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What is a Carrier Oil and How to Choose the Best One for Skin Care?

7 mins

Andela Patrnogic

Enhance your skincare routine with a carrier oil and enjoy better-looking skin. Understand its benefits and how to choose the best one for you.

Oil extracts from plants have been used for thousands of years in beauty applications.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were fans of aromatic baths and massages. When it comes to oil extracts for skin and hair care, essential oils and carrier oils are common terms you encounter.

Essential oils are 'essential' as they represent the fragrance of the botanical species from which they're extracted.

eucalyptus peppermint sweet orange essential oil wow skin science

Carrier oils are necessary to use essential oils safely. They are also used on their own to improve skin and hair health.

How do you go about choosing a carrier oil?

Which is the best carrier oil for your face?

Let's do a deep dive.

Table of Contents:

  • What is carrier oil?
  • How are carrier oils made?
  • What are the constituents of carrier oils?
  • Carrier oils for skincare
  • How to choose carrier oils for skin nourishment
  • Best carrier oils for skin
  • Carrier oils for hair
  • How to choose a carrier oil for your hair
  • Best carrier oils for hair

What is carrier oil?

A carrier oil or base oil is an oil used to dilute essential oils prior to their application to the face, skin, or hair.

Essential oils are potent, and more concentrated than the oils in the plant from which they're derived.

This makes them too strong to be applied directly and cause unwanted skin reactions.

A carrier oil creates a physical separation between the essential oil and skin cells. It carries the essential oil to your skin for a safe facial or hair massage.

best carrier oils, how to choose carrier oils


Essential oils are also volatile, meaning they evaporate quickly. Carrier oils do not evaporate quickly. They also have a mild smell that doesn’t compete with essential oils.

Reducing the concentration of an essential oil with a carrier oil won't affect its fragrance or other properties.

On their own, carrier oils are great for enhancing skin and hair quality and health. Their properties make them helpful for certain skin conditions. Also, some carrier oils blend well with certain types of essential oils. 

How are carrier oils made?

Carrier oils are plant-based oils. They're derived mostly from the seeds, nuts or kernels of plants.

Coconut oil, a popular carrier oil for hair and skin, is extracted from the inner flesh (copra) of a coconut, while jojoba oil is actually 98% liquid wax extracted from a drought-resistant shrub native to southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

The most common method of extraction is cold pressing. In this method, the nuts or seeds are compressed under high pressure without applying heat or chemicals. The intense pressure squeezes out the oil.

Carrier oils are also known as vegetable oils. But this doesn't mean that all vegetable oils can be used as carrier oils.

Vegetable shortening, butter and margarine are not carrier oils. Petroleum jelly and mineral oils, which are occlusives that only serve to create a physical barrier on the skin are also unsuitable as carrier oils.

What are the constituents of carrier oils?

Apart from diluting the potency of essential oils, base oils impart nutrients to the skin and hair.

The main constituents in most varieties of carrier oils are:

  • Minerals, which aid exfoliation, balance oil production, retain skin moisture, tighten skin and brighten dull complexion.
  • Vitamins, which help reduce fine lines, protect cells due to their antioxidant properties, repair skin tissue and improve complexion.
    carrier oils, face serum
  • Sterolins, which moisturize skin and hair, reduce age spots and heal sun damage.
  • Linoleic acids, which soothe acne, boost skin and hair hydration, promote wound healing and whose thinner consistency makes them well-suited to acne-prone skin.
  • Oleic acid, which helps maintain the suppleness of skin, reduces fine lines and eliminates dandruff.
  • Lecithin, which softens skin and boosts circulation for stronger skin and hair.
  • Phytosterols, which supercharge collagen production, regulate water loss from skin, promote the growth of new skin, and help lighten skin blemishes.
  • Essential fatty acids, which create an antimicrobial barrier against external elements, maintain the skin's natural oil barrier, and improve skin and hair texture.
  • Selenium, which promotes the healing of skin conditions and postpones the appearance of wrinkles.
    face serum, skin care serum
  • Palmitoleic acid, which enhances complexion and skin elasticity.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides, which maintain skin hydration and destroy bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Carrier oils for skincare

Carrier oils pack botanicals that nourish and repair skin on your face and body. You can add them to your favorite essential oils, lotions or moisturizers for DIY skin treatment.

