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Demystifying Carrier OIls

Written by Yeri Wolcott


What is a carrier oil and why do we need them?

Although essential oils are natural, there are still some safety considerations when using them.

Because they are very highly concentrated, most of the time essential oils should not be used directly on the skin without being diluted (using undiluted oils is called “neat”). Your skin can be sensitive and should be protected and cared for at all times. When using oils neat you are putting yourself at risk for skin irritation. Using undiluted oils may also cause you to develop a reaction to the compounds in the oils that you don’t notice at first, but which may bother you subsequently when those compounds are present even in safely diluted concentrations. This is called sensitization. A simple way to avoid this from happening is to use oils with so-called carrier oils.     

Carriers provide a medium that serves to dilute essential oils so that they are safe to use directly on the skin. A common misconception is that the carrier must be an oil—but any substance that can be absorbed by the skin will work. Carriers can be butters, lotions, salves and even gels! Generally we prefer to choose carriers that provide extra benefits to the user (skin softening, nourishing, healing, etc) and which most effectively deliver the essential oils in the product. Here at Sweetwater we use a variety of carriers ranging from Shea butter to coconut oil and even baobab oil.

So, how do you know what carrier is right for you? It simply boils down to what you are using the essential oil for. For instance, if you are experiencing dry skin this fall you might benefit from a blend suspended in body butter. Our body butters are a mixture of shea and cocoa butter. They are rich in Vitamin E and ultra nourishing to the skin. Thick and rich, they are great for alleviating dryness and adds a moisturizing protective layer to the skin.

Now what if you want a product for your face? A thick carrier is the wrong choice for such a delicate area of skin. You would want a lightweight and hydrating carrier. Something like a Witch Hazel spray with Vitamin E would be a much better option.

There are so many carriers to choose from so I will break down a few for you and you can decide which one will become your go-to carrier.

Avocado Oil: Expressed from dried avocado flesh. Highly nourishing and penetrating. Promotes cell regeneration and has a mild aroma.

Baobab: Cold pressing fruit of baobab tree. Penetrating and nourishing to the skin. Its fatty acid helps to maintain cell membrane health.

Cocoa Butter: A solid fat expressed from fermented, washed and roasted seed of the cocoa tree. It is rich in Vitamin E and has antioxidant properties. Can be used to treat wrinkles, and stretch marks. Great during pregnancy!

Jojoba Oil: Pressed bean from the jojoba bush. Highly penetrating and anti-inflammatory.  

Shea Butter: Cold pressed fruits of the karite tree. Alleviates dryness and highly skin nourishing.

Sweet Almond Oil: Known for its ability to soften and re-condition the skin. It is rich in proteins and is considered extremely nourishing to the skin. It can be used to soothe dry skin and irritated areas. (Most of our blends at Sweetwater are made with Sweet Almond Oil as a carrier).

Grapeseed Oil: Cold pressed. Easily absorbed into the skin. It has a light, satin like finish. It also has some skin toning and non-comedogenic characteristics. Great for massage—in fact we use a blend of Grapeseed and Sweet Almond in our Massage line.

Palm Oil: Cold pressed kernels of the palm fruit. Is said to be anti-inflammatory.



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