Updated: May 8, 2021
Carrier oils are critical for Aromatherapy.
Using Essential oils on skin and hair without these ‘savior’ oils would be literally impossible. That is why they are termed as ‘Carrier oils’; the ones that ‘carry’ the Essential oils.
Why are Carrier oils important?
Naturally volatile and concentrated essential oils stick to the fats of carrier oils and then give enough time for the skin to absorb them in the system before the precious molecules evaporate.
The gentle Carrier oils also dilute the intensity of essential oils thereby saving our skin and hair from an overload of strong essential oil molecules.
What are Carrier Oils?
Carrier oils are the oils that are extracted from nuts, seeds, and kernels of trees or plants through cold pressing or maceration (a technique where the plant part is soaked in a liquid (water, oil, alcohol, etc) at room temperature).
Cold-pressed oils retain most of their inherent benefits and are preferred
Some of the most popular Carrier oils are Coconut oil, Sweet almond oil, Argan oil, Jojoba oil, Rosehip Oil, and Grapeseed oil among others. Butters like Shea, Cocoa, Aloe, and Mango butter is also popular as ‘night cream’ Carriers.
What benefit are you looking for from your Carrier Oil?
A skin tightening serum Or
An infection/itching relief serum Or
A natural moisturizer Or
A scar/acne relief serum? Or
What's Your skin/hair type?
Do you have dry, normal, or combination skin?
What is your Carrier Oil Absorption need?
Do you want a highly absorbent carrier oil or a heavier carrier oil that will help you navigate those dry cold days?
Do you want a Day or a Night serum?
Do you want a light day serum or a heavy- night repair treatment?
What's your preferred Carrier oil Shelf life
Do you love Evening primrose?
Are you sure to finish that bottle before it goes rancid
Or would you rather settle for Grapeseed oil with similar benefits but twice as much shelf life?
What benefits to expect from each Carrier Oil
1. Nut-Carrier oils like Sweet Almond Oil, Macadamia nut Oil, Walnut Oil, Hazelnut Oil work best if you are looking for:
Skin tightness, elasticity & a stimulant for blood circulation
Soothing remedy for dry, sore, wounded, or acne-prone skin
2. Fruit- Carrier oils such as Apricot, Grapeseed, Avocado, Olive, Peach kernel work best if you are looking for:
Light, non-greasy moisturizer that cleanses, moisturizes
An anti-oxidant serum for sensitive skin.
3. Seed- Carrier oils such as Carrot Seed, Broccoli, and Black currant work best if you are looking for
Rejuvenating mature aging skin
Minimizing Scars and Burns
4. Carrier Oils like Argan and Calendula are best for
Balancing your skin’s hormonal functions
Balancing the skin’s sebum production
Anti-bacterial, antiseptic hydration.
1. Rosehip oil: Shelf life of Rosehip Oil – 6 months (refrigerated), Recommended for all skin types
Rosehip seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the wild rose bush Rosa Rubiginosa, and Rosa canina has been used in folk medicine for a long. When these flowers die, petals fall away and the rosehip is left behind. Rosehip oil is then pressed from its seeds.
This clear light yellow to deep golden yellow oil is a treasure house of liposoluble carotenoids, flavonoids, and liposoluble antioxidants that are wonderful for the skin.
Also a rich source of omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids, gamma-linoleic acid (GLA).
Benefits of Rosehip oil:
In a study (20) it was found that Rosehip bolstered the strength and longevity of the skin’s cells by reducing the production of MMP-1, an enzyme that breaks down cell structures like collagen.
Rosehip showed a reduction in fine lines around the eyes after about 2 months of treatment and experienced high skin elasticity.
Rosehip oil used by participants with post-surgical scars saw improvements in their scars and inflammations
Reduced Skin aging due to UV damage.
In another study (21) it was found that
Rosehip promotes tissue and cell regeneration in the skin.
Rosehip oil contains skin lightening ingredients - both lycopene and beta carotene,
Help in the production of collagen.
Fight skin aging and sun damage
Provitamin A fights rosacea and acne lesions
Retinol encourages skin cell turnover.
Vitamin C promotes skin cell regeneration
Vitamin E reduces hyperpigmentation, scars, stretch marks, also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
2. Evening Primrose oil: Shelf life of Evening Primrose Oil (cold-pressed) – 6 months – 1 year, Recommended for: Dry mature skin.
Made from the seeds of the yellow blooms of the Evening Primrose plant, this oil is clear, yellowish to golden.