How to choose carrier oils for skin nourishment

When choosing a carrier oil for direct application or as a base for an essential oil blend, pay attention to your skin type.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, a lightweight oil is better whereas occlusive oils are better suited to dry skin. Many carrier oils suit more than one type of skin.

Consider the oleic content of the oil. A high oleic content allows the oil to quickly penetrate deeper layers of the skin without any of that oily feeling.

applying essential oil

A quick look through the nutrient content of the oil also doesn't hurt. You will know all the benefits you can gain from massaging the carrier oil into your skin or hair.

For example, if you live in an area with low humidity that makes your skin dry, evaluate the phytosterol content of the oil.

Phytosterols are potent moisturizing agents that prevent water from escaping the outer layers of the skin. They also boost collagen production, helping heal wounds and minimize scars on skin.

Best carrier oils for skin

  • Argan oil

Argan oil is suitable for all skin types. If you have oily skin, argan oil can help prevent pimples and blackheads by regulating the amount of sebum on your skin.

If you have dry skin, the oil works as an effective moisturizer and softens dry patches.

For best results, buy 100% argan oil that is pure, all-natural and doesn't contain many additives.

argan oil carrier oil

Go for products that come in dark colored bottles. Light breaks down the oil's properties, and reliable producers won't put the oil in clear or plastic bottles. 

Argan oil has a nutty smell. If the oil has a neutral smell, then it's probably chemically treated and best avoided.

And if it smells so good that you might consider sprinkling it on a salad, it is quite likely the oil is intended for culinary use. A fishy smell means the oil has gone bad.

  • Rosehip oil

Rosehip oil is one of the best carrier oils for your face, suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. It is non-greasy and easily absorbed.

The oil is known for penetrating deep into your skin to boost hydration and collagen levels. The vitamins and essential fatty acids in the oil promote skin cell repair. All of this makes rosehip oil a great anti-aging skin solution.

rosehip oil carrier oil

Contrary to what its name might suggest, rosehip oil doesn't have a rosy aroma. Rather, the oil has a subtle woody aroma as it is pressed from the fruit and seeds of the rose plant.

The oil has a light yellow to reddish hue.

Good quality rosehip oil is smooth and has a medium consistency.

  • Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is yet another anti-aging carrier oil thanks to its Vitamin E content that targets free radicals and slows down skin aging.

It mimics the skin's natural sebum and has a medium consistency, making it better suited to people with dry skin compared to their oily skin counterparts.

However, as the oil has anti-inflammatory properties and doesn't clog pores, it can be used in small quantities on acne-prone skin.

jojoba oil carrier oil

The color of jojoba oil can range from yellow to gold. It has a mildly nutty aroma. 

Some carrier oils have a brief shelf life of six months while others remain good for longer. You can expect about 5 years from jojoba oil.

Storing it properly can extend its life by up to a year.

  • Grapeseed oil

A face massage can work wonders for your skin's health and appearance. It so happens that grapeseed oil is the best carrier oil for face massages.

Apart from making your skin look youthful, it imparts a nice glossy look to your face.

Grapeseed oil has a light, thin consistency that makes it suitable for all skin types, but especially for acne-prone skin and acne scars.

The linoleic acid in the oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that keep breakouts in check.

grape seed oil carrier oil

As fatty acids in it help lock in moisture and plump up skin, other skin types can also benefit from incorporating the oil in their skincare routine.

The oil is a light green color and has a fruity aroma. Your bottle of grapeseed oil will last three months past its expiration date after it is opened.

