What Are Carrier Oils? A Complete List for DIY Skin Care (Facts + Uses)

Essentially, carrier oils were used to dilute essential oils. But their uses extend way beyond that. They are versatile, beneficial, and welcome ingredients in skincare recipes, and their popularity keeps on growing.

Knowing your carrier oils well is very important as it can help you make or break your skin care regimen and DIY recipes. Since there’s so many of them, knowing each one separately can be a bit overwhelming.

Luckily for you, I’ve used, tested, and tried quite a few carrier oils so far and many are included in the recipes here on the blog. That’s why I decided to write a list of carrier oils and their benefits of all the oils I’ve had a chance to work with. Below, you’ll also find links to recipes for each oil separately; I hope that will give you an idea of the oil’s profile and how to use it more easily.

Ready? Let’s have a look!

*Some of the links in this post might be affiliate links. Affiliate links come at no extra cost to you. These links allow me to share the products I authentically recommend (and use) and support Wild for Nature by receiving a small commission.

If you’ve tried making any kind of homemade skincare before, chances are, you’ve already used carrier oils in your recipes. They are extremely versatile; they’re used in skincare, cooking, and natural remedies.

Some of the most popular carrier oils are coconut oil and sweet almond oil. But, there are many more options out there and we’ll have a look at them and how to use them in DIY beauty recipes.

I’ll keep updating this list with new oils I try and new recipes I make, so make sure to Pin it and keep coming back for new info!

Before heading to the fun part, let’s have a look at what these oils really are and what’s the big deal about them.

What are carrier oils?

Carrier oils are those types of oils that are often used to dilute essential oils before applying them topically to our skin. Carrier oils are also known as natural or base oils. They are derived from plants; seeds, kernels, or nuts. They’re named carrier because they carry essential oils to the skin.

Carrier oils have been around for centuries and have been used for massage, baths, skincare, and medicinal purposes. They’re a common ingredient in skin care products of all sorts.

Different natural oils have different composition and properties for the skin. That’s why they have different scents, colors, and even viscosity. Overall, they contain fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that can improve our skin in a number of ways, such as minimize the signs of aging.

Because of their different properties and composition, not all carrier oils are great for all skin types, which is why it’s difficult to say which carrier oil is the best for skin. There are different best categories, depending on skin type. Some are best for dry skin, others for irritated skin, and some can’t be used on acne-prone skin because they may cause breakouts.

These oils are known as comedogenic oils. The comedogenic rating explains how likely is it for oil to clog pores on a scale from 0 to 5. The higher the oil is on the scale, the more likely it is to clog pores. If you’re worried about that, check the complete list of oils that are safe to use for oily skin.

Types of carrier oils

Essentially, there are two basic categories of carrier oils (according to New Directions Aromatics):

Hard oils

These oils are solid at room temperature. We have to melt them if we want to use them in a DIY recipe for more or less anything. They add firmness to the product, making it easier to use. For example, a lip balm without a butter will melt quickly and won’t keep its shape in a lip balm tube successfully.

Most popular hard oils are cocoa, mango, and shea butter.

Soft oils

These are liquid are room temperature. They can be used to produce oil serums, and are commonly used in products to soften them. Body butter without a soft oil can be a lump of butter that’s difficult to use on the skin. Also, a soap bar without any soft oil will be brittle and likely to crack.

There are many different soft oils out there, but some of the most popular are sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, and argan oil.

We can divide soft oils further, based on their texture and speed at which they absorb into the skin. You may have heard of wet and dry oils, so let’s say a few words about that before going further.

What are dry oils?

Dry oils are lightweight (soft) carrier oils that absorb into the skin quickly. Some people love to refer to these types of base oils as non-greasy oils. They are still greasy as they’re oils, but you a bit less than wet oils. What’s more, many of these oils are non-comedogenic and suitable for oily skin types as well. Some of the most popular dry oils are rosehip, safflower, and grapeseed oil.

What are wet oils?

Wet oils are those that are still soft carriers but thicker in texture. They stay on the skin surface longer and take a while to absorb. They are greasy and leave such feeling on the skin as well. These help to lock in moisture and are great for cold weather. What’s more, many of these are suitable for dry skin types. Some of the most common wet oils are jojoba, sweet almond oil, and castor oil.

Which carrier oil absorbs fastest?

