What is a Carrier Oil?


If you are new to essential oils, you may have heard the term “carrier oil” and wondered what this is.  Well, I’m here to give you the low-down on carrier oils.

essential oil in the eye


What is a carrier oil?  A carrier oil is just that.  It is an oil that “carries” other oils.  It is used to dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin.

Why use a carrier oil?  Carrier oils are used for several reasons.  You might use a carrier oil in order to help you cover a large part of the body.  For instance, if you are massaging the  back,  you could add a few drops of  essential oil to the carrier oil in order to apply to the entire area.  Carrier oils are also used as a safety precaution.  Essential oils are very powerful.  When using EOs on someone with skin sensitivity or an infant or child, it is very important to dilute.  Carrier oils also help the oils absorb more rapidly into the skin.

What are good carrier oils?  Nearly any vegetable oil can be used as a carrier oil though some are more preferable.

  • Fractionated coconut oil is very light.  If you aren’t familiar with fractionated coconut oil, it is coconut oil with some of the fatty acids removed.   Unlike raw, cold-pressed coconut oil, it stays liquid.
  • Sweet almond oil is another preference of mine.  It has a pleasant scent and is also very light.  It is frequently used by massage therapists.
  • Raw, cold-pressed coconut oil is a good carrier oil if you are making a salve or want the added health benefits of coconut oil (great for skin conditions).  The downside is that it has a melting point of 76 degrees.  Below 76 degrees, it will remain solid.
  • Olive oil, unscented body lotion, etc.  These will also work.  Olive oil is heavy and not my preference.  But, I will admit, I’ve been known to grab my bottle and use it in a pinch (or, admittedly, when I’m feeling uber lazy and it’s close in proximity).  doTERRA makes a fabulous unscented body lotion. I keep a bottle of Wild Orange in my bathroom and mix it in with my body lotion after showers.  Love this!

How much carrier oil do I need to use?  That depends on your purpose.  I’ve read considerable research that indicates that an essential oil maintains its therapeutic benefits even when diluted down to 2%, 5%, or 10%.   The Modern Essentials guide to essential oils has a handy dandy chart that shows dilution ratios.  Infants are not listed on the chart but it is recommended that one drop of essential per Tablespoon of carrier be used.  These are VERY light dilutions.  Remember, it’s o.k. to dilute at a much heavier ratio.  In fact, it can be safer and more effective.  I say….dilute!

ME oil dilution chart

What happens if I burn myself or get an EO in my eye?  Use your carrier oil.  If you apply an oil and it starts to tingle, just add on a bit of carrier oil.  You will find that it immediately takes away the tingle.   If an oil gets in the eye, you can also use your carrier oil around the eye area.   I speak from experience, it helps.   Trust me, PastTense in the eye is not fun.   Diluting or trying to wash off an oil with water will not work.   Water will only drive it in further as oil and water do not mix.  I think we learned this in third grade, didn’t we?

So, there you have it.  Everything you wanted to know about carrier oils but were afraid to ask.  Do you use a carrier oil?  If so, what is your favorite?


  1. Margaret says

    I am dealing with dryness on the skin beneath my eyes & on my eyelids…due to glaucoma drops. I have been trying vitamin E cream, Avon skin so soft oil, coconut oil, and a couple of facial moisturizers (tho they seem to feel tingly/harsh).

    I try to keep everything out of my eyes…mostly am able to.

    Any suggestions?

    Thank you

    • Stephanie says

      The oils aren’t fat-based so they are not moisturizing. Jojoba oil is a great moisturizer and good for the face. You might try that. Me…I would add in a drop of lavender for soothing and frankincense. Frankincense is good for all skin issues. The doTERRA blend, Immortelle, might be good to try as well. I have heard others say that it helped their vision. And it’s also excellent for skin issues. It has frankincense in it. Good luck!

    • says

      I was reading about diluting essential oils and saw the question about dryness etc due to glaucoma drops. I have been on glaucoma drops for over 3 years now and the only thing that stops that for me is prescription Tobradex Ointment from my physician. It is made to rub on eyelids, lashes and will not hurt your eyes if it gets into them. I know this page is about essential oils which I love and use, but sometimes for me I have to reach out for other products especially when something as sensitive as my eyes.
      Hope this helps.