Used for centuries by the indigenous North American tribes, this oil is high on GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid, like Borage oil, and its great for skin health.
Treats conditions like cheilitis.
Helps the skin retain moisture.
Treats skin inflammation and acne lesions with its GLA.
3. Grapeseed Oil: Shelf- life (cold-pressed) – 1 year
Recommended for: Oily skin, acne-prone skin, all hair types.
Extracted from the seeds of Muscat raisins. This cloudy green, free-flowing oil is one of the lightest oils while being packed with vitamins especially vitamin E and C, minerals, and omega fatty chain acids, and protein.
Benefits of Grapeseed oil
Armed with proanthocyanidin, a powerful antioxidant, Grapeseed oil has the capability to even out skin tone.
A by-product of winemaking, Grapeseed oil is rich in vitamin E, which is known for its potency in skin healing and wrinkle reduction
A study showed (15) Grapeseed oil and some herbal oils’ ability to enhance the skin’s elasticity and softness.
Another study showed (16) Grapeseed oil helps preserve skin health with its Vitamin E and Vitamin C content
Its lightness makes it a good choice as a body massage oil
More studies have proved that grapeseed can act as a skin barrier against harmful UV rays
Due to its lightness and its antimicrobial properties, it is a good choice for acne-prone skin.
4. Coconut Oil
This white solid oil with a nutty aroma melts at temperatures above 25° C (78° F) into a thin clear free-flowing oil. It is derived from the meat, and milk of mature coconuts. This popular oil is full of useful fatty acids and polyphenols for both the body and the skin.
Benefits of Coconut oil:
A study (32) showed that Coconut oil, which is rich in lauric acid, can get easily absorbed and goes deep into the hair follicles because of its unique molecular structure.
In another study (31) coconut oil the best as compared to other herbal oils when used before or after a hair wash in maintaining the protein levels in the hair.
This was irrespective of the hair type, UV exposed, bleached, chemically treated or, natural undamaged hair. Hence it is great at conditioning and nourishing the hair.
Another study (33) found that mixed with anise, coconut oil was 40% more effective at treating head lice than the chemical permethrin.
More studies have found that coconut oil has an SPF of 8, helping protect hair from sun damage.
Coconut oil’s lauric acid has anti-microbial properties that could treat
Hair of dandruff and lice.
The skin of acne and other infections
5. Argan oil
This clear pale golden oil is from the kernels of the fruits of Argania Spinosa, Morocco. Rich in vitamins A and E, and Oleic acid (43–49%) Linoleic acid(29–36%) in the fatty acids, Argan Oil has many benefits for the skin and hair.
A study (34) shows how Argan oil is a rich source of Vitamin E with antioxidant properties. It promotes healthy skin, hair, and eyes.
Another study (35) shows how topically applied Argan oil can
Reduce inflammation caused by injuries or infections.
Repair and maintain healthy skin
May reduce split ends and forms of hair damage
More studies (36) show the use of Argan oil
Increases skin elasticity in postmenopausal women
Help reduce stretch marks
Another study (37) discussed that the oleic and linoleic acids that make up the majority of Argan oil’s fat content
Supply vital nutrients for healthy skin and hair.
Provide hydration while soothing and conditioning.
Can treat dry skin and hair, wrinkles, and skin inflammation.
6. Jojoba Oil: Shelf-life (cold-pressed) – 5 years, Recommended for: Oily skin/ Acne-prone skin/ Day time serum all skin types
Jojoba oil is the clear, golden yellow, pleasant oil-like wax produced by cold pressing the seed of the Simmondsia Chinensis plant. This Vitamin E and Palmitic/Oleic acids rich oil is closest to the human sebum
Benefits of Jojoba oil:
One study (8) showed how it creates a protective barrier to keep the skin from losing moisture. This barrier keeps bacteria, fungus at bay.
Another study showed how it regulates sebum production (10), keeps the skin from becoming too oily, and thus prevents acne caused by clogged pores.
Another study found that (9) Jojoba oil can kill certain types of bacteria and fungi
Rich in Antioxidants and Vitamin E- rich, Jojoba Oil can:
Reduce oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals that cause skin damage like fine lines and wrinkles.
Help produce collagen, improve skin elasticity.
Help wounds and scars heal.
Vitamin E also heals moisturizes sun-damaged skin.
Contains anti-inflammatory healing properties that can help conditions like psoriasis and eczema and itching.
7. Neem Oil: Shelf life (cold pressed/unrefined) – 2 years, Recommended: for all skin and hair types.
This cloudy deep honey to light brown, odorous and viscous oil is derived from the fruit/seeds of the Azadirachta Indica (Indian lilac).
