Carrier oils and essential oils: what’s the difference?

March 12, 2019


Many natural products contain both essential oils and carrier oils, especially natural beauty and cleaning products.

We talked to Go Native about the difference between the two and how to use them. Essential oils and carrier oils are very different products. While both oils, they have different uses and structures.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated, are generally clear or yellow in colour, (though occasionally you’ll get a brilliant green in the case of German chamomile) and carry the powerful aroma of the plant from which they were made. Essential oils are made by distillation of the aromatic parts of a plant, which can include the flowers, leaves, stem or bark.

Rosehip essential oil
Rosehip carrier oil is full of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids

What are essential oils used for?

Essential oils are potent and, depending on the use, normally only a few drops are utilised per use. A drop or two is often enough, especially when being used in skincare or cleaning products. When used in a diffuser, the case is the same - a little goes a long way. Although you never want to apply essential oils directly onto your skin, so that brings us to carrier oils...

What are carrier oils?

Carrier oils are generally made from the fatty portion of a plant. Unlike essential oils, they generally don’t have a strong aroma. They are called carrier oils because they carry essential oils into the skin. Often, carrier oils are not used, especially in skincare products, simply because they carry essential oils into the skin. They often have their own unique benefits which combine with other ingredients to make a product beneficial.

What are carrier and essential oils used for?

Essential and carrier oils are often used as a powerful way to create natural beauty and skincare products, cleaning products and many other natural products as an alternative to the use of synthetic fragrances and chemicals. Every carrier and essential oil has a range of distinct benefits, with some more well known that others. For example, citrus essential oils are commonly used in natural cleaning products, while lavender essential oil is more common in skincare products because of its fresh and calming fragrance and unique benefits.

“In terms of skincare, for example, lavender essential oil is known be good for eczema and help heal acne and scarring, while geranium essential oil is known for its ability to firm the skin and help to prevent fine lines and wrinkles,” Go Native’s Chelsea McEwan-Millar says.

“In contrast, carrier oils have different benefits. For example, camellia oil is known to help the skin retain moisture while chia seed oil is high in vitamin B3 and is a powerful antioxidant. Hemp seed oil is an anti inflammatory and contains Omega 6, while jojoba oil is known for its intensely hydrating properties and ability to mimic skin's natural oils.”

While there are almost infinite uses for essential and carrier oils, it’s important to understand the properties of any that you are using to ensure they will be beneficial.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Natural window cleaner

Mix three cups of water with ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol or vodka. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar and 20 drops of peppermint essential oil. Shake to mix well before use. Pour into a spray bottle and spray onto windows or mirrors. Wipe clean with old newspaper for a streak-free clean.

Everyday facial serum

Mix 20 ml of two carrier oils of your choice (jojoba oil is a favourite for facial products) with four drops of frankincense essential oil and four drops of geranium essential oil. Use daily to hydrate and nourish the skin.

Frankincense essential oil

“I highly recommend having a google of the benefits of different carrier and essential oils to design yourself a natural product specifically for your skin’s unique needs. It’s so easy you’ll wonder why face serums are so desperately expensive."

Natural fabric softener recipe

Mix three cups of white vinegar with half a cup of baking soda. Add eight drops of lavender essential oil.Add a small amount into the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine to naturally soften your clothes.

Go Native supplies natural and organic ingredients including essential oils, carrier oils,cosmetic butters, waxes, fragrance oils and raw materials.

“We’re a small, close-knit team of family and friends who are committed to finding the finest ingredients from around the world. These ingredients must be ethically sourced and where possible we buy directly from the growers.”

Orange essential oil is often used in natural home cleaning products.



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