Refrigerating the unopened bottle will stretch its life to six months.

  • Sweet almond oil

Almond oil refers to all oils made from different varieties of almonds, both bitter and sweet. Sweet almond oil is made from sweet almonds.

A couple of reasons make sweet almond oil one of the best carrier oils for all skin types:

If your skin is dry, flaky and irritated, the excellent lubricating properties of sweet almond oil will lock in moisture while its Vitamin E content will soothe irritation.

As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E does its bit to reduce wrinkles and maintain youthful skin. 

sweet almond oil carrier oil

As sweet almond oil also opens up clogged pores and helps release impurities and excess sebum, it is suitable if you have acne issues.

The oil has a sweet, nutty aroma. It absorbs pretty quickly and leaves a thin glossy film on your skin.

A word of caution: avoid using sweet almond oil if you have nut allergy. Nut oil or any product with nut oil can trigger allergic reactions, even if it is applied topically. 

Carrier oils for hair

Essential oils are known to fight hair loss and improve scalp health. Diluting them with carrier oils enhances their value and helps preserve hair health and beauty.

How to choose a carrier oil for your hair

The most important thing is to choose an oil that suits your scalp type. If you have a dry scalp, a heavier carrier oil like coconut oil can moisturize dry and damaged hair and soothe an itchy and flaky scalp.

On the other hand, if you have an oily scalp, go for a light and non-greasy carrier oil like jojoba or grapeseed oil.

Carrier oils do not have a concentrated aroma. But they have a mild earthy, fruity or berry fragrance, and you may prefer one over the others.

If you don't want any aroma, you can opt for fractionated coconut oil, which is much thinner than unrefined coconut oil, and has no scent.

Best carrier oils for hair

  • Coconut oil

Studies have shown that coconut oil can improve scalp and hair health. Specifically, it can fight fungal infection, soothe scalp irritation, prevent split ends and protect against heat damage.

Coconut oil is a common carrier oil for essential oils such as lavender and rosemary essential oils.

coconut oil

Lavender essential oil has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. If you have a sensitive scalp, a mix of lavender essential oil and coconut oil can calm your scalp and help slow the growth of the organisms on it.

Mix 4-5 drops of lavender essential oil into two tablespoons of coconut oil. Apply the blend to your scalp and leave it in for at least 10-15 minutes before washing it out.

  • Almond oil

Almond oil moisturizes your hair, making it shinier and smoother. It is rich in Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant that nourishes your scalp and hair.

An itchy scalp, split ends, dry roots or damage from heating and styling - almond oil can help treat a number of hair and scalp conditions.

The oil blends well with Ylang Ylang essential oil. This essential oil is ideal for people who have a dry scalp as it encourages sebum production. The WOW Ylang Ylang Essential Oil is a must-have for your hair care kit. Its floral aroma elevates your mood!

ylang ylang essential oil wow skin science

Mix 5 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil into 2 tablespoons of almond oil. Massage the blend into your scalp and leave it for 30 minutes before shampooing.

Follow this routine 2-3 times a week to reduce hair breakage and improve hair texture.

  • Argan oil

Argan oil is one of the best carrier oils for hair as well. Rich in Vitamin A and E, it reduces breakage and split ends, softens hair and restores its shine. It blends well with lavender, rosemary and tea tree oils.

A common application of tea tree oil for hair is in treating dandruff. Add 8-10 drops of tea tree essential oil into 2 tablespoons of argan oil. Leave it in for 15 minutes and wash it out.

Wow Skin Science Moroccan Argan Hair Oil has a rejuvenating formula that tackles thin, dry and frizzy hair. Also check out our other 100% natural, cruelty-free carrier oils that work like a charm on all hair types.

So, now that you know all the secrets to picking out the carrier oil that is the best one for you, go and discover all the beauty essential oils have for you! There is a whole world of magic behind those doors. But don’t take our word for it! Pick out your carrier oil and essential oils today and get back to us!

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