  2. Jen says

    Okay, when it indicates a 1:1 ratio, does that mean one drop OR one teaspoon of carrier oil per one drop of essential oil.

    For instance, in the EO classes I’ve been to, I’ve mostly heard 1-2 drops of EO to 1 teaspoon of FCO for kids.

    Am I diluting too heavily? I mostly use peppermint, LLP allergy bomb, breathe, basil, melaluca, and lavender with the kids.

    • Stephanie says

      Hey Jen, 1:1 is one drop of EO per carrier oil. But, to answer your question, when using the oils on children, it’s always a good idea to dilute heavily. 1-2 drops per teaspoon is good for kids. Many EOs are effective even when diluted down to 3% or so. SO, no, not too heavy at all. :)

    • Stephanie says

      Hey. 1:1 means one drop to one drop. But I generally dilute at a 1:10 ratio these days which would be 1 drop of oil to 10 drops of carrier oil. For infants and those who are sensitive, you can even dilute down to 2% -5% and it will still be effective. Good luck!

  3. Laurie says

    What is the best essential oil to use for sun damages on myhusbands face. Dry patches from and red spots whenever his face gets hot sun, hot shower etc?

    • Stephanie says

      There are a variety of oils that are good for the skin. Lavender is great for all things skin-related. Immortelle is an amazing oil that is actually rejuvenate to the skin. Great stuff!

  4. Mandy says

    Need your advice/help……. because I am new to EO. I am using a 10 ml roller bottle and would like to make a roller bottle of doTERRA OnGuard diluted with carrier oil for easy application.

    Would 20 Drops of OnGuard and 40 drops of carrier oil be a safe dilution for this size roller bottle?

    I am very confused about the dilution of the oils and want to do it safely.

    Please let me know what you think :)

    • Stephanie says

      Hey Mandy. Dilution is something that is pretty subjective. When I am using on a child or someone that is sensitive, I usually dilute 5-10%. The 10ml roller bottles have 180 drops. 20 drops of OnGuard and 40 drops of carrier oil is a 50% dilution. That is just a little strong for a child or those who are sensitive. If you add 20 drops of OnGuard and fill the roller bottle with carrier oil, you’re looking at 20:160 or 1:8. That should work! And you save money! I would still dilute more if you are using on an infant thought. That’s just me. I tend to be more cautious.

      That said, there are times when the diluted oil has not been as effective as the straight. I’ve experienced this with DigestZen. Sometimes you just have to experiment. But always use caution.

  5. Megan says

    I’m also new to doTERRA, and have a question concerning carrier oils, specifically coconut oil. The coconut oil in my kitchen is “Organic Expeller Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil”. Is this a viable option for a carrier oil or not? (My MIL told me that I can only use fractionated coconut oil but didn’t have a reason, so I’m looking for a better/more thorough answer.)


    • Stephanie says

      Hey Megan. You can totally use your organic, cold-pressed. I use that when I make salves, etc. The FCO just stays liquid so it’s better for roll-ons, etc. Actually, yours has more therapeutic value. :)

  6. says

    Hi Stefanie
    I’d really like your advice on this,
    My dog has mast cell cancer & has a large tumour On the underside & left side of his tail. He is currently on the maximum meds vet can give him- steroids, chemo, piriton,probiotics, pro fibre & oxycare. The skin on the tumour is very stretched & thin. 3 days ago it started to bleed a little & it bleeds whenever he bumps it. I’ve been using sudoctem to soothe & protect the skin but when it started to bleed the vet have me fuciderm to alternate with sudocrem. I have sacred frankincense essential oil & would like to know the best way to use it on him please. His cancer is very advanced but I’d still like to try. Any advice would be very much appreciated
    Love & Light

    • Stephanie says

      Awwww, Diane. I hate to hear this. I would dilute the frankincense and then just apply it topically. Frank is great for any sort of skin issues. Hopefully, he will get some relief. Take care.

