Carrier oils are a crucial piece to the essential oil puzzle, but they are also easy to overlook because the term isn’t very well-known outside of essential oil and aromatherapy circles. A carrier oil does just what its name suggests; it carries an essential oil to the skin. Why the middle man, you ask? Carrier oils need to dilute essential oils. The essential oils are so incredibly potent that you don’t want to apply them directly to your skin.

If you’re going a little cross-eyed trying to figure out how exactly essential oils and carrier oils differ, here’s a cheat sheet for you.


Distilled from leaves, bark, roots of botanical plant. Cold-pressed from the fatty portions of plant like seeds, nuts, and kernels.
Will evaporate Will not evaporate
Will not go rancid, only lose potency Will go rancid over time
Very strong aroma based on the plant of origin No aroma or faint nutty aroma

Here are the fundamentals to keep in mind next to you go shopping:

  • Just like with essential oils, there’s quite a variety of carrier oils to pick from based on your needs and preferences.
  • A high quality carrier oil is cold-pressed from the fatty portion of a plant. Cold-pressed is important because otherwise many of the oil’s therapeutic properties will be lost in the heating process. Most standard grocery store oils will not be cold-pressed, so read labels carefully and purchase from a specialty store if needed.
  • Common carrier oils include Sweet Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Rose Hip Oil, Sesame Oil, and Shea Butter.
  • Less common, but still effective, carrier oils include Apricot Kernel Oil, Camellia Seed Oil, Cranberry Seed Oil, Hazelnut Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, Kukui Oil, Pecan Oil, Sunflower Oil, Walnut Oil, and Wheatgerm Oil
  • You don’t need to use carrier oils if you’re not applying the essential oils to your skin!

My favorite quick and easy carrier oil is coconut oil. I always have it on hand, it’s relatively affordable, and it has more health benefits than I could list in day. When a particularly nasty muscle ache hits, I whip out the coconut oil and create my own muscle rub by adding a few drops of peppermint, lavender, and roman chamomile. The coconut oil helps to carry the essential oils to the muscle, it makes everything easy to massage into the skin, and it prevents the essential oils from burning my skin or evaporating before they’ve done their job. Buh-bye muscle pain.

Remember, essential oils are famous for their potency, so a few drops go a long, long way! Here are a few recipes to get you started with carrier oils. Keep in a cool place in a dark container and they will last for a year or more!

Homemade Vapor Rub

-¼ cup almond or coconut oil

-10 drops Eucalyptus

-10 drops Peppermint

-10 drops Rosemary

-Stir and apply to chest as needed.

Eczema Relief

-¼ cup carrier oil of choice

-8 drops Chamomile

-8 drops Lavender

-4 drops Rose

-Blend and apply on skin as needed.

Migraine Relief

-3 to 4 teaspoons jojoba, grapeseed, or coconut oil

-9 drops Peppermint

-5 drops Clove

-9 drops Wintergreen

-6 drops Ginger

-Blend and rub into shoulders, back of neck, and temples as needed.


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