Essential Oil Basics: What is a Carrier Oil, and How Should it be Used?

Abigail Blank - The Upside Blog |

by | Read time: 3 minutes

Essential oils have taken the world by storm. They’ve moved from the crunchy naturopathy offices of the holistic medical community to the living rooms of suburbanite moms and multi-level marking plans around the country. Anyone who has had a world class aromatherapy massage or facial knows exactly why. There is nothing like being anointed with the calming scent of lavender or the bright vibrancy of sweet orange blossoms.

Amber Bottle of Almond Oil to be Used as Carrier Oil for Skincare on Wooden Table |

And although you want to take that feeling with you all day every day (without the time and money it takes to live at the spa), it’s important to understand how to use essential oils in a safe and healthy way.

Why do you need carrier oil?

Every oil is different in its potency, possible effects and best uses. Any time you’re going to apply an essential oil to your skin, you better pair that with a carrier oil to make sure you don’t go from smelling like a rose to resting six feet under. OK, that may be a little extreme, but if you’re going to avoid toxic chemicals in your personal care products you might as well make sure you are using essential oils in the safest way possible…and that is with carrier oils.

Don’t think you can skirt around it and just dab a little directly on your wrist as you’re running out the door. You run the risk of irritating your skin, absorbing too much into your body and even giving yourself burns. You also need to consult your doctor if you’re nursing or pregnant because not all essential oils are consider safe for you or your baby.

Which oils are best?

Plant-based carrier oils are the best oils for diluting your essential oils. These carrier oils are safe for your body, good for your skin and can be easily changed or adjusted to meet your needs. They can be used to help areas that are dry, can soothe minor irritations and can be used as full body moisturizers.

Coconut oil makes a great carrier oil. With its antibacterial properties, coconut oil helps your mixture stay fresh and is a carrier oil that is beneficial for both sensitive and acne prone skin. There’s one catch – it solidifies at a rather high temperature (76 degrees actually) so you need to mix it with another plant based oil that will remain in liquid form.

Some other good carrier oil choices include rose hip seed oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil and even avocado oil.     

What’s the trick for mixing them?

Diluting essential oils is an art, and an individualized one at that, so don’t be afraid to adjust things as needed. The more you experiment the more you will figure out what works best for you. But there is a simple ratio that you can use as an initial starting point. Once you’ve chosen what plant-based carrier oil works best for you, your skin and your lifestyle, you can go by the 2 percent dilution rule. For most essential oils, this is a perfectly safe ratio that will give you the desired amount of essential oil to enjoy the aromatic awesomeness without risking any skin problems.

The 2 percent rule, in general, breaks down to ten to 12 drops of essential oil for every one ounce of carrier oil. Keep in mind, though, that just counting the oil drops directly from the bottle isn’t exactly precise. One way to solve that problem is to invest in a glass dropper which will keep the drops more uniform in volume.

Take note – there are some essential oils that are not considered safe at the 2 percent ratio, including oils that sound like they’d be perfectly safe because you’re so familiar with them, like peppermint essential oil and tea tree oil, so be even more stingy with that ratio if you’re using them.

What it comes down with all essential oils is that old adage “less is more.” Use caution when making your own mix and take things slowly. Better safe than sorry, as they say. 

Quick Essential Oils Carrier Guide

Ratio: 10 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. carrier oil

Keep for 5 to 7 days

Use plant-based oils