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12 March 2015

List of Carrier Oils and Their Benefits

A list of carrier oils and their benefits for both your skin and your hair.  If you are making DIY bath and body or beauty products, this will help you choose the best carrier oil for your needs.

I've been posting a lot of recipes lately, and I hope you've been enjoying them.  When a recipe has a carrier oil, I give the one I used and sometimes recommend a few more oils.  Sometimes I say that any carrier oil can be used.

A few readers have asked what carrier oils are, so I decided to dedicate an entire post to them.  I just picked up several new oils, so you'll be seeing new oils in the near future.  This is a partial list of carrier oils and their benefits for hair and skin.

If you're interested in the types of body butters for hair and skin and their benefits, that's in a separate post.

List of Carrier Oils and Their Benefits

Links in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission from sales.  Thanks for supporting Everything Pretty.  

What Are Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are vegetable oils made from the seed, nuts, or kernels of plants. They carry essential oils and other absolutes so you can apply them to your skin.

There are some carrier oils made from animals.  Emu oil is a popular one.  The oils are made using the fats of the animals.  While I think they can have their place in some recipes, I do not use them just for the simple fact that there are so many carrier oils from vegetable sources that I can use instead.

You can't apply most essential oils directly to your skin, so you have to dilute them with a carrier oil.  These oils are also used in sugar scrub recipes, lotions, balms, lip balms, and salves.  

Carrier oils shouldn't have a strong smell, except for unrefined coconut oil.  They will have a slight nutty aroma that doesn't affect your final product.  If your oil has a strong odor, it could be rancid.  Discard it and do not use it.

When you're shopping for an oil, make sure you buy cold pressed oil.  Heat can damage the good qualities of the oil, so it's very important to get cold pressed oils.

You can usually safely substitute one carrier oil for another oil with great results.  Coconut oil is one that doesn't interchange well because it is solid at room temperature.  Otherwise, you can pick the one that meets your needs or based on what you have on hand unless the recipe states otherwise.  Some oils are better used mixed with other oils, such as avocado oil.

Although you can substitute most oils for another oil, there are oils that are better for jobs than are other oils.  For example, jojoba oil is very thick, so it's not a great oil to use by itself.  It's also on the expensive side.

When I want to use an expensive oil, sometimes I will combine it with another oil that's less expensive.  That way I get the benefits of both oils and keep the cost reasonable.

Learn more about what are carrier oils?

List of Carrier Oils and Their Benefits

Almond Oil

Almond oil (sweet almond oil) is moisturizing for your skin.  It is very versatile, so it works in many types of recipes.  It's high in vitamins A and E to nourish your skin.  Do not use this oil if you have a nut allergy.

Click here for recipes made with almond oil. 

Apricot Kernel Oil

Apricot kernel oil is very gentle, so it's great for sensitive skin or recipes that you make for children.  It's also very versatile, so it's a great substitute for almond oil.  It's often used in lotion recipes and for hot oil treatments.

Click here for recipes made with apricot kernel oil.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is high in essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.  It's great for sensitive skin or problem skin and eczema.  Avocado is usually combine with other carrier oils and not used alone.

Click here for recipes made with avocado oil.

Castor Oil

Castor oil is antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal.  It's often used on irritated skin.  It's usually combined with other oils and not used alone.

Click here for recipes made with castor oil.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is one of my favorite oils because of the heavenly smell.  It is also naturally antifungal and antibacterial, so it 's great for lip balms and lotions.  It's solid at room temperature, so it will harden a recipe when added.  It can be combined with other oils so the final result isn't so hard.  Look for unrefined coconut oil, which is the kind that smells like coconut.  Refining may use chemicals to extract more oil, and it also bleaches  and deodorizes the oil.  They may also add sodium hydroxide to extend it's shelf life.

Click here for recipes made with coconut oil.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose oil is used to combat skin dryness and skin irritations.  It's great for the skin and hair and is said to reduce the effects of aging.  It's also great for eczema.

Click here for recipes made with evening primrose oil.

Flax Seed Oil

Flax seed oil is high in vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.  It's especially great for your hair because it promotes hair growth.  

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil is a dry oil, so it isn't as oily on your skin.  It's used in hair recipes and skin recipes.  It's a natural astringent, so it's great for acne prone or oily skin.

Click here for recipes made with grapeseed oil.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is a popular carrier oil because it's very close to the oils your body naturally produces.  It absorbs in to your skin easily without being greasy.  It can clog pores though, so it's best used with other oils.

Click here for recipes made with jojoba oil.

Macadamia Nut Oil

Macadamia nut oil is a dry oil, so it absorbs quickly without leaving an oily residue.  It's great for skin and hair.  

Olive oil is readily available in nearly any supermarket, so it's a popular beauty recipe ingredient.  It's great to use to infuse herbs.  It has good fats for your skin and hair, but it will leave behind excess oil that doesn't soak in to your skin right away.

Click here for recipes made with olive oil.

Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip seed oil is high in vitamins A and E for the skin.  It also has essential fatty acids to promote elastin and collagen production.  It's often used in creams and balms for stretch marks, burns, wrinkles, eczema, and sunburns.