A potent herb in folk medicine, Neem oil should always be used diluted with other carrier oils and should never be ingested.
Its constituent triterpenoids Azadirachtin and Nimbin might be the reason for Neem oil’s amazing antiseptic, antifungal, fever-reducing, anti-allergic properties. It comprises fatty acids, limonoids, vitamin E, triglycerides, antioxidants, and calcium
Neem oil benefits for skin and hair:
A study (27) (on animals) found Neem oil’s anti-aging abilities by treating drying and wrinkling skin.
Another study (28) found that Neem oil helped in the healing of post-surgical wounds
One more study (29) found that Neem oil may help reduce tumors caused by skin cancers.
Its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties can also help treat skin disorders like acne, warts and moles, psoriasis, and eczema.
8. Hemp Seed Oil , Shelf life (cold-pressed) 1 year (refrigerated), recommended for dry, mature, irritated skin. Can be used for both skin and hair.
This clear green to dark green oil is obtained by pressing hemp seeds from the Hemp plant which is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. But it does not contain as much delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient that gives a ‘high’ like smoking weed.
A study (26) summarizes the benefits of Hemp seed oil
Treats skin lesions, dry and damaged skin, eczema
Moisturises without clogging pores, prevents acne
Balances the skin’s oil production hydrates it.
GLA (gamma-linoleic) acid is a powerful anti-inflammatory
Promotes new cell generation.
Calms skin irritation conditions like acne and psoriasis while hydrating it.
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
9. Amla oil
This clear mild green oil is derived from amla fruit from the Phyllanthus Emblica (Indian gooseberry). Rich in Vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants, Amla oil is an age-old Ayurvedic medicine known to improve hair and scalp health.
The benefits of Amla oil:
A study (46) compared four types of hair products, including amla oil. Amla oil was found to be most toxic to hair parasites.
In another study done on animals (rabbits, rats) over 15 days using different herbal oils, it was found that amla oil caused the most rapid fur growth and hence is effective in stimulating hair growth.
Other widely acclaimed benefits of Amla oil are:
Reduce hair loss
Prevent dandruff or itchy scalp
Improve the quality and strength of hair
Prevent and treat bacterial/fungal infections.
10. Olive oil, Shelf life: (cold pressed/unrefined) – 2 years
A clear, golden yellow to light green oil, Olive oil derived by cold pressing olive fruits, is packed with Vitamins A, D, K, and Vitamin E. and fatty acids Oleic acid(83%) also Linoleic acid (up to 21%) and Palmitic acid (up to 20%). Extra virgin Olive oil is preferred in Aromatherapy.
Benefits of Olive oil:
Olive oil is a richer antioxidant compared to other plant oils, with its concentration of squalene making it which makes it potent to fight free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and reduce cell damage.
One study (12) found that olive oil applied to the skin of mice, exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, actually worked to fight off these cancer-causing cells. The rates of tumors were lower in mice with olive oil on their skin.
11. Macadamia Nut Oil: Recommended for all skin types
This clear light yellowish to amber free-flowing oil is derived from the nuts of Macadamia integrifolia, a native Australian plant. This is one more oil that is similar to human sebum.
Macadamia kernels contain vitamin A1, B1, B2, niacin, and essential elements such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.
Studies (30) researched the benefits of Macadamia oil for skin and hair:
Highly absorbent hence deeply nourishing to the skin and hair follicles.
Palmitoleic acid present in a high 21% concentration
This oil is generally found in fish oils. This fatty acid is generally present in young children’s sebaceous glands and is responsible for their dewy skin.
It almost vanishes from the sebum on our maturity but can be supplied from Macadamia oil.
Vitamin E hydrates dry, rough skin; delays aging and wrinkles.
Provides an effective skin barrier against harmful UV rays.
12. Wheat Germ Oil, Shelf life (unrefined) – 1 year
This strong-smelling viscous oil extracted from the germ of the wheat kernel is particularly high in octacosanol (a sports enhancing agent). This oil also has the highest amount of natural vitamin E (255 mg/100g) as against any other natural food.
Benefits of Wheat germ oil:
Wheat Germ Oils high Vitamin E content,
Helps build collagen, the protein that provides the skin its strength and structure.
Repairs, heals, and prevents scarring.
Strong anti-oxidant and promotes healthy skin as it prevents many skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, and dry skin.
Studies show that (17) Vitamin A, D, and fatty acids present in Wheat germ oil help with
Cracked, scarred skin, giving it an even tone.
