How To Choose Carrier Oils

Let’s talk carrier oils and why they are a necessity in a #LifeFromScratch skin and body care routine, as well as in homemade skin and body care items. Before I began my journey in earnest, I used pretty much any thing on my face, skin, and body. It was all just about that awesomely scented lotion, scrub, or other product and I rarely even took a glance at the ingredient label in my blissful ignorance. I had a really hard time when I was younger with acne-prone skin and never thought twice about using harsh abrasive cleaners, which in turn dried my skin out, which made me reach for the chemical-laden moisturizers.


It was like being on a toxic carousel that never stopped!

When I started getting serious a couple years ago about changing how my family was living and started experimenting with making my own body care items, one of the first things I did was to stop using commercial facial cleansers and moisturizers and started the oil cleansing method instead. That was when I began to learn about carrier oils, what they were, what role they played within products, and how they could be used to benefit my skin.

The dirty about carrier oils…


  • Base oil derived from (mainly) nuts and seeds of different plants.
  • Can be used as a moisturizer or to treat problem areas.
  • Used to dilute strong essential oils to make them safe to apply to the body.
  • Effectively “carry” other ingredients into the skin and stop the essential oil from evaporating to quickly.

The 411 on Carrier Oils


They are a “base” oil and are derived from (mainly) nuts and seeds of different plants. Different carrier oils offer different therapeutic properties and are suitable for different skin types and products. They can be used by themselves (or in conjunction with another oil) as a moisturizer or to treat problem areas. They can be used to dilute strong essential oils and other fragrances and products to make them safe to apply to the body. When they are used in the latter manner, they effectively “carry” the other ingredients into the skin and body and stop the essential oil from evaporating too quickly. They are also used for their therapeutic properties in homemade body care products such as deodorants, soaps, body butters, scrubs, and many other recipes.

It has taken me some time experimenting with different carrier oils to find what works best for my personal situation. Every so often I try something new, and make changes to my skin care routine, but I usually have about 4-5 different carrier oils in rotation which I use during different times of the year (with or without essential oils &/or in homemade products).

When choosing a carrier oil…

  • Purchase highest quality you can afford.
  • Cold-pressed, pure, unrefined oil with no additives.

And a little FYI…

  • Cold pressed = unheated = retains beneficial properties
  • Unrefined = little refining =retains richness and strength

Choosing a Carrier Oil


You want to make sure you are using the highest quality you can afford. If possible you should be purchasing cold-pressed, pure, unrefined oil with no additives. Cold pressed oils have not been heated and therefore retain their innate beneficial properties. Unrefined oils have undergone little refining and (usually) retain their richness and strength. Since there are so many different base oils out there to choose from, I’ve put together a list of the top carrier oils along with some information that will educate you and assist you in how to choose carrier oils for your needs. With the information, you will then be able to choose based on the properties you will need for your particular application.

Just remember that the key to success is experimenting with your oils and ingredients until you find what works best for you, your skin, and your product.

Learn more below about carrier oils that I have personally used and carrier oils that I want to use!

More Common Carrier Oils


The medium chain fatty acids work as an antimicrobial agent to help kill bacteria and other viruses. It is very similar to our natural sebum secretion. All of the properties of coconut oil leads to moisturized skin, fewer breakouts, and clearer complexion. For DIY recipes, keep in mind that refined coconut oil has no scent while unrefined coconut oil will have a noticeable coconut scent.

Most coconut oil solidifies at about 76 degrees, so it’s best to use another liquid carrier oil in combination with this oil to keep it in a more fluid state. Suitable for all skin types, especially acne prone. It is widely used for lip lotions and other body care products(1). This is one of my “go-to” oils that I use in my nightly oil cleansing routine, as a makeup remover, and in numerous homemade DIY body care products. For more information on coconut oil, click here.

The proteins, omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants in this oil make it a great moisturizer. It absorbs deeply into the skin and helps increase collagen to keep your skin supple (2). This is a thick oil and works great when combined with other oils. It is a fantastic addition to soaps, creams, and lotions. Dry, mature, sensitive, and problem prone skin can benefit greatly from this vitamin rich oil (3). Avocado oil is my oil of choice during the winter, used as a deep moisturizer after oil cleansing, for very dry skin (especially for my t-zone). I also love to use this in a recipe for a hydrating winter body scrub.
This oil is a neutral lipid and is easily and deeply absorbed by the skin. It penetrates deep to replenish our skin’s natural oils. Natural source of Omega 3, 6 & 9 – fatty acids that nourish our skin from the inside out (4). It will not clog pores and can assist with joint pain and swelling. It is one of the best, and more expensive, oils out there. Emu oil has quickly become my new favorite oil and it is what I use when my skin is not dry enough to need the avocado oil before bed. Holy softness! Personally, I think this may be too expensive of an oil to use on a larger scale for DIY recipes, but as a moisturizer and for small needs, it’s fabulous.
The amino acids and vitamins in this oil go on light and smooth and help the more solid or thick oils (such as coconut, neem, castor, and tamanu) penetrate more deeply. It absorbs easily and softens very well. The emollient properties in almond oil helps to improve skin tone and complexion (5). Great for massage. Suitable for all skin types especially dry & sensitive.