Absorbs FastAbsorbs AverageAbsorbs Slow
Rosehip seed oil

Hazelnut oil

Safflower oil

Camellia seed oil

Grapeseed oil

Apricot kernel oil

Fractionated coconut oil

Macadamia nut oil

Mango butter

Prickly pear oil

Cupuacu butter

Jojoba oil

Argan oil

Sweet almond oil

Babassu oil

Hemp seed oil

Sesame oil

Cocoa butter

Avocado oil

Olive oil

Castor oil

Flaxseed oil

Coconut oil

Neem oil

Borage oil

Pomegranate oil

Tamanu oil

Shea butter

How to use carrier oils?

There are numerous ways you can use carrier oils no matter your level in DIY skincare. You can add them to a number of recipes or use them neat, with a few drops of essential oils.

  • Facial oils
  • Facial cleansers
  • Face masks
  • Lip balms
  • Hair masks
  • Hair oils
  • Body oils
  • Body butters (see how to make your own body butter)
  • Body lotions (see how to make lotion at home)
  • Facial creams and lotions
  • Massage oils
  • Hand creams
  • Healing balms and salves
  • Soaps and bath bombs

You can find more recipes below, under each oil and see how exactly you can use that specific carrier oil.

List of carrier oils for skin

Argan oil

Argan oil, also known as Liquid Gold, is a luxurious carrier oil like no other. It’s native to Morocco, and it’s been used for centuries by the traditional Berber people as a natural remedy for skin conditions and rheumatism. Argan oil is rich in oleic and linoleic acids. It’s very beneficial for the skin and hair as it helps to improve the skin’s texture, moisturize it, and minimize the appearance of wrinkles. What’s more, it softens the skin and hair, reduces inflammation and irritation for acne-prone skin, minimizes acne scars, stretch marks. It promotes supple skin and it’s one of a kind oil that’s impossible to substitute.

Abouta liquid oil, pressed from the kernels of the Argan tree, also known as Tree of Life, native to Morocco
Colorgolden yellow
Texturerich and smooth
Scentrefined doesn’t have any scent, unrefined has a nutty scent
Absorbencyaverage
Solubilityoil
Prosgreat for aging, acne-prone, and mature skin. Beneficial for the hair as well, promotes supple skin and it’s easy to use in DIY skincare since it’s versatile
Conspricey and too heavy for all who prefer fast-absorbing oils
Substitutesjojoba in terms of texture, but nothing in terms of benefits and composition
Works best:facial serums, facial lotions, hair masks and oils, beard oils and balms
Storagedry, cool, and dark place
Sold on…Amazon

Read more on why and how can argan oil help minimize acne scars and improve acne-prone skin. Discover how argan oil can minimize stretch marks. Did you know argan oil is also a common ingredient in beard oils for its benefits? What’s more, it also works great as a carrier oil in oil cleansing method recipes and a natural remedy for dark circles!

Recipes with argan oil:

Camellia Oil

Camellia seed oil is Japan’s best-kept beauty secret. The Geisha used it and now we can too. It slows down the signs of aging, keeps the skin moisturized and nourished, and it makes it smooth, soft and glowing without any greasy feeling. It’s also great for brittle nails and can easily be used as a natural hair conditioner. Camellia oil is loaded with antioxidants and fatty acids; it helps to minimize the appearance of scars and naturally firm the skin. Add it to any recipe you wish, or use it neat.

Aboutoil pressed from the seeds Camellia Oleifera. A traditional beauty oil for Japanese skin hair
Colorpale, yellow liquid
Texturesmooth
Scenta bit oily
Absorbencyfast
Solubilityoil
Prosfast absorbent oil that’s rich in nutrients
Conspricey
Substitutesother lightweight oils: grape seed, safflower
Works best:facial serums, hair oils, lotions
Storagedry, cool, and dark place
Sold on…Amazon

Read more on camellia skin benefits.

Recipes with camellia oil:

Castor Oil

Castor oil is as thick as it gets. It used to be used as a laxative (even as a punishment in colonial India and Fascist Italy) but it’s awesome for skincare as well, as it can prevent wrinkles, slow down the aging process, minimize acne, reduce puffiness, and even minimize sunburn. It’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and it overall promotes healthy and glowing skin. dilute it with another carrier oil since it’s so thick, and prepare to reap results.

Aboutpressed from castor beans, this is a thick, and glossy oil
Colorpale, yellowish oil
Texturethick, sticky, viscous
Scentnone
Absorbencyslow
Solubilityoil
Prosrare and thick, gives a gloss to lipsticks, great for oil cleansing method, hair and beard care
Consmakes products sticky when added too much
Substitutesnot really (avocado in lip balms perhaps)
Works best:OCM, lip balms, lip glosses, hair oils
Storagedry, cool, and dark place
Sold on…Amazon

*Castor oil is a thick oil that needs to be diluted with another carrier oil for best effects because it’s difficult to apply it on its own.

