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What Are Carrier Oils?

Carrier oils, also referred to as base oils or vegetable oils, are used to dilute essential oils and absolutes before applying to the skin. They “carry” the essential oil onto the skin. Different carrier oils offer different properties and the choice of carrier oil can depend on the therapeutic benefit being sought.

Carrier oils are generally cold-pressed vegetable oils derived from the fatty portions of the plant. Unlike essential oils that evaporate and have a concentrated aroma, carrier oils do not evaporate or impart their aroma as strongly as essential oils, if at all.  Essential oils are added to carrier oils to impart both a scent and their healing properties.

Examples of carrier oils are sweet almond, apricot kernel, avocado, evening primrose, jojoba and others. Most oils bought in the grocery store are not cold-pressed. These oils are heated and therefore have less therapeutic benefit.  Mineral oil is not used in aromatherapy because mineral oil is not a natural product. It is also said that mineral oil can prevent essential oil absorption into the skin.  Baby oil is often made of mineral oil, surprisingly enough!

Essential oils do not go rancid. Carrier oils, however, can go rancid. Carrier oils that you purchase should be natural and unadulterated. Exceptions include carrier oils that have natural vitamin E added because Vitamin E acts as a natural preservative.

All of the carrier oils that we carry SpiritualScents are completely organic!

By exploring various types of carrier oils and essential oils, you will find that certain combinations have a great deal of affinity for each other, and that certain oils will be better for certain uses than others.  There are endless variations and combinations, so below you will find an explanation of different carrier oils, the ways they are best used, and the essential oils that we have found to be uniquely energetically matched with them.  These are by no means the only uses of these oils or the only amazing combinations, and you are sure to find many more in your explorations!

Almond Oil

Botanical Name: Prunus amygdalus var. dulcus
Aroma: Light, slightly sweet and nutty.
Texture: Leaves a slight oily feeling on the skin. Absorbs semi-quickly.
Color: Virtually clear with a tinge of yellow.
Notes: Sweet Almond oil is considered to be a good all-purpose carrier oil to keep on hand, and is moderately priced. 
Energetics: Sweet Almond oil is very warming, attractive and somewhat grounding.  Therefore, it makes a beautiful base for warming, spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove, and is one of the best bases for use in massage that seeks to loosen and warm stiff muscles and arthritic joints.

Apricot Kernel

Botanical Name: Prunus armeniaca
Aroma: Faint
Texture: Somewhat oily, absorbs semi-quickly.
Color: Virtually clear with a tinge of yellow.
Notes: The semi-oily texture makes this oil useful in massage blends.  Apricot Kernel Oil is high in Vitamin A and minerals, and so if very nutritious for the skin.  It is especially good for skin that is dry and irritated or prematurely aged. 
Energetics: Apricot kernel oil is warming and moisturizing, releasing blockages in the respiratory and digestive systems.  If you are looking to make a decongestant, try making a massage oil using this oil and eucalyptus or peppermint essential oils, then apply to the chest above the lungs or apply tiny amounts just under the nose (carefully avoiding the sinuses).  If the bowels are blocked, apply this massage oil to the abdomen.


Botanical Name: Persea americana
Aroma: Medium. Somewhat sweet, fatty and nutty in aroma.
Texture: Thick, leaves a fatty, almost waxy feel to the skin.
Color: Deep olive green.
Notes: If not carefully used or used in a small dilution with another carrier, this may overpower a blend.  It is extremely moisturizing.
Energetics: Avocado oil is grounding and cooling.  It is extremely helpful in cases of very dry skin, and in cases of high stress.  If combined with chamomile or lavender oil, an avacado oil massage can relieve symptoms of PMS or poor sleep.  However, it is best to blend avocado oil with other, lighter oils such as safflower oil, as it is very intense by itself.

Cocoa Butter

Botanical Name: Theobroma cacao
Aroma: Unrefined cocoa butter is rich and very sweet . It has a chocolaty, "cocoa" aroma. The cocoa aroma is less noticeable in refined cocoa butter.
Texture: Solid and hard to work with at room temperate. Breaks into pieces.
Color: Yellowish tan.
Notes: Cocoa butter needs to be blended with other materials/oils to be workable. Suitable for use in lotions and creams.
Energetics: When mixed in to lotions and creams, Cocoa butter is very balancing and opens the heart.  Lotions containing cocoa butter are very sensual, and, when combined with essential oils such as rose, can create a beautiful aphrodisiac.

Evening Primrose

Botanical Name: Oenothera biennis
Aroma: Light and sweet
Texture: Thin, leaves only a trace of oiliness on the skin.
Color: Medium yellow.
Notes: Evening Primrose is said to be excellent in treating many skin conditions. It is expensive and is usually blended in a small (often 10%) dilution with other carrier oils. It goes rancid quickly.
Energetics: Evening Primrose oil is wonderful for the heart and the blood, and is very purifying.  It is wonderful for treating symptoms of PMS and for improving sexual energies.  Try combining oils that contain Evening Primrose oil with rich, sweet scents such as vanilla and Ylang Ylang for a sensuous, relaxing, and healing experience.


Botanical Name: Vitus vinifera
Aroma: Light, slightly sweet with a hint of a nutty aroma.
Texture: Thin but leaves a glossy film on the skin.
Color: Virtually clear, has an almost unnoticeable tinge of yellow/green.
Notes: Unlike most other carrier oils, grapeseed oil is solvent extracted and may have trace amounts of chemical solvent remaining. I have heard mixed reports on the shelf-life of grapeseed (some have said it goes rancid rather fast). I usually go through a bottle of grapeseed once each six months and have not discovered any problems with rancidity when stored in an amber bottle in a cool dark area.  Grapeseed oil is a powerful anti-oxidant and is light enough to use on delicate facial skin.
Energetics: Very cleansing and purifying, grapeseed oil is amazing for removing toxins from the body.  Try mixing it with tea tree oil and applying to blemishes.


Botanical Name: Corylus avellana
Aroma: Light, nutty, somewhat sweet.
Texture: Thin and only leaves a slightly oily film on the skin.
Color: Light yellow.
Notes: It is said to be a good choice for those with oilier skin.
Energetics: Hazelnut is very grounding and strengthening for the spleen and stomach.  Hazelnut oil also contains tremendous amounts of nutrients that will be absorbed in to the skin.  Its sweet scent and character makes it ideal to combine with vanilla or cardamom oils.


Botanical Name: Simmondsia chinensis
Aroma: Light to medium in aroma, not as sweet as the nut oils. The aroma is distinct but pleasant.
Texture: Light and silky. Absorbs well.
Color: Yellow.
Notes: Jojoba "oil" is actually a wax. It is a somewhat pricier oil and is frequently blended in a small dilution (10%) with other oils. It has a very long shelf-life and is very stable.  It also has absorption properties similar to our own skin, and so is not likely to block pores.
Energetics: Jojoba brings nutrients and life to the skin and hair and is a wonderful conditioner.  Try mixing your favorite essential oil with jojoba oil, and put a few drops in to your hair about an hour before shampooing.  This will condition the hair follicles and the scalp, eliminating dandruff and allowing for strong, healthy, beautifully scented hair.

Lulur with Kumkumadi

Aroma: Sweet and floral
Texture: Light, not greasy, and absorbs well
Notes: A delicate floral oil that is used in southeast Asia to retain skin youthfulness and silkiness.  It does not stain sheets or fabric.

Macadamia Nut

Botanical Name: Macadamia integrifolia
Aroma: More fragrant than sweet almond and some of the other nut oils, it is very sweet, fatty and nutty in aroma.
Texture: Thick and leaves an oily film on the skin.
Color: Clear with a tinge of yellow.
Notes: If not carefully used or used in a small dilution with another carrier, it may overpower a blend.
Emergetics: Macadamia nuts have more beneficial monounsaturated fats than any other nuts, which will be absorbed in to the skin along with many useful vitamins.  Macadamia nut oil mixes well with flower oils to create a sensual, moisturizing experience.


Botanical Name: Olea europaea
Aroma: Typical aroma of olive oil used in cooking (smells somewhat like olives).
Texture: Heavy and rather oily.
Color: Light to medium green.
Notes: Not used as a massage oil carrier because it is too overwhelming.
Energetics: Olive oil is very soothing and possesses disinfecting and healing properties.  The smell is a little bit overwhelming to use for massage, but it can be applied to burns or scars in order to help them to heal.

Rose Hip

Botanical Name: Rosa mosqueta
Aroma: Mild and perhaps earthy aroma.
Texture: Light and leaves only a hint of oil on the skin.
Color: Virtually clear.
Notes: It is said to be excellent in treating many skin conditions. It is expensive and is usually blended in a small (often 10%) dilution with other carrier oils. It goes rancid rather quickly.
Energetics: Rosehip is strengthening and stabilizing.  Oils containing Rosehip oil combine well with essential oils such as Bergamot and Grapefruit that contain energizing and balancing compounds.


Botanical Name: Carthamus tinctorius
Aroma: Slightly flower, very neutral.
Texture: Very light and healing.
Color: Almost clear, slight yellow tint.
Notes: Safflower oil contains some of the highest levels of nutrients of any carrier oil, and is very smoothing and beneficial for the skin and hair.  It is very helpful for treating acne and scars.
Energetics: Very light and somewhat cooling, safflower is a great carrier oil for use with essential oils that clarify and inspire the mind, such as bay and cedar.


Botanical Name: Sesamum indicum
Aroma: Medium with a distinctive sweet, nutty sesame scent. May overpower a blend if not diluted with another carrier oil.
Texture: Mildly thick, leaves an oily film on the skin.
Color: Light yellow.
Notes: Not used as a massage oil carrier because it is too thick and oily.
Energetics: Very neutral and healing for the skin.  Combines well with very strongly scented essential oils that are sweet in nature such as vanilla and clove.  However, sesame oil has a distinctive smell, and will not suit just any essential oil.

Shea Butter

Botanical Name: Butyrospermun parkii
Aroma: Nutty, fatty.
Texture: Solid but permeable at room temperature. Very popular as a moisturizer for the skin.
Color: Off-white/cream.
Notes: Suitable for use in lotions and creams.
Energetics: Shea butter is very nourishing and healing for the skin.  It is very healing when applied to scars.  The scent is easily overpowered, meaning that you can add any essential oil you like to lotions containing shea butter and the lotion will pick up the scent of the essential oil perfectly.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The information provided in these areas are for educational purposes only. Do not consider this information to be accurate or complete.   We do not offer this information to diagnose or cure any disease or ailment, and it does not constitute medical advice of any kind.

GENERAL SAFETY INFO: Do not take any oils internally without consultation from a qualified aromatherapy practitioner first.  Most essential oils cannot be placed directly on the skin because they are too potent, and can sometimes irritate the skin.  If you are pregnant, nursing, or have any medical problems, use oils only under the proper guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Essential oils such as chamomile have been used with children, but give them only the gentlest oils and at extremely low doses. It is safest to consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before using oils with children. A small area of the skin should be tested, or a very small amount ingested if using a new essential oil for the first time. For very in-depth information on oil safety issues, read "Essential Oil Safety" by Robert Tisserand.
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