Aromatherapy: Carrier Oils

When using essential oils on the skin, either in a massage blend or in the bath or shower, it is important to make sure they are adequately diluted. This is because essential oils are strong, potent substances, which will burn and irritate the skin if used in their pure form. Actually carrier oils have their own benefits and also provide healing and support to the body. There are quite a few to choose from, so how do you know which are the best to use?

Probably the most commonly used carrier oils to use are sweet almond, grapeseed and apricot kernel oil. These three oils are ideal for massage as they are light and easily absorbed by the skin. Of course if you have a nut allergy, avoid the sweet almond oil (and other nut oils!) and use grapeseed instead. What is also nice about these particular carrier oils is that they have a very faint aroma, which won’t overpower any essential oils you add. Apricot kernel oil has the added benefit of being rich in Vitamin B, which helps to soften and nourish the skin. It’s the ideal choice for use with dry, mature skin. Grapeseed oil is the least expensive out of all the carrier oils, but it can turn rancid quickly if not stored properly. It also isn’t as ‘pure’ as other carrier oils, as the method used to extract it may result in slight chemical contamination.


Photo credit: Leslie Seaton @ flickr

Jojoba oil is another popular choice but it’s expensive so it’s often blended with other carrier oils such as sweet almond.  This also reduces the ‘thickness’ of the jojoba oil, so it absorbs into the skin more easily. For a really nurturing blend that is great for all skin and hair types add 10 ml jojoba oil to 90 ml of sweet almond oil. It is not recommended to use essential oils anywhere near the eye area, as they will sting! However, I like to place 2-3 drops of plain jojoba oil on a cotton ball and dab it gently around the delicate eye area for an intensive, chemical free, moisturizing treatment.


Photo credit: Jaanus Silla @ flickr

Another really vitamin rich oil to use is avocado. As with jojoba, it is expensive and ‘thick’ so is best used diluted with another carrier oil such as sweet almond, rose hip or apricot kernel. The high levels of Vitamins B, E and A, it contains make it ideal for sun damaged, mature and dry skin. It does have a slightly stronger aroma than other carrier oils but once diluted this usually doesn’t come through in Aromatherapy blends. It can leave the skin feeling oily, almost waxy, so is not ideal for massage over the whole body. Use it in facial treatments, problem areas such as rough elbows or the thighs or add to the bath for best results.

Anyone suffering from skin disorders like psoriasis will not only benefit from essential oils such as chamomile, lavender and bergamot, carrier oils such as evening primrose, kukui, rose hip and borage oil are also extremely helpful. These oils will go rancid very quickly so it’s important to make sure they are stored properly in dark bottles away from heat and sunlight. Although these oils can be blended with other carrier oils, if they are being used to treat a specific complaint it is best to use them in their natural form for best results. It’s worth noting that these oils will still be beneficial even if no essential oils are added.


If you want to create a long lasting oil blend, the intense anti-oxidant properties of wheatgerm oil will help keep it from going off. However this oil should never be used by anyone with a wheat allergy! It is very thick and does have a strong aroma, so is almost always diluted with other carrier oils. It blends well with lighter carrier oils such as sweet almond, grapeseed and apricot kernel. I usually add 20 ml of wheatgerm oil to 80 ml of another carrier oil. It is potent in healing Vitamin E so is a really good choice for skin that needs healing and extra TLC, such as scarred skin, burns or stretch marks.

There are also a wide variety of beautiful nut oils to choose from including macadamia, hazelnut, pecan, walnut and coconut oil. These do tend to be rather pricey but for skincare, especially on the face and neck they are superb! If used sparingly, I personally wouldn’t dilute them but if you want to use them in the bath or in a full body massage I would blend with sweet almond oil. They do have a slight nutty aroma, and in the case of coconut oil, a strong coconut scent, but I find these enhance the blend, but then again it’s down to personal preference!

You can see that when it comes to Aromatherapy it isn’t just about choosing which essential oils to use. The carrier oils also play a really important role in helping to heal, nourish and care for your body.