Unless you happen to be an expert on medieval alchemy, you've probably assumed essential oils were named that way due to hyperbolic marketing. They're essential! Buy now!
And as for carrier oils like coconut or jojoba oil, you might not have even realized they were called that – you may just know each by its name and that's it.
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. Taking advantage of those blissful benefits is easy – with a little know-how, of course.
And with that, we're going to school you on 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?
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: Bursting with nutritive compounds and derived from natural botanicals, essential and carrier oils are a staple for healthy skin. Thick, 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.
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. And if you're scratching your head because essential oils feel watery and evaporate quickly, we don't blame you. But back in those days, liquids that didn't mix with water were called oils regardless of viscosity.
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.
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. But like their essential brethren, 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, and more 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 come from nuts and should be avoided if you have an allergy.
Best Essential Oils for Skin
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.
Used for centuries in the ceremonies of spiritual communities, frankincense essential oil has an earthy, spicy scent that soothes and relaxes. It's great in DIY concoctions where you want a little brightening and tightening.
Lemongrass is an herb jam-packed with good stuff, like vitamins A and C, phosphorus, manganese, copper, potassium, and more! 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.
Best Carrier Oils for Skin
This carrier oil to end all carrier oils is actually not an oil! It's 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!
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. And because it's so great at moisturizing, it helps lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
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. Really, what can't this oil do?
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.
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. But 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 you!
The second is to 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.