Natural hydration to the skin
Vitamin B6 and Folic acid, repairs and promotes tissue growth.
Rich in linoleic acid (over 50% composition) makes it a great hair nourisher.
Can be used for both skin and scalp in the ratio of 10:1
(10 parts of olive/ sweet almond or coconut oil to 1 part of wheat germ oil with a few drops of essential oil)
13. Pumpkin seed oil: Recommended for all skin types, especially for mature skin, all types of hair.
This dark orange to brown viscous oil is derived from the seeds of (Cucurbita pepo). Rich in Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Carotenoids, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and fatty acids, the Pumpkin seed oil is moisturizing, soothing on both skin and hair.
Benefits of Pumpkin seed oil:
A study (43) showed a reduction in the severity of pimples and blackheads in pumpkin seed oil users over 3 months.
Zinc along with Vitamin C promotes collagen and elastin fibers which increases the elasticity of the skin while firming it up.
Vitamin E, C, and carotenoids help reduce free radicals and prevent cell damage.
Fatty acids make it a great emollient while also balancing the oil in the skin.
14. Borage seed Oil: Shelf life – 6 months, Recommended for all skin types especially prematurely aging skin
This clear, pale yellow to amber oil, from the seeds of the Borago officinalis has one of the highest known amounts of GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) which is about 24% of the oil and is also rich in vitamins C and minerals
Benefits of Borage seed oil:
Studies (23) show that Borage oil has the properties of creating a skin barrier that protects the skin from
Imbalance in sebum production
Inhibits bacterial and microbial infections
The high GLA has wonderfully firming and regenerative properties.
Studies of borage oil and other GLA-containing plant oils found that such oils are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
In herbal medicine, the use of borage seed oil is popular to treat skin disorders like eczema through studies are yet to confirm the same.
15. Sunflower Oil: Recommended for all skin types
This clear light yellow free-flowing oil is pressed from the seeds of sunflower (Helianthus annuus), native to North and South America. Rich in vitamin E and Linoleic acid this is a highly absorbent nourishing oil.
Benefits of Sunflower Oil:
A study (44) found sunflower oil more effective in skin hydration and maintaining skin barrier even as against olive oil
Another study (45) found that its linoleic acid
Guards the skin against bacteria and germs.
Maintains the skins natural barrier
Supports skins moisturizing abilities
Being non-comedogenic, it doesn’t clog pores, hence preventing acne.
Rich in Vitamin E sunflower oil
Helps protect skin from free radicals
Protects from photoaging
Prevents premature aging and wrinkles.
16. Sweet Almond Oil: Shelf life (refined, expeller pressed) – 1 year, Recommended for: Dry and sensitive skin, hair serum
Almond oil has been in use for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Extracted from sweet almond kernels, this clear colorless to light yellow oil consists of oleic acid, essential unsaturated fatty acids, plant sterols, and vitamin A and E.
Benefits of Sweet Almond Oil:
Good for skin and hair because
Light, soothing, moisturizing properties can be easily absorbed by skin and hair follicles.
Rich in Biotin or Vitamin B-7, it is food for hair and nails.
Emollient rich hence can
Combat water loss in dry chapped skin
Condition dry frizzy hair.
One study showed Sweet almond oil’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (15) on the skin. These properties give it the natural ability to
Repair the skin’s barrier.
Relieve dry itchy inflamed skin.
Vitamin E rich, Sweet almond oil can
Improve complexion and skin tone and hair texture
Natural SP5 protect hair, skin from sun damage
Help heal sun damage
Reduce the signs of aging
Help fade scars.
It has antifungal properties and can be used to cleanse skin while removing make up.
17. Castor Oil: Recommended especially for hair care
This clear, colorless viscous oil with an unpleasant odor is pressed from Castor beans.
Usually diluted with another carrier for use, this oil has triglycerides from multiple fatty acids like Ricinoleic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Eicosanoic Acid which make it a great choice especially for hair.
Castor Oil benefits:
One study (40) found that applying castor oil to the hair, regularly nourished and moisturized the hair follicle, increasing its flexibility and lowering breakage
Especially beneficial for moisturizing dry or damaged hair
Can treat dandruff caused by dry flaky scalp skin.
Another study (38) found wounds treated with castor oil experienced higher faster and better.
In another study (39) castor oil extract exhibited antibacterial power, by preventing the growth of several types of bacteria.
