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Carrier Oils

The New Role of Carrier Oils in Skin Care

by Mariska Nicholson

Carrier oils are acquired from the fatty portion of a plant, typically the seeds, kernels or nuts, and are best known for their ability to dilute essential oils before applying them to the skin. Once applied to skin, these oils “carry” the essential oils and other topical treatments into the skin, hence the name “carrier oils.”

Although carrier oils are traditionally known for their ability to deliver essential oils to the skin, it doesn’t stop there! The chemical composition of these oils allows them to be used in combination with other more potent topicals. These topical agents, such as retinol, vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid “piggyback” the carrier oils, and their beneficial properties are delivered deep into the skin. Because these oils are similar in composition to the skin’s own sebum, they are absorbed naturally into the skin. Remember, oil attracts oil! Use your client’s natural delivery system to make your treatments more effective.

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Here are 6 carrier oils you should add to facial treatments for any skin type by combining them with active ingredients:


Olive oil is extremely versatile and has exceptional emollient properties. Due to its origin, it is good for those allergic to nuts and seeds. Olive oil is also a powerhouse of antioxidants, including vitamin E, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds. Olive oil also contains high amounts of oleic acid.

Because of the low comedogenic level of olive oil, it can be used on all skin types, from extremely dry to acne prone. Olive oil is very close to the skin’s natural sebum, therefore it absorbs easily into the skin, while drawing in moisture and creating a protective barrier. This attribute makes it a great choice to “piggy back” serums deep into the lipid layer when applied after the oil.

  Star Combination:  
Using a vitmain B5 serum after a cleansing oil made with olive oil is an effective and natural acne fighting combination. The oils left on the skin will help pull the serum into the lipid layer.

Do not apply olive oil on anyone allergic to olives. There is also heightened risk of allergic reaction or sensitivity in those with asthma, atopic dermatitis & hay fever.


Rose hip seed oil is well known for its ability to treat dry, dehydrated and damaged skin. It is high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants like vitamin C, and has a therapeutic concentration of vitamin A. This makes rose hip seed oil ideal for treating wrinkles and slowing the aging process, while targeting problems such as scarring, discoloration and skin damage from environmental factors like pollution & UV rays.

The high concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid found in rose hip seed oil make it an effective carrier for natural skin treatments and anti-aging blends. It is ideal for treating irritated, inflamed skin such as psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. It also aids in reducing the appearance of scars, stretch marks and blemishes.

  Star Combination:  
Rose hip seed oil has a high concentration of vitamin A, so pairing it with a topical retinol serum will boost cell turnover and skin renewal.

The use of rose hip seed oil can irritate skin or cause reaction when applied directly to the skin, so be sure to dilute with other oils or ingredients. High concentrations of vitamin C in rose hip seed oil can also cause irritation, and those with atopy may experience hypersensitivity.


Avocado oil’s nutrient and antioxidant rich properties include vitamins A, B, D and E, high levels of essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, lecithin and potassium, which boost collagen production in the skin and fade age spots. It also contains high concentrations of palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid already present in the skin. When applied to the skin, avocado oil is easily recognized and absorbed deep into the skin’s layers. The fatty acids found in avocado oil are natural anti-inflammatories as well, making