Recipes with castor oil:

Coconut Oil

Enough has already been said about coconut oil, so I’ll be short. It’s affordable and usually one of the first oils that beginners use to make DIY recipes. Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, quite versatile, and great beginner’s oil if you’re just learning how to make basic recipes. Some use it as a makeup remover, I mostly don’t put it on my skin any more, as I discovered other oils and butters that I believe are superior in how they absorb, feel, and act on the skin.

Aboutpressed from the meat of coconuts, this is a staple in many households. It can be liquid or solid, depending on your room temperature. You can get an always-liquid version, namely fractionated coconut oil.
Colorwhite butter when solid and clear liquid when melted
Texturesmooth, slightly greasy
Scentunrefined smells like coconuts, refined has no scent
Absorbencyaveragely slow
Solubilityoil
Proslovely scent, versatile, affordable, accessible
ConsI find it’s not moisturizing enough for my skin in body butters. It’s too greasy (or doesn’t absorb well) and I prefer to add it to lip balms, hair masks.
Substitutesbabassu oil
Works best:body butters, lip balms, salves, soaps
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on… easily obtainable from Amazon

*If you tried coconut oil and it hasn’t worked for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of other options available. I’m also not the biggest fan to use it in large amounts as it’s just too greasy for me personally. But, I practice coconut oil pulling a few times a year and I regularly add coconut oil to body scrubs since it’s affordable and promotes glowing skin.

Recipes with coconut oil:

Cupuacu Butter

Cupuacu butter is something I discovered recently, but it’s a gorgeous butter that’s similar to mango but slightly better in terms of application, non-greasy finish, and the effect it has on the skin. Cupuacu butter is rich in phytosterols, it benefits dry and damaged skin, and it helps to protect it from environmental and free-radical damage. It effectively moisturizes the skin without a greasy feeling, and it improves its elasticity and health. What’s more, this is a plant-alternative to lanolin as it can attract 240% more water to the skin, making it plumper, more supple, and healthier.

AboutSoft and firm butter, made by cold-pressing the seeds of cupuacu tree, native to Brazil
Colorcream
TextureFirm at first, but it melts in contact with skin (similarly to mango butter)
ScentUnrefined has a gentle nutty, cognac-like, and warm. Refined doesn’t smell much like anything
Absorbencyfast
Solubilityoil
Prosabsorbs fast (similarly to mango butter) and leaves smooth and soft skin with a non-greasy finish
Conscan be on the pricier side
Substitutesmango butter as it’s similar in the non-greasy department and lighter than shea butter
Works best:body butters, butter bars, lotions; I love to add it in pretty much anything!
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on… easily obtainable from Amazon

Recipes with cupuacu butter:

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil has become my favorite after just one use because it’s lightweight and versatile. I’ve added it to so many different recipes, and it worked well in every one of them. It’s also great for all types of skin, affordable, and odorless. It can be used neat or in a combination with another carrier oil. It’s non-comedogenic, great for dry and normal skin type, and even for healthy hair. Add it to facial or body scrubs, lotions, and butters or use it as a cheap makeup-remover if olive oil isn’t your thing.

Aboutlightweight, versatile oil, pressed from the seeds of grapes
Colorvery pale liquid oil
Texturelightweight
Scentnone
Absorbencyfast
Solubilityoil
Prosfast-absorbing, versatile, affordable
Consnone that I could find; it’s become one of my favorite carrier oils especially for facial skincare
Substitutessafflower oil, apricot kernel oil, macadamia nut oil
Works best:facial serums, lotions
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on… easily obtainable from Amazon

*Grapeseed oil is one of the non-comedogenic oils that can be used by people with oily skin types. It’s versatile, affordable, and great for a number of recipes or different skin types.

Recipes with grapeseed oil:

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is often confused with hash oil and that may give it a negative reputation, but the two oils are differently produced and have different benefits. Hemp seed oil is very versatile and beneficial for the skin. It helps to strengthen the skin, boost its elasticity and promote supple and soft skin. It’s also great for dry and damaged skin, it helps to tone complexion and rejuvenates the skin. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. What’s more, it helps to balance the oil production on the skin, minimize inflammation and slow down the signs of aging.