Its antimicrobial properties keep bacteria at bay
18. Apricot Kernel Oil, Shelf life (cold-pressed) – 1 year, Recommended for all skin types
This clear, light green to yellowish oil, extracted from the kernels of apricot seeds, is comprised of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Omega 9, Omega 6, Omega 3, fatty acids like Palmitic acid, Stearic acid, and antioxidants such as caffeic acid and various catechins.
Benefits of Apricot Oil
Studies found that it is similar to human sebum and has multiple benefits on hair and skin(22)
Light, non-greasy, and readily absorbed.
Moisturizes heals and protects mature and/or sensitive skin.
The fatty acids treat and soothe dry skin patches in case of inflammatory conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema.
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes
Strengthens hair follicles.
Reduces scalp problems such as dandruff.
Prevents breakout of acne or exacerbation of existing acne conditions by preventing excess sebum production.
Vitamins A and E antioxidants prevent cell damages and neutralize free radicals.
19. Bhringraj oil
This dark green oil is extracted by heating a mixture of the Eclipta Prostrata (False daisy) with a carrier oil such as Sesame or Sunflower Oil.
Rich in Vitamin E, D, magnesium, and calcium this herb comes from the sunflower family found in India, Thailand, and Brazil
Famous in Ayurveda this oil is medicine for strong healthy hair
Benefits of Bhringraj Oil :
One study (47) showed its effectiveness against bacteria and fungus.
Can help treat
Dry itchy scalp
Another study shows how the use of Bhringraj oil increased the number of hair follicles in rats
Vitamin E in this oil helps fight free radicals that can damage hair.
The darkening properties of Bhringraj may help with gray hair.
Magnesium in the oil can prevent headaches and migraines
20. Sesame seed Oil: Recommended for acne-prone skin, all hair types
This clear light yellow to dark amber, slightly viscous oil is extracted from the seeds of Sesamum indicum. Native to India and East Africa it has a prime place in Ayurveda and other folk medicine.
Benefits of Sesame oil for Skin and Hair:
A light non-comedogenic oil, it doesn’t clog pores, helping acne-prone skin.
Has anti-microbial, antioxidant, and anti -inflammatory properties
A study (41) found that topical use of sesame oil helps combat oxidative stress, by neutralizing free radicals, protecting skin from cell/tissue damage
Another study (42) showed considerable SPF effects of sesame oil against harmful UV rays.
21. Avocado oil: Shelf life (cold pressed/unrefined) – 1 year, Recommended for: Dry skin and dry skin ailments
This light to dark green free-flowing oil is rich in Vitamins A, D, and B.
This oil, extracted from the pulp of Avocadoes (Persea Americana) has almost 70% of healthy oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, and Vitamin E.
Benefits of Avocado Oil
One of the most skin absorbent oils with high penetration and rapid softening of the skin
Helpful in eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin ailments due to its high Oleic acid and vitamin E content
A study showed positive effects of avocado cream on psoriasis after 3 months of treatment (4)
One study showed antioxidant-rich Avocado oil fight cellular damage caused by free radicals, (7) 15
Acne-prone skin should avoid Avocado oil as it may increase sebum production and exacerbate the situation.
A Word of Caution :
Please do check the compatibility of the chosen oil with your skin. Apply a drop of oil on a patch on your arm and plaster it and check for adverse reactions if any within 3 hours. Wash off with soap and discontinue if there is irritation or redness.
1. Natural Oils for Skin-Barrier Repair: Ancient Compounds Now Backed by Modern Science, 018 Feb;19
2. Oleic acid content is responsible for the reduction in blood pressure induced by olive oil, 2008 Sept EPub
3. Vitamin B(12) cream containing avocado oil in the therapy of plaque psoriasis, 2001;203(2):141-7
4. Effect of semisolid formulation of persea americana mill (avocado) oil on wound healing in rats, Epub 2013 Mar 19
5. Wound healing activity of Persea americana (avocado) fruit: a preclinical study on rats, 2008 Mar;17
6. Dietary avocado oil supplementation attenuates the alterations induced by type I diabetes and oxidative stress in electron transfer at the complex II-complex III segment of the electron transport chain in rat kidney mitochondria, 2013 Jun
7. Characterization, sensorial evaluation and moisturizing efficacy of nanol*ipidgel formulations, 2014 Apr
8. A review on plant importance, biotechnological aspects, and cultivation challenges of jojoba plant, 2017 Aug
9. The Enigma of Bioactivity and Toxicity of Botanical Oils for Skin Care
10. Human synthetic sebum formulation and stability under conditions of use and storage, 2009 Feb