Essential Oils Safety- Carrier Oils are NOT the Devil

For some reason I get the feeling that a lot of people who are newer to essential oils view using a carrier oil as a bad thing. . . I’m here to tell you that CARRIER OILS ARE NOT THE DEVIL!  Carrier oils play a very important role in SAFELY using essential oils.

What exactly is a Carrier Oil?  In the aromatherapy sense a Carrier oil is a vegetable, nut or seed oil that is used to dilute an essential oil for topical use.

Why Should I dilute my essential oils?

1. Using oils Neat (without a carrier) could possibly cause permanent sensitization
Marge Clark says in her book Essential Oils and Aromatics: A Step-by-Step Guide for Use in Massage and Aromatherapy “One of my mentors reminds me ‘sensitization is forever.’ And I know she is right. Years ago I read the books saying that lavender oils could be used neat (undiluted). I very unwisely used undiluted lavender on broken skin, and consequently set up a sensitivity reaction. Today, almost two decades later if I come in contact with lavender in any form I will immediately start a new round of contact dermatitis that can take months to heal” (Clark, M., Essential Oils and Aromatics, Sandy, UT; Silverleaf press, 2008, 32.)

Sensitization is a skin allergy that results in a severe and/or itchy rash and sensitization is a permanent condition.

2. Some Essential Oils are Potential Skin Irritants.

Some essential oils are known as “Hot Oils” and can causing a warming or burning sensation when applied to the skin. (Anthis, C. 2014, July 27 Introduction to Essential Oils Safety retrieved from
http://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/introduction-essential-oil-safety/).
These “HOT” oils should ALWAYS be diluted with a carrier oil.  Other essential oils are skin irritants and can cause slight irritation (rash or redness) on sensitive skins.  “If you have extremely sensitive skin you may find that many, even all, essential oils are minor irritants, in which case you will have to avoid them.” (Tisserand, R. Aromatheraphy for Everyone, London, England; Penguin Books, 1988. 209)

The following Oils are potential Skin Irritants:

Aniseed
Backhousia
Bay
Bergamot
Black Pepper*
Cassia
Cinnamon Bark or Leaf*
Clove*
Citronella
Cumin
Inula
Lemon grass
Lemon Verbena
Marjoram*
Nutmeg*
Oregano
Peppermint*
Peru Baslam
Rosemary
Sage Dalmatian
Tagetes
Tea Absolute
Thyme (ct. Thymol)
Turpentine Oil
Verbena absolute
Birch/Wintergreen
Ylang/Ylang

  • Oils marked with an * are “Hot” oils and should NEVER be used undiluted on skin.
  • You should ALWAYS use a patch test when using a new oil to make sure you do not have a dermal reaction.

3. Dilution helps make your essential oils last longer.  
“One drop of an essential oils may be all you need to use.  That obviously will not go very far, but when it is diluted in a base oil it will cover quite a large area.” says Valerie Ann Worwood in her book The Complete Books of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy (Worwood, V. The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, Novata, CA. New World Library, 1991. 15).  Dilution of oils makes a little go a long way and in the aromatherapy world the common turn of phrase when it comes to using oils is Less is More.   Remember one drop of an essential oils can equal 20-80 cups of tea depending on the oil, that’s a lot!

If you like to look at things from a more scientific point of view I found the following paragraph extremely interesting and helpful in understanding further why a carrier oil is a good thing.  “Dr. Pam Taylor, a practicing naturopathic physician, feels that there is a power released from the essential oil when it’s diluted or extended. She explains: “It is important to realize that the main reason to use non irritant essential oils undiluted is generally convenience. The assumption that undiluted essential oils will work more efficiently is generally not true. Perhaps surprisingly, experience often indicates that diluted oil is more effective than undiluted. Such observations can be explained chemically in that certain molecules rearrange into less active forms when they are present in high concentration. The molecule curls up because it sees too many of its own kind. Diluted, it sees more molecules from other oils and it relaxes into a more stretched out and active form.” FOOTNOTE By adding a carrier oil, we can extend the application surface area and possibilities of the essential oil and/or dilute a potentially skin-irritating oil. ” (Sherman, L.  2013 March 19 Safe Safe Use of Essential Oils for Health Issues retrieved from http://heritageessentialoils.com/blog/?post_id=47).  So, to me, it seems that according to Dr. Taylor that carrier oils are actually tools that help your essential oils work better, not worse, as so many people new to oils are inclined to believe.

Click Here for a Diltuion Ratio Chart

I hope this brief explanation helps you in your essential oils journey.  There is always so much more to learn and share, safely.  When using essential oils, be safe, dilute with a carrier. Carrier oils are your friend, not the devil.

Sources used for Research:
Safe Use of Essential Oils for Health Issues (Linda Sherman, Heritage Essential Oils)

Introduction to Essential Oil Safety From The Hippy Homemaker

Essential Oils and Aromatics: A Step-by-Step Guide for Use in Massage and Aromatherapy by Marge Clark

The Complete Books of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

Aromatherapy For Everyone by Robert Tisserand

Safety Information from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

If you’re interested in purchasing Essential Oils  to: Organic Essential Oils

FTC disclosure: I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement/recommendation/testimonial and or link to retail products in this article to support my blogging habit. I will never link to a retail provider I have not used. I will only link to providers I would personally recommend.

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