Carrier oils contain specific ingredients, or chemical properties, that are effective in aromatherapy treatments. The key is identifying which properties are most beneficial for you. Carrier oils can even be used on their own in massage or skin treatments for their therapeutic actions. This makes them particularly useful during pregnancy or for babies and children, when essential oils are too potent for use even in dilution.

For example, sweet almond oil may be used on its own for its gentle and nourishing properties in baby massage. It is non-toxic and non-irritating, and can help to soothe skin irritations such as mild eczema and nappy rash.

A summary of the properties of some commonly used oils in aromatherapy is given below. If you are pregnant or have a nut allergy, avoid using nut-based oils.

Avocado Oil

Rich in vitamin A, avocado is good for dry and mature skins, and can treat skin damaged by harsh weather conditions. It is also helpful for nappy rash.

Carrot Oil

This oil is very rich in betacarotene (vitamin A) and may be too powerful for sensitive skins; use in dilution with other carrier oils. It is beneficial for dry, itchy, irritated and aging skin types.

Cocoa Butter Oil

The reputed food of the gods, Theobroma cacao, is great for your skin (and hair) too. Solid at room temperature, it easily melts upon contact with skin and has excellent emollient, moisturising and nourishing properties. It makes a great base for aromatherapy hair treatments.

Corn Oil

This can be used as a 100% base oil. It has a high content of vitamin E, which makes it a good preservative to add to other aromatherapy blends, and also makes it highly beneficial for your skin.

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Evening Primrose Oil

Rich in essential fatty acids, particularly GLA, this oil is useful for eczema, arthritis, conditioning the hair, skin and nails, and premenstrual tension (if taken internally as capsules).

Hemp Oil

Rich in proteins and essential fatty acids, this oil is beneficial for eczema and dry skins. It is diversely used in cosmetic products.

Macadamia Oil

The scent of this oil may overpower a blend and it is advisable to dilute it with a lighter carrier oil such as sunflower or sweet almond. It contains palmitoleic acid, which is also found in the sebum of skin, and it is helpful for dry or mature skins with low sebum production.

Rosehip Oil

This oil is quite thick and is usually blended at 10% dilution in lighter carrier oils for massage. However, it can be used as a 100% facial oil for cosmetic use. It has remarkable anti-aging and rejuvenating properties and is reputedly useful for fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and sun-damaged skin due to its ability to help skin repair and regenerate. This is thought to be due to its high concentration of retin A.

Safflower Oil

This is a 100% base oil. This oil has the highest percentage of unsaturated fatty acids and is also a good oil for baby massage. It is beneficial for bruises, sprains and arthritis.

Sesame Oil

This oil is quite thick and heavily scented. It may overpower a blend and could be diluted with another, lighter carrier oil such as sunflower before use. It is excellent for moisturising and nourishing dry or dehydrated skin types.

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Wheatgerm

Its smell is an acquired taste and often not to everybody’s, but it may be disguised in a blend by adding in small quantities. It is high in vitamin E, which makes it a good preservative to add to aromatherapy blends, and also makes it nourishing and antioxidant to skin.