oils have not been exposed to temperatures over 110 degrees F. Olive oil is an example of a cold-pressed oil that is readily available. Organic oils are always the best choice.

Although there is little difference between vegetable oils, some have greater healing ingredients, such as vitamins. Some contain additional skin nutrients, such as gamma linoleic acid (GLA).

Smell, color and consistency are other factors to consider. The lighter smell and color of hazelnut, almond and grape seed oils are most preferred for cosmetics. Use caution with unrefined oils, as they may leave you smelling like food (peanut oil almost always leaves you smelling like a peanut butter sandwich, no matter how much essential oil you add).

To learn more about specific carrier oils, please refer to Common Carrier Oils and Specialty Carrier Oils.

Saturation Rates of Carrier Oils

Saturation rate means how thick the oil is. The more saturated it is, the thicker it is. The greater the thickness, the longer it stays on the skin, and the longer its shelf life. Unsaturated oils might appear to be absorbed into the skin, but they are actually evaporating slowly. The thickness choice depends on the application. Thicker oils are more suited for massage, as they provide a constantly oily surface over which to glide the hands. Unsaturated oils are better suited for cosmetics and skin care products because they are less thick and sticky.

Extending the Shelf Life of Carrier Oils and Aromatherapy Blends

  • Heat & Light – To extend the life and freshness of your oil blend, store carrier oils away from heat and light.
  • Refrigeration – Refrigeration of vegetable oils is highly recommended. A refrigerated blend could possibly keep for six months or more. If refrigeration is not possible, be sure to keep your oils and blends in a cool, dark place.
  • Vitamin E — Because it is an antioxidant, adding it to an aromatherapy oil blend extends the shelf life of most oils. Adding one or two capsules (200 to 400 IU) per 2-ounce bottle is sufficient.
  • Jojoba Oil – This is actually a wax. Adding it to your aromatherapy blend extends the shelf life by slowing down the oxidation process which leads to a rancid product.
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Carrier oils make all the difference in your aromatherapy blend, and there are many things to consider. Doing some research, and looking for high quality products assures you of doing the very best for your body and achieving the highest possible results.