Almond oil is my second “go-to” oil which I tend to use as my morning moisturizer by applying to my face and neck along with two drops of cedarwood essential oil. I love to add a few drops to my kids baths to help moisturize their sensitive skin without leaving them greasy. Add a few drops into your liquid soap dispenser along with castile soap and essential oil(s) of choice to add a luxurious and cleansing effect. Check out Pronounce’s DIY super moisturizing hand soap here.

A luxurious oil that absorbs quickly. Works well as a carrier oil with essential oils as well as in homemade products. Argan oil is considered to be a rare (and expensive) oil due to the small area it grows in (6). Contains antioxidants and is high in vitamin e. It has a light nutty scent which should be taken into consideration when blending into products. Suitable for all skin types. This is a new oil for me and I have tried it a few times at night, mixed with lavender essential oil. I like it so far and look forward to gaining more experience with it.
Probably one of the most universally known and used oils. Olive oil can be a great skincare option for those who have nut and seed allergies. Olive oil will have a strong aroma and a rich golden color. Suitable for all skin types and those with dry skin. Truthfully, this is not my first choice as a carrier oil as I find it doesn’t absorb very well. However, I have found it useful when crafting homemade body scrubs for people who have a nut allergy and also cannot use coconut oil due to allergies. It’s also great for scrubs, salves, and other skin care products. The feedback has been very positive when used in these circumstances.

Less Common (but awesome!) Carrier Oils


The high content of essential fatty acids make this oil very restorative. Known as a healing oil (7), it is suitable for all skin types; especially for acne prone and damaged skin. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antibiotic properties. Works well as a carrier oil with essential oils as well as in homemade products. Tamanu oil is thick and viscous, has a very rich scent, and is greenish in color (8). You will want to keep in mind the strong scent when working with this oil; choose essential oils or other ingredients that will help cover and work with the natural scent of this oil. Looking for DIY recipes with tamanu? Click here.
A very rich, thick, and strongly scented oil which contains Omega 3, 6 and 9. It is one of the oldest used Ayurvedic therapeutic and medicinal oils. In addition to its use in body and skin care products, neem oil can be used as a bug repellent due to insecticide properties (9). Neem oil is a very strong smelling oil, so keep that in mind when using it (and dilute it with another oil &/or butter). Some people suggest that neem oil is toxic. Research does not suggest that neem oil is toxic for topical treatments; in fact, the opposite (as shown here) is true. It’s worth mentioning here, though…we suggest caution for internal use and neem oil should not (generally and especially in excess) be used internally by pregnant women. Check with your favorite practitioner &/or doctor if you have more questions.

Neem oil tends to be a semi-solid, so it works best when mixed with another carrier oil. Not the best as an essential oil carrier oil as it does not get absorbed well into the skin, but works well in scrubs, salves, deodorants, and other skin care products. It is incredibly moisturizing and regenerative so it is great for all skin types including mature skin. Again, you will want to keep in mind the strong scent when working with this oil; choose essential oils or other ingredients that will help cover or work with the natural scent of this oil (11). Looking for DIY recipes with neem oil? Click here. Also, check out Pronounce’s DeFunkifying DIY Deodorant (or purchase it here).

This nourishing oil is similar to avocado oil and it very rich in vitamin A and vitamin E (12). Apricot kernel oil penetrates the skin without leaving an oily residue. It is particularly suitable for sensitive and prematurely aged skin. Looking for DIY recipes with apricot kernel oil? Click here; we have a lot for you!
The proteins and minerals in this oil mimic collagen and is closest to our natural skin oil. Anti-inflammatory effects have been shown (13). An interesting fact about jojoba is that it is actually a liquid plant wax as opposed to an oil, and it will get cloudy and solidify as the temperature drops. Jojoba oil is great for all skin types — especially acne prone skin since jojoba actually breaks down excess sebum. This makes a great base for a face serum to protect your skin against environmental issues. Click here for more information on jojoba oil.
A soothing oil that has been used medicinally for thousands of years and has antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It is widely used in cosmetics and skincare products. Castor oil is a strong, thick oil that works best when diluted with another carrier oil. It’s not the best as an essential oil carrier oil, but works well in scrubs, DIY Face Wash Recipes, soaps, salves, and other skincare products.
There you have it! LOADS of information on the top carrier oils available, how they can be used, and what skin types they are best suited for. All the basics you need to know for how to choose carrier oils.

xo,

Not feeling particularly DIYish?

