Can coconut oil be a carrier oil*

What are Carrier Oils?

Pictured is a variety of cold pressed vegetable oils ranging in color from clear Fractionated Coconut Oil to dark Avocado Oil

A carrier oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fatty portion of a plant, usually from the seeds, kernels or the nuts

Each carrier oil offers a different combination of therapeutic properties and characteristics The choice of carrier oil can depend on the therapeutic benefit being sought

Natural lotions, creams, body oils, bath oils, lip balms and other moisturizing skin care products are also made using vegetable (carrier) oils From a simple essential oil/carrier oil blend to a more complex natural lotion, your choice of carrier oil can make a difference in the therapeutic properties, color, overall aroma and shelf life of your final product

Adding essential oil, drop by drop, to a tablespoon of carrier oil

Essential Oils vs Carrier Oils

Essential oils are distilled from the leaves, bark, roots and other aromatic portions of a botanical Essential oils evaporate and have a concentrated aroma Carrier oils, on the other hand, are pressed from the fatty portions (seeds, nuts, kernels) and do not evaporate or impart their aroma as strongly as essential oils Carrier oils can go rancid over time, but essential oils do not Instead, essential oils "oxidize" and lose their therapeutic benefits, but they don't go rancid

Vegetable Oils are Also Known as Carrier Oils or Base Oils

The term carrier oil is generally limited to use within the practice of aromatherapy In natural skin care, carrier oils are typically referred to as vegetable oils, fixed oils or base oils Not all fixed oils/base oils are vegetable oils Emu oil (from the emu bird) and fish (marine) oils are also classified as fixed/base oils, but these animal-based oils are generally not used for aromatherapy work

After reading this article, be sure to also view AromaWeb's Guide to Carrier Oils to view profiles and properties for many carrier oils used in aromatherapy and skin/hair care

The Aroma of Carrier Oils

Some carrier oils are odorless, but generally speaking, most have a faintly sweet, nutty aroma If you come across a carrier oil that has a strong, bitter aroma, the carrier oil may have gone rancid See the Carrier Oils and Rancidity section of this article for information on rancidity

Examples of Vegetable Oils that are Commonly Used as Carrier Oils in Aromatherapy:

Shopping For Carrier Oils

Processing Method


Carrier oils can contain fat soluble vitamins, minerals and other nutrients Seabuckthorn Berry Oil, for instance, has such a high ratio of beta carotene that the oil is orange and is amongst the most vivid of oils Oils that naturally contain tocopherols (Vitamin E) act as anti-oxidants which are both helpful to the skin and generally help extend the shelf life of the oil

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids are fatty acids that our bodies cannot manufacture and need to get from our diets When applied topically, they are very nourishing to our skin Carrier oils vary in their ratio and specific EFAs that they contain EFAs are a benefit to the skin, but they also can make an oil more fragile and prone to quicker rancidity See the Essential Fatty Acids article for more information

Carrier oils can vary greatly in price based on several factors: The botanical it's made from, how it was processed, if it's organic, the quantity that you're purchasing, and the source that you're purchasing it from

Organic carrier oils generally cost more than conventional oils When purchasing organic carrier oils, verify if the oil is certified

Color doesn't always matter when selecting a carrier oil for simple blends, but it can matter if you are making more elaborate recipes where the color of your final product is important to you

The aroma of some carrier oils can compete or conflict with the aroma of the essential oils in your desired blend

Viscosity: Viscosity is a measurement of the resistance of a liquid to movement and flow For our purposes in comparing carrier oils, I keep things simple by defining them as having a "thin," "medium" or "thick" viscosityLooking forward to hear your kind request.


This is a rather subjective evaluation of how thoroughly and quickly an oil penetrates the skin, and if it makes the skin feel oily after application

Shelf Life

Carrier oils vary in how long they last before oxidizing and becoming rancid When purchasing carrier oils, estimate the quantity of oil that you think you'll use within the lifetime of the oil See the Carrier Oils and Rancidity section of this article for information on shelf life and rancidity

Avoid Mineral Oil

Storing Carrier Oils

For fragile carrier oils or for those that you will be keeping for a long duration, store them in dark glass bottles with tight fitting tops, and store them in a cool, dark location Amber or cobalt Boston round bottles are ideal

Most carrier oils can be stored in the refrigerator, and this can help prolong the lifespan of fragile oils like Borage Seed Oil Avocado Oil, however, should not be stored in the refrigerator Oils stored in the refrigerator may solidify or turn cloudy and will need time to return to room temperature prior to use

Carrier Oils and Rancidity

Essential oils do not go rancid Carrier oils, however, do become rancid over time The level of natural fatty acids, tocopherols, method of extraction and other characteristics of an oil all can affect how quickly an oil becomes rancid If you come across a carrier oil that has a strong, bitter aroma, the carrier oil may have gone rancid If you can, compare the aroma of the oil that you suspect is rancid with the same botanical oil that you know is fresh

Carrier oils that you purchase should be natural and unadulterated Exceptions include buying carrier oils that have natural Vitamin E added Vitamin E, often listed as tocopherols acts as a natural preservative

Vegetable Butters and Other Ingredients As Carriers

Vegetable butters are not carrier oils, but the beneficial properties of vegetable butters like Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter make them lipids that are suitable for use in aromatherapy

Vegetable butters are similar to vegetable oils but are solid at room temperature Vegetable butters are processed by a wide variety of methods, so it's especially important to check the method of extraction when shopping for butters Strive to use butters that are cold pressed

Carrier Oils and Diffusers

I am sometimes asked about carrier oil usage when diffusing essential oils Carrier Oils are generally not necessary when using most types of nebulizers and diffusers Check the instructions that come with your diffuser or contact the manufacturer for usage instructions)

Carrier Oil Profiles

Go to AromaWeb's Guide to Carrier Oils to view profiles and properties for 24 carrier oils used in aromatherapy and skin/hair care

Carrier Oil Suppliers

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