Carrier Oils In Aromatherapy

Carrier oils are used in aromatherapy to dilute essential oils for use in topical applications. There are a number of choices of carrier oils depending on the intended uses and intended benefits. Why are these oils used to dilute essential oils in aromatherapy? Because applying undiluted essential oils can cause irritation, rashes, and sensitization when applied directly. They can have additional benefits for the skin such as containing Vitamin E and other vitamins and minerals.

How Carrier Oils Differ From Essential Oils

Essential oils are derived from the aromatic portions of plants. These include the leaves, flowers, bark, and roots. Essential oils are concentrated oils that can oxidize and lose their potency. Essential oils, however, will not spoil. They should be stored in dark-colored sealed glass bottles to prevent the essential oils from breaking down. Essential oils are concentrated and are added to carrier oils to create a mixture which contains more of the oils and only a few drops of the essential oil. Essential oils can also evaporate. This is another reason they should be stored in sealed glass bottles.

Carrier oils are derived from the fatty portions of plants. The seeds, nuts or kernels are pressed to obtain the oils. For use in aromatherapy, you should look for oils that are cold pressed. These oils are usually sold in health food or specialized stores. The oils used for cooking are heat processed or pasteurized and should not be used for aromatherapy. All oils can spoil and go rancid over time, so it is suggested to buy them in smaller batches or keep them in the refrigerator.  Note that when stored in the refrigerator carrier oils may turn cloudy. They need to be returned to room temperature before use.

Common Carrier Oils Used In Aromatherapy

There are many carrier oils used in aromatherapy. This is a small and by no means exhaustive list.

What To Look For When Choosing A Carrier Oil

When shopping for oils you should look for oils that have been cold pressed. This means the oils were processed without the addition of heat. Heat during the process can damage the nutrients in the oils. Organically certified oils are also an option. However, these oils are going to be more expensive.


As stated before carrier oils contain vitamins and nutrients that can be helpful to the skin. Oils high in Vitamin E are good for the skin. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. A high Vitamin E content can also improve the shelf life of the oil. Some oils also contain essential fatty acids, which are also helpful to the skin. When choosing a carrier oil it helps to know what your purpose is for the oil. You may want the benefits of a high Vitamin E content in a massage oil so you can treat your skin in addition to getting a relaxing massage. When you add the benefit of one or more of the relaxing essential oils to the mix, you have a winning combination.


Storage of carrier oils is a concern as they can go bad when stored for long periods. Purchasing smaller amounts and knowing the storage length and recommendations are important. Storage in dark glass bottles with a tight-fitting lid will help your oils last longer in storage. Using the carrier oil by the expiration date will help assure that your carrier oils contain the highest levels of vitamins and minerals.

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