Simply not enough hours in the day? Pinning more than you could ever tackle these days? No worries. I have got you covered. Please, head on over to my Pronounce Skincare Shop and look around at all of my skincare creations. I love making them for my family and for you!

 

 

 

 

Comments 43

  1. I have acne prone skin with monthly break outs. Ever since I’ve used coconut oil on my face along with aloe Vera plant no breakouts and my skin is glowing

  2. Why is grape seed oil left out of the list here? I mean if this is suppose to be about carrier oils then it should be on this list. If you do not give a comprehensive list then how are we suppose to make a good judgement?

  3. Hi,
    I’m really surprised you say coconut oil is good for acne prone skin. I have always been led to believe this is one of the WORST oils for acne skins as it clogs up the pores. Anything with coconut oil and my skin breaks out so badly! I didn’t realise what it was until I inadvertently used products with coconut oil in them. Also, at the time I also saw a piece on Dr Oz talking about coconut oil and how you should avoid it if you are acne prone.
    I would suggest anyone with acne or acne prone skin should avoid coconut oil just in case.

  4. Great article! I am making a sugar scrub with coconut oil (76 degree), but of course, it doesn’t give me the fluidity I want in the scrub. I have grapeseed, avocado, hemp, jojoba, apricot kernel….oh and more I just can’t remember them all, but which would you recommend between grapeseed, apricot kernel or avocado? This is a body scrub not intended for facial use, I would love to hear what your recommendation would be. Thanks!

  5. Is sunflower oil okay? I’m planning to make a body oil combining sunflower oil and sweet almond along with some essential oils.

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  6. Hi there! Great article! Has anyone tried hemp seed oil? Does it have a really strong scent? Trying to find one with a comedogenic rating of “0” due to acne prone skin (all over, not just face). Thanks!

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      Hi Jenna! Yes, I have used hemp seed oil…it’s a lovely carrier! It does have a subtle scent to it (more than say sweet almond or avocado), but with the use of some EOs you will likely not notice.

  7. Nice article! We are starting to increase our use of essential oils and hydrosols. We like the DIY options and definitely learned from your article! Thanks for posting!

  8. This has been the most helpful site on diy body care… I love the honesty about the pros and cons of the different ones. I’m just getting into diy shampoos because my hair needs something different and I love essential oils, so I’m so glad I have a reference for testing different things out! Loved the article!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I loved reading all the comments and suggestions. I, like most of these women, have decided to ditch the chemicals that we have been bombarded with and go for the natural remedies. My cupboard is slowly being stocked with healing herbs, flowers, powders, local honey and now I’m working on oils. This was a great place to start. Thank you again! I’ll be back.

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      Hi Denna! Grape seed oil can be used in skincare products as a carrier oil, as it is very light and virtually colorless & scentless. That said, it is a pretty drying oil, so if you have dry skin this would not be a great carrier oil for you. It is good for things like a roll-on perfume, though! Hope this helps. 🙂

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      Hi Melissa. Although we wouldn’t recommend safflower for use in cooking, it is actually okay to use for skin. It is not my first choice, but it will definitely work and give you some excellent moisturizing qualities as a light oil.

  10. I buy all my carrier oils from Amazon because I like to take full advantage of my Prime membership. What are some trustworthy brands? I like NOW and Essential Depot, but they don’t always offer what I want in the size I want it.

    Thanks!!!!!!

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      Hi Lauren. Many of the Scratch Mommy team members do like NOW brand, as well! We also absolutely love and respect the quality and mission of Mountain Rose Herbs, but that is not through Amazon. I can’t really offer any other brand names through Amazon, as most of use use NOW &/or Mountain Rose Herbs.

  11. I like to use grapeseed oil as well for my carrier oils. I was told several years ago that it was an ideal oil to make an infusion with for certaij flowers because nut based oild can go rancid in a shorter time frame. By the way….. just made your deodorant bar with D.E. and so far LOVE it and no skin breakouts so far and it passed my bellydance class workout test! Thank you!!!

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      Sylvie, thanks so much for the grapeseed oil suggestion. I will definitely add this to my personal list at home. And so glad to hear how much you love the deodorant bar…that’s a great workout for it to have to pass!

