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Carrier Oils

Most essential oils are too powerful to use neat for massage, so they must first be diluted in a carrier. Other carriers such as cream can be used, however oils are the most commonly used massage medium due to their versatility. They provide the necessary lubrication to allow the hands to move freely over the skin and not drag or pull whilst massaging. At the same time they carry the essential oils into the body. For this penetration to be effective carrier oils should be light and non-sticky, and preferably have very little odour.

Many carrier oils are nutritious and nourishing in their own right, as they contain essential vitamins and fatty acids. They soften and improve the condition of the skin, and some can be used to treat skin conditions such as eczema, acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Carrier oils, therefore, complement essential oils and provide additional benefit to a treatment. Here is a summary of a few of the most popular carrier oils.

Avocado: Rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin D, therefore very nourishing for dry, ageing, or lacklustre skin. It is quite heavy and has a medium odour so should be used blended with lighter oils such as Sweet Almond.

Calendula: Takes on the wonderful healing properties of Marigold, which makes it an effective oil for treating sensitive skin and skin conditions. It is mild enough to be used on young children and babies. It can also help in maintaining joint mobility later in life. It can be used neat to treat skin conditions, or diluted in carrier oil for massage. When considering using it neat the properties of the oil the Marigold flowers have been infused into should be taken into account (e.g. Olive or Sunflower).

Evening Primrose: A wonderful skincare oil, strengthening, soothing, moisturising and softening. This is because it is very rich in essential fatty acids, including GLA. It is good for treating various skin conditions, as well as regulating menstruation and blood/cholesterol levels. Evening Primrose Oil is expensive so is often diluted in cheaper carrier oils such as Sweet Almond. It goes rancid rather quickly.

Grapeseed: One of the most commonly used oils as it is reasonably priced, nourishing, and can be used on all skin types. It has a light pleasant aroma, which will not interfere with essential oils. It is easily absorbed so the client won’t feel greasy after its use. However, traces of the chemical solvent used to extract it have been found in Grapeseed oil, so it is not recommended for high quality products and blends.

Jojoba: High in vitamin E and mimics the action of Sebum, the skins own natural lubricant, which makes it excellent for treating ageing or inflamed skin. It is known for its rejuvenating properties and assists in fighting wrinkles. Jojoba Oil is expensive and more like a liquid wax, so is usually blended with cheaper carrier oils. It has a very long shelf-life, which will also extend the life of any blend it is used in.

Macadamia Nut: High in essential fatty acids, in particular Palmitoleic Acid, which makes it very good for promoting young looking, soft, and supple skin. It has a long shelf-life, which can extend the life of a blend.

Peach Kernel: High in essential fatty acids and vitamins A and E, making it an excellent anti-inflammatory, protective and moisturising oil. It is a light, fine oil and a favourite for facial massage, as it feels pleasant and encourages skin suppleness and elasticity. Peach Kernel Oil is expensive and care must be taken when sourcing to ensure you get the genuine article. It can be helpful in a blend due to its semi-oily texture.

Sweet Almond: An excellent popular oil for aromatherapy as it is reasonably priced, wonderfully nourishing for the skin, and can be used on all skin types. It has a light marzipan-like aroma, which will not interfere with essential oils. It is good for treating many skin conditions.

Wheatgerm: Rich in vitamin E and very nourishing for all skin types, in particular dry, ageing, or damaged skin. It is quite heavy and has a strong odour so should be used blended with lighter oils such as Sweet Almond. It is also good for use on tired muscles.

Available in our aromatherapy shop: Carrier OilsNew Window


The following book was referenced for this section:

Aromatherapy – A Practical Approach by Vicki Pitman

See our full range of Aromatherapy books in the Further Exploration section.

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