  7. James Ortega says

    Hello Stephanie! I’m a male dealing with hairloss and read lavender oil may help treating hairloss or improve it. I wanted to try it and was wondering if it is safe to put on the scalp if I mix it with some unrefined coconut oil before I go to bed. Could I maybe add a drop or two and add it to my conditioner since it has alot of oils in it? I would really appreciate a response and I thank you for your time!

    • Stephanie says

      Hey James. Lavender oil is very safe. And I definitely think you can add a drop or 2 to your shampoo or conditioner. Also, look into rosemary and cedar wood. I recently saw some great research on these 2 oils in regard to hair loss. I want to say that about 40% of the participants noticed a positive change. Good luck!

      • james says

        Thank you so much for the response I really appreciate it! I will look into those other oils you mentioned and I also appreciate the advice. Have a blessed day!

        • Traci says

          I was experiencing hair loss after surgery (they didn’t tell me that the anesthesia can cause your hair to fall out), and found a mixture that was used in a study to treat alopecia (which I had when I was young). I did this twice a week for a month, and I went from a HUGE hairball to about 20-30 hairs in my shower drain.

          3 drops rosemary oil
          3 drops lavender oil
          2 drops white thyme oil
          2 drops cedarwood oil
          1/2 teaspoon jojoba oil
          1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
          – I also put in 4-5 drops of tea tree oil, but this wasn’t in the actual recipe.

          Mix this up in a small bottle, and pour it on your head. Massage your scalp for 2 minutes, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes. (I usually leave mine on for 2-3 hours before washing my hair. You can even leave it on overnight if you want, just put a towel on your pillow.)

          Hope this helps! =)

          • Stephanie says

            Traci, thanks for sharing! Love this and LOVE that it worked for you. I’ve heard that rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood are great for hair growth. That is awesome!

    • Stephanie says

      There are a few kinds of coconut oil. If you are making salves, lotions, and creams, be sure and purchase raw, virgin coconut oil. It has many more medicinal benefits. It has a melting point of about 76 degrees. Above 76, its’ liquid. In cooler weather, it will be solid. There is also fractionated coconut oil (doTerra sells this). This coconut oil has been processed so it is always liquid. It’s great to use as a massage oil or when mixing your own creations in roller bottles. Bottom line…both are good to have around. I hope this helps!

  8. john says

    I was wondering about using Frankincense just to rub over my knees and whole body at times. Do I need to use a carrier oil for this? If so what would you suggest and what ratio?
    Thank you for the help.

    • Stephanie says

      Hey. Carrier oils are always a good idea. I usually dilute to 10%. Just just a shot of carrier and a drop of frankincense. Plus, it covers a larger area. That said, I have a friend who says that straight, undiluted frankincense works MUCH better for her. So play around. You might find that one way is best. Take care.

  9. luciana howell says

    hi i have onguard i also purchased some 6oz roll bottles and some fco..so my question is this..if i fill my roll on bottle up with fco how much onguard should i put in it? i also have serenity same question with that as well..i am using these on my SN child she is 6 years old..ty

    • Stephanie says

      Hey. a 5% dilution is a good amount for a child. And adults can use it, too. So you’ll have to figure out how many drops are in your roller bottle. Then just do the math. Make sense?

  10. Christine says

    So nice to locate someone who actually watches and responds to questions on their blog – thanks so much!

    Have a few oils from dōTERRA plus some coconut oil in the solid form. What’s the best/safest way to actually mix the EOs with the coconut oil? I remember hearing that the oils could melt thru plastic, so I didn’t think I should use a coffee stirrer, etc. And was concerned that the oils would just stick to a spoon if I tried to mix it that way. Too costly to waste! Thanks! :-)

    PS. I’m specifically using “Breathe”…

    • Stephanie says

      The fractionated coconut oil (or liquid coconut oil) is much better for rollerballs or massage. The solid is more therapeutic and I use it for skin issues, etc. I never microwave but gently heat on the stovetop till just melted. Make sense?

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