  12. Your article was very helpful. Thank you. I’m new with essential and carrier oils and I’m trying to make an oil combo for my young adult acne prone daughter. Is it best to combine two carrier oils to get multi benefit? Which to start with?

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      Hi Theresa. Great question. I always like to remember that everyone’s skin is different, so what works for one may not be the right solution for another. But, I have had great luck with emu oil and sweet almond oil for my acne-prone skin (I tend to get it along my jawline). Almond oil is light, non-clogging and penetrates deeply. Emu oil, combined with frankincense essential oil is what cleared up my jawline acne and I have not had any come back. As with anything, it took some experimenting for me to figure out what worked for me. But I’d start with light, non-clogging oil or oils, and a good facial toner beforehand. Please check out my 3 Ingredient Rosemary Cedarwood Facial Toner if you are interested in a good DIY version of facial toner. I use this every night, then follow up with the emu and frank combo and it works great for me.

  13. I was making Vitamin C serum the recipe I was following calls for glycerin with my acne prone skin glycerin seemed to clog my pores. Which carrier would be best? That also penetrates deeply.

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      Hi Jennifer. Thanks for your comment and question. I love sweet almond oil for almost all carrier oil purposes. It is a light, non-clogging oil that penetrates deeply and quickly. I have also fallen in love recently with emu oil. I do not have any of my prior issues with jawline acne when I use almond oil and / or emu oil (I have not personally tried glycerin on my skin, but I have had pore clogging issues with coconut oil in the past). As with anything, it will take some trial and error in finding what works best for and on your skin, but I’d recommend sweet almond or emu oil.

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  14. Thanks for this informative article.

    In the skin care solutions I prepare for my family member, I use mainly 3 carrier oils depending on the skin type:

    For normal or dry skin I use sweet almond oil.
    For oily and acne prone skin I use Jojoba or Aloe Vera gel.
    For mature skin I use rosehip seed oil.

    Keep up the great work on this website.

    Celia

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      Hi there Celia! Thanks so much for your kind words. I love the suggestion of rosehip oil for mature skin and will definitely remember that when I am asked for a recommendation. I hope you keep returning for more info with every article we publish 🙂

  15. Hi, i am so glad to find this website talking about each oil function. I have changed all my skincare product to oil instead of cleanser, moisture. I used jojoba oil for face cleaning, and use mix of rose dew, tamanu oil for my moisture. i have a lot of acne scar and red marks on my face. i am surprised that after i week of using tamanu oil, my face looks clean and lighting. I am not sure whether those oil are good for my acne scar, but my skin is becoming much better than before. thus, i started searching other oils and hope a mix of them would help me more. I am not sure using the mix of some oils instead of normal moisture is ok. Please help me .

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      Taylor_Jake I am so glad you found this article to be such a useful read! Sweet almond oil was my “first love” out of all the carrier oils and I use that oil in more recipes than any other oil. I highly recommend it! Enjoy 🙂

  16. I love jojoba oil…I use it in my homemade deoderant. I have acne prone skin and I was just using coconut oil as moisturizer but I plan on making a cream with it in it. I just need to get a few more EO that I want to put in it as well.

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      Marguerite, Thanks for letting us know how apricot kernal oil soaks in nicely for someone who does not have dry skin. It’s always helpful to have real-life understanding of how something actually really works on someone’s skin. I’d like to add apricot kernal oil to my oil collection, for sure!

  17. Hi i have been using oils for a while but i am new at trying tovreplace them for other skin care products. Ive tried some easy diy products with coconut oil. Olive oil and castor oil. I remember my mother used to use black seed oil on herself and me for alot of medical things such as asma cough syrup skin and hair and for bone pain. Im wondering if you have any experience with it or any ideas of how we can create an faical cream out of it? And also it is a “carrier oil” right? Just wondring if you can write some info about it and show how one can experiment with it
    Thank you

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      Hi there. Great questions!

      I have not personally used black seed oil, but have read about it online and in some of my books. You can learn more over at MRH and from Pat at Heal Thyself.

      It appears to be a very healing oil (it is considered a carrier oil) in many ways. You’ll see me play with it in some recipes later this year…I have to know more! My guess is that you would not want to use this oil as the exclusive carrier oil in a recipe (for one it is expensive, and second I think it’s pretty potent).

      Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter so you’ll be in the know when we post new DIY recipes. Thanks for stopping by and drumming up a great little convo re: an oil I must try out!

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      Hi Yanic! I remember when I started making my own skin and body care products I used those same two oils. It has been such a fun learning experience to try new oils and add them to my arsenal. After coconut oil, sweet almond oil is definitely my favorite and can be used in SO many products, I would highly recommend that as your next carrier oil. Have fun!

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