AboutCold-pressed from the seeds of the hemp plant
Colorlight to dark green color
Texturesmooth
Scentgreenish, slightly nutty, and grassy
Absorbencymedium
Solubilityoil
Prosrich in nutrients, omega-3, and -6 fatty acids, great for all skin types and skin ailments, versatile
Consmedium absorbency, shorter shelf-life
Substitutesdifficult, it’s quite unique; you could try with olive/avocado oil for texture, but not for the benefits
Works bestproducts that heal and nourish the skin (salves, balms, facial oils)
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on…Amazon

You can read more about the beautiful benefits of hemp seed oil here. The hemp seed oil also works great in an oil cleansing method. It can also work as a natural remedy for stretch marks, and it’s one of the 25 safe and approved oils for oily and acne-prone skin.

Recipes with hemp seed oil:

Macadamia Nut Oil

Macadamia nut oil is a lightweight carrier oil that’s great for dry, mature, and sensitive skin. It’s turned into a staple in my DIY cabinet because it’s stable, easy to use, and absorbs quickly. What’s more, macadamia is rich in fatty acids, promotes anti-inflammatory properties, and regenerates and softens the skin. What’s more, it helps to prevent additional water loss of the skin while keeping it moisturized and youthful. It also helps to minimize the signs of aging (fine lines, wrinkles) and repairs skin cells.

Aboutobtained by pressing macadamia nuts
Colorgolden yellow liquid oil
Texturesmooth
Scentrefined doesn’t smell like anything
Absorbencyfast
Solubilityoil
Prosabsorbs fast, rich in fatty acids, versatile and stable oil
Consnot suitable for people with nut allergies
Substitutesgrapeseed, safflower
Works best:facial cleansers, lotions, butter bars, lip balms, salves
Storagedry, cool, and dark place
Sold on…Amazon

Macadamia oil may potentially clog pores, but that doesn’t mean you should be adding it to other DIY recipes. I made macadamia a key ingredient in one of my Illuminating series; see the recipes below.

It can work great in an oil cleanser, especially for dry skin.

Recipes with macadamia nut oil:

Mango Butter

Mango butter is a gorgeous lightweight butter that’s a great alternative to the greasy shea. It has emollient properties, nourishes the skin effectively, and it leaves it soft and moisturized. What’s more, it boosts the elasticity of the skin, making it appear firmer, suppler, and smoother. Mango butter is rich in fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E. This butter helps to minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, protects the skin from environmental damage, and it’s also great for sensitive skin as well as baby products. It’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging. It heals dry skin, minimizes skin ailments, and promotes glowing, firm, and youthful skin.

Abouta butter obtained by pressing the mango seeds
Colorwhite
Texturesoft and firm butter
Scentnothing special
Absorbencyfast
Solubilityoil
Prosabsorbs fast and leaves a smooth, silky skin with a non-greasy finish
Consa bit pricier
Substitutescupuacu butter works well as a substitute (while shea butter is much greasier and slower to absorb)
Works best:sun care, balms, hair products, facial cleansers, creams, body lotions, body butters
Storagedry, cool, and dark place
Sold on…Amazon

Read more about mango butter skin benefits here.

Recipes with mango butter:

Neem Oil

Neem oil is loaded with components and benefits for the skin that puts many other carrier oils to shame. Its only problem is a horrible scent that you may find difficult to ignore. Very few people love it, but if you can manage to get past the scent, you’re in for a treat. This oil has a potential to soothe and treat dry skin and wrinkles. It boosts collagen production, minimize scars, and it’s effective for acne with its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Mind you, it’s a potent oil; a little goes a long way and make sure to dilute it with another carrier before use.

AboutExtracted from the fruits of the neem tree, it has a long history of use in India for a number of skin issues as well as cosmetic products.
Colorbrownish-green oil, cloudy
Texturesmooth, rich, oily
Scentvery reused frying oil with strong hints of freshly chopped green grass. According to other sources, it smells garlicky, musky, with a blend of soy sauce.
Absorbencyslow
Solubilityoil
ProsVery beneficial for skin issues because it’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. Its effects are as powerful as its smell!
Consawful scent
Substitutesnone that I could find, it’s unique
Works bestinsect repellants, facial care for acne, products for irritated and problematic skin
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on…Amazon

* Neem oil has an awfully distinctive smell. It is often used in insect repellants. I have made a few recipes with it (using it in small amounts) and there’s no way to mask its scent, so I don’t recommend using it in anything where scent plays an important role. Seriously, it’s a bad bad smell.

Read more about neem oil skin benefits.

Olive Oil

Olive oil may not be the most popular carrier oil, but it’s affordable and easily accessible. It’s rich in vitamins, promotes antioxidant properties as well as smooth and soft skin. A good olive oil should have kind of a fresh scent, but I’m lucky as I get a supply of home grown olive oil every year. Add it to hand creams, healing salves, and body scrubs instead of a pricier oil. Your budget and your skin will thank you!

