Essential Oils vs Carrier Oils: What's the Difference?

Essential Oils vs Carrier Oils: What's the Difference?

Unless you happen to be an expert on medieval alchemy, you might assume that essential oils were named so due to hyperbolic marketing. They're essential– buy now!

And as for carrier oils like coconut or jojoba oil, you might not have realized they are referred to as such.

Fact is, these two groups of plant-based oils are named quite literally. They also happen to go together better than bubbles and baths, and their combined powers can do absolute wonders for the skin.

Let’s talk about essential and carrier oils, how they differ, which are best for skin, and what they can do for you! Ready to reap some radiant rewards?


Main Takeaways: Bursting with nutritive compounds and derived from natural botanicals, essential and carrier oils are a staple for healthy skin. Thicker moisturizing carrier oils act as the perfect vehicle for highly concentrated essential oils to hitch a ride – diluting them in the process to make them safer for skin.

Good to Know: Essential oils are very potent, and some are even toxic to humans and pets in high doses. A little goes a long way with these, especially when thinned with a nourishing carrier oil.

Recommended Products: So Clean! Facial Cleanser, Prince Charcoal Detox Mask, Nectar of the C Vitamin C Serum, Just Dew It Hydrating Serum, Crème de la Cream Brightening Moisturizer and Eyes Eyes Baby Anti-Aging Eye Cream.


Looking for a skincare routine packed with both essential oils and carrier oils? We've got you.

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What Is an Essential Oil?

Essential oils are natural, aromatic compounds derived from plants using distillation or a press method. They're highly concentrated and come from an array of plant materials, including flowers, seeds, roots, leaves, fruit, herbs, buds, and more.

Because these substances capture the truest "essence" of the plant with nothing else added, the folk healers of yore referred to them as essential oils.

Essential oils are packed with beneficial nutrients, but the way they're extracted is critically important. It has to be done using a non-chemical process like steam distillation or cold-pressing, otherwise, the final product isn't a true essential oil.

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What Is a Carrier Oil?

Unlike essential oils, carrier oils are thick, unscented or lightly fragranced, and take a minute to soak into the skin. Like their essential siblings, they too come from plants. They're typically extracted from seeds, nuts, and kernels, and also need to be processed gently so as not to be chemically altered.

Carrier oils are bursting with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids – all things that are extremely beneficial for skin. Because these oils are so nutritious, don't evaporate quickly, and aren't nearly as intense as essential oils, they're ideal for diluting and carrying essentials to the skin for absorption.

How They’re Different

Essential oils are concentrated, potent, and potentially hazardous. That's why they're used in tiny amounts — think a few drops at a time. While some can be applied directly to the skin, many need to be diluted to get the benefits without having a seriously bad reaction.

Essential oils are also highly fragrant and have a thin viscosity. Just a dash can turn unscented lotions, soaps, etc. into perfumed perfection.

Carrier oils, on the other hand, tend to be extremely moisturizing and are tolerable in large amounts. It's common to use carrier oils like coconut oil or grapeseed oil as an alternative to body lotion or to seal in moisturizers. One thing to note about carrier oils is that some are derived from nuts and should be avoided if you have a nut allergy.

Best Essential Oils for Skin

Lavender Oil

Sought after for its lovely floral scent, lavender oil has a soothing effect on the skin. That's why you'll find it in our Eyes Eyes Baby eye cream. It also boasts cleansing properties that help remove irritation-causing impurities, doubling down on its calming powers.

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Geranium Oil

Another flower-derived essential oil that imparts a pleasant scent, geranium is known for its ability to balance the skin. It is a natural astringent and antioxidant that can also help to temporarily tighten the skin. We’ve included this antioxidant-rich botanical in many of our products, including Eyes Eyes Baby, Just Dew It, H2 Oh Yeah and Crème de la Cream.

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Lemongrass Oil

Lemongrass is an herb jam-packed with vitamins and minerals. It's great at removing dirt, oil, and impurities, making pores appear smaller and helping to balance natural oils. Plus, its powerful, citrusy scent will have you feeling invigorated and squeaky clean. You will find lemongrass oil in our Prince Charcoal detox mask.

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Best Carrier Oils for Skin

Jojoba Oil

This carrier oil is actually a wax ester. On top of being insanely moisturizing, jojoba oil provides antioxidant protection, is non-comedogenic, and helps balance natural sebum levels. All these wonderful features and more are why it's one of our favorite ingredients in our brightening Nectar of the C vitamin C serum. In fact, it’s so effective, we also have jojoba oil in our Just Dew It hydrating serum, H2 Oh Yeah hydrating moisturizer, and our Eyes Eyes Baby eye cream.

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Coconut Oil

One of the most commonly used carrier oils, coconut oil is the perfect after-shower addition to make your skin baby soft and moisturized. It's uber-rich in medium-chain fatty acids (more than 65% of its total composition!) which are supremely nourishing for skin. You can find coconut oil in our So Clean! facial cleanser, because it’s great for cleansing and purifying the skin.

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Rosehip Oil

Packed with fatty acids and non-comedogenic, rosehip oil is as versatile as they come. Antioxidants give it anti-aging properties, while vitamin C helps even skin tone and bestows a healthy-looking glow. It's also great for moisturizing cuticles and the scalp. We’ve added rosehip oil to our Prince Charcoal detox mask.

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Grapeseed Oil

The ultimate all-purpose oil, grapeseed oil is lightweight and fast-absorbing with a super silky texture. Its non-greasy feel makes it an excellent moisturizer and great for taming frizz. It has an abundance of antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamin E and can lessen the appearance of dark spots and scars, too. Thanks to its light consistency and nutritive properties, grapeseed oil plays well with most skin types. Our hydrating products, Just Dew It and H2 Oh Yeah, include grapeseed oil to seal in all hydrating goodness in each product.

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Pairing Essential Oils and Carrier Oils

Since everyone's skin is different, there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to what essential oils and carrier oils to use. Having said that, there are two good rules of thumb to follow: First is always, always patch test essential oils to make sure they won't irritate your skin.

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Second– begin with a 1% dilution ratio. That means for every 99% of carrier oil, you have 1% of essential oil. That translates to about 6 drops of essential oil for every ounce of carrier oil. Once you've spot tested and found this low dilution won't mess with your skin, you can add a bit more until you find what works for you.

Now comes the fun part — experimenting! Plenty of carrier oils are relatively odorless and make a great base for essentials. Others have a light fragrance that can really elevate an essential oil blend. Eventually, you'll find the textures, scents, and nutrient profiles you love the most.