Click here for recipes made with rosehip seed oil.

Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is high in linoleic acid, so it's a great oil for acne prone skin.  It's also often used for oil cleansing because it removes oil and dirt from the skin without drying your skin or hair.  It lubricates the skin, which traps moisture next to your skin.

Click here for recipes made with safflower oil.

Sesame Seed Oil

Sesame seed oil is a light oil, so it's often used in massage oils.  It moisturizes the skin without being overly oily.

Click here for recipes made with sesame seed oil.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower Oil is often used in recipes to treat psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, or damaged skin.  It's a light oil, so it can also be used as a massage oil.

Click here for recipes made with sunflower oil.


The best carrier oil just depends on what you are making and your needs.

The first thing I look at is the benefit of the oil.  If I'm making a lotion for every day use, I'll use a different oil than if I'm making a healing salve.  

I have a bin full of carrier oils, so I have a lot of options.  People ask me all the time what the best general carrier oil is, and I always say Sweet Almond Oil.  It's inexpensive and loaded with vitamins A and C to make your skin soft.  

Fractionated coconut oil is another great all purpose oil.  It's inexpensive, lightweight, and clear.  I like to use it in essential oil roller bottles

Read about the 9 best carrier oils for skin.


Some carrier oils are what's known as a dry oil.  They are called dry oils not because of the oil but because of how it absorbs into your skin and hair.  Dry oils are absorbed quickly, so they don't rest on top of your skin and hair.  

If you've ever used a sugar scrub and been oily for a while afterwards, you didn't use a dry oil.  

Dry oils are lightweight and not greasy.  They are perfect for sugar scrubs and hair oils because they don't leave a greasy residue.  

Dry oils include:
  • Avocado oil
  • Borage oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Rosehip seed oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sunflower oil


Wet oils isn't a term that's used often, but they are the opposite of dry oils.  These oils absorb into your skin and hair slower.  They make excellent massage oils.  One benefit of using these oils in your skin care is that they reduce water loss.  These oils are best used for dry skin or extremely dry hair.  

Wet oils include:
  • Jojoba oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Castor oil
  • Apricot kernel oil
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Tamanu oil
  • Baobab oil
Don't be afraid to mix both wet and dry oils.  I mixed them in my roll on lip gloss recipe for the benefits of both types of oils.  Some oils penetrate the skin quickly for quick healing, but other oils are the marathon oils that continue to work for hours.  


Nearly all carrier oils can be used on the skin, but some oils are better than others.  My favorite carriers oils for the skin are:

  • Jojoba oil - It's actually a wax, but it's usually called a carrier oil.  Since it's thick, it mimics that natural sebum that your body produces.  Your natural oils can dissolve jojoba, so it gets carried deeper within your skin.  
  • Argan oil - Argan oil helps soften the skin, and it's high in vitamin E to nourish your skin.  It absorbs quickly, so it's good for facial skin care.
  • Rosehip seed oil - This oil is said to help firm the skin and improve elasticity.  It has fatty acids to soften the skin.  
  • Olive oil - This oil can be found in nearly any supermarket.  It's high in oleic acid for dry skin.  It is a heavy oil, so it leaves your skin and hair oily long after you use it.  Just be sure to buy quality olive oil from a trusted brand.
  • Avocado oil - I love avocado oil for the skin.  It has vitamins A, D, and E to nourish the skin and fatty acids to moisturize.  


The best carrier oils for your hair depends on your hair type.  I generally like to use a dry oil, but a wet oil is best for very dry hair.  I usually mix one of each type of oil for both of their benefits.  

  • For oily hair, use grapeseed oil or sunflower oil because they are dry oils that won't weigh down your hair.
  • For dry hair, use coconut oil or avocado oil.  These are heavy oils that penetrate the hair shaft deeper for more conditioning.
  • For frizzy hair, try argan oil.  It's light and won't weigh down your hair.
  • For itchy scalp, use coconut oil because it's naturally antiseptic to kill germs that can cause an itchy scalp.
Sometimes the oils are just too heavy for my hair and I get greasy hair after using them.  I usually use a preshampoo treatment so I can wash after I use the oil.  I do not condition when I do this.

Learn more about the best carrier oils for hair.  


If you're using a carrier oil to apply essential oils, you can choose one of several options.  
  • I generally use fractioned coconut oil.  It's inexpensive and clear, so it won't stain.  It also doesn't have an odor that will compete with your oils.  
  • I also use sweet almond oil.  It's a great oil with vitamins A and E for your skin.  

I made a solid carrier oil stick and normally use that instead of a liquid oil just to make it easier to apply oils. 

Learn more about how to mix essential oils with carrier oils.

Carrier Oils: A beginner's guide to using over 40 carrier oils in bath and beauty recipes is now available!  This book has more information about each of the oils listed here, plus it has many, many more oils.  I give you the origins and compositions of each oil plus the unique benefits of the oils for your skin and hair.  

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Cari Dunn
Cari Dunn

Cari lives on a small farm in Ohio with her husband, three kids, two dogs, two cats, five goats, several chickens, and homing pigeons. She loves Gilmore Girls, coffee, and her kids. Not in that order.