Aboutrich oil made by pressing olives; used in cooking but great for DIY skin care
Colorgreen to yellow oil
Texturegreasy, smooth
Scentdepends on variety and type (from rich green to no scent)
Absorbencyaveragely slow
Solubilityoil
Prosaffordable and versatile, easily obtainable
Consit leaves an oily scent as well as color in the products
Substitutesnone; I find this one to be quite unique
Works best:many people use it when making soap. I love it in body scrubs mostly. It also makes a lovely body oil in summer after a swim! (when applied to wet skin in combination with salt water)
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on… easily obtainable from Amazon

Read more about olive oil skin and hair benefits. You can easily add olive oil to a body scrub if you’re looking for an affordable way of how to get smooth skin on the budget. Olive oil also makes an affordable makeup remover.

Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip seed oil is a luxurious amber-orange liquid oil that everyone loves. Despite the online claims that it’s an essential oil, it’s not. It’s also not loaded with vitamin C, but it does contain provitamin A and it’s been shown effective with minimizing acne scars. It’s also effective for dark circles, safe for all skin types. It boosts collagen production and it’s a common anti-aging ingredient in products; use it at will but add it to the cool down phase when making lotions to preserve all its good nutrients.

Aboutbeautiful lightweight oil pressed from rosehip seeds
Coloramber/ orange hue (anything pale isn’t the best quality)
Texturelightweight and smooth
Scentslightly oily
Absorbencyfast
Solubilityoil
Prosvery healing (with provitamin A and fatty acids) and nurturing. Great for all skin types.
Conscan go rancid if not stored properly
Substitutesnone since it’s a unique carrier oil with great properties
Works best:facial skincare, lotions
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on… Amazon

Read more on rosehip oil for scars. Rosehip oil is a luxurious carrer oil that is non-comedogenic and great for oily and acne-prone skin.You can use it neat as well, but it can go rancid quickly is exposed to high temperatures. Add a few drops of vitamin E oil to it, to prolong its shelf life.

Recipes with rosehip oil:

Shea Butter

Shea butter is a rich, versatile, and healing butter that I keep in my DIY pantry at all times. It promotes incredible healing properties for the skin (I use it to treat burns, cuts, and dry skin), as well as nourishing benefits as well. It’s safe for all skin types; it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal. It’s great for mature skin, helps to boost collagen production and cell regeneration. You can include it into a body butter or a facial lotion easily.

Abouta versatile butter, rich in nutrients. Obtained by pressing the shea tree nuts
Coloryellow-ish, off-white color
Texturecreamy and smooth
Scentunrefined: nutty, earthy. Refined: none
Absorbencyaverage
Solubilityoil, butter
Proshealing and nurturing for the skin. Easy to get, affordable
Conscan’t be used by those with nut allergies
Substitutesnone in my opinion
Works best:body butters, lotions, healing salves, lip balms
Storagedark, cool, dry place
Sold on… Amazon

*Unrefined shea butter but it has a nutty scent that is quite strong. I personally love it, but many dislike it. Opt for a refined version if you don’t like its scent.

Recipes with shea butter:

How to mix essential oils with carrier oils?

You may think that you can add as much essential oils into any carrier oil of choice, but that’s not the case. Using too much essential oils can result in skin irritation, sensitization, and potential allergies. More is better is not always the best option when it comes to essential oils.

The general blend ratio goes something like this:

1% dilution: 5 drops of EO to 1 ounce carrier oil

2% dilution: 10 drops EO to 1 ounce carrier oil

For a safe daily and long-term use, most experts recommend 1% dilution; that would mean adding 1 gram of essential oils to 100g gram product. You can still add the EO amount up to 2%, but pay attention to each essential oil separately. Some may cause irritation faster as they’re more potent, such as clove and cinnamon.

Best carrier oils for skin

There isn’t one single oil that’s the best for all skin types. I mean, there may be, but just like these oils, our skin types are all created differently. Carrier oils vary in composition and promote various benefits, so what works for my skin won’t necessarily work for yours.

It all depends on the skin type; I prefer lightweight oils that don’t leave any greasy feeling on the skin, but your skin may need a heavy oil because it’s dry. Test carrier oils (that’s the fun part!) to find what works best for your skin.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Rebecca Dillon

    LOVE this list! Rosehip seed oil is legit my fave for my dry facial skin and I love hemp for all over!

    • Thank you so much! I agree with you on the choice of oils, even though I have a new favorite: hazelnut oil. I’ve made a few recipes with it and it’s lightweight and lovely. Give it a try if you get the chance 😀

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