A Handy Insight On Essential Oils Vs Carrier Oils

Modified: 22nd Dec 2020 ; By: Team Aromapedia
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World of natural oils brings forth the terms like essential oil and carrier oil. In my previous articles, I mentioned a lot about essential oil and very little about carrier oil. The idea of writing this article arose in me because there are many people who are unaware of carrier oils and even essential oils. So I felt the need to put forward this article to clear the idea of both natural oils.

They both differ in their extraction process, uses and properties. Let me tell you it is going to be exciting to know about both the oils.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are natural oils that are derived from plant parts using techniques of steam distillation, hydro-distillation or vacuum distillation. Essential oils are volatile hydrophobic liquids and so also known as volatile or ethereal oils. They have heavy aroma and potency and are thinner in viscosity. The extracted oil retains plant’s scent and aroma or essence. The oils contain various aromatic compounds in them which give them characteristic aroma, flavor as well as property.

Researches show that essential oils can have therapeutic as well as physiological effects. They generally show activities like antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal or insecticide. These activities impart them a unique role be it in perfumery, food or pharmaceutical. Some examples of essential oil are Lavender oil, Rose oil, Lemon oil, Bergamot oil, Frankincense oil, Peppermint oil etc.

Trust me these all essential oil smells really nice and can be incorporated to improve overall well being. There are long lists of precautionary measures while using essential oil and for that please refer my article how to use essential oil? I hope you will get clear idea in what ways you can use essential oils and with what important measures.


Carrier Oils

Now I am heading towards another important segment of the article i.e. Carrier oils. Carrier oils are natural oils which are derived from the fatty part of the plant that includes seed, nut or kernels. These are also known as vegetable oils or base oils. Some of the carrier oils have animal origin so all base oils are not vegetable oils. Emu oil and fish oil are such oils which are of animal origin. The method of carrier oil extraction involves solvent extraction, cold press, maceration, centrifuge and super-critical CO2 extraction. The chemical composition of oil generally consists of lipids such as fatty acids, waxes and fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. These are typically heavier oils.

Carrier oils do not impart strong powerful aroma, they generally are odorless or have mild nutty aroma. But as you know exceptions are everywhere, black cumin seed oil type of base oil exerts strong aroma. Unlike essential oil, they do not evaporate. This is the reason they are also known as fixed oils. I hope you can now answer if you across this question. Carrier oils can go rancid over time and thus should be stored in dark glass bottle with tight lid. Acid values of carrier oils plays crucial role in judging the quality of oils.

Now I am going to talk about utilities of carrier oils, there must be some very specific reason that we have come across this term for so many times. The reason is that carrier oil helps to dilute essential oils. As the property of essential oils do not allow them to be used topically. The probable reason is to avoid any allergic reaction.

Essential oils are diluted with carrier oils and then can be exploited in cosmetic and health care products. Carrier oil so derived its name because it assists in carrying essential oil to skin. Mixing of essential oil to carrier oil is a complex and significant process. Undiluted exposure of essential oil on skin can cause sensitization.

Dilution of carrier oil is done according to dilution percentage. For adults, 2% works well whereas for children and elderly people it drops to 1%. You all must be thinking how to prepare 2% dilution blend. It is quite easy; the easiest way is by measuring drops. This is okay for preparing small blends and for personal use blends otherwise viscosity and size of dropper creates complications. For small blend of 2% dilution, mix 12 drops of essential oil to 30ml carrier oil. This much essential oil is more than enough to impart its aroma and therapeutic effects. This can now be applied on skin.

Examples of carrier oils include: coconut oil, almond oil, neem oil, mustard oil, olive oil etc. Yes, many of the oils listed we already use in household chores. This is the diversification of carrier oils. 


I hope the article gave you clear picture of essential as well as carrier oils. Quick takeaway of the whole article is as follows:

  • Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids whereas carrier oils are not.
  • Essential oils are volatile in nature whereas carrier oils do not evaporate and are fixed.
  • Chemical composition of essential oil consists of terpenes, aldehydes, ketones, esters whereas carrier oil contains lipids such as fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.
  • Essential oils have strong flavor and aroma whereas carrier oils lack such concentrated aroma.
  • Direct application of essential oil on skin can cause allergic reaction whereas carrier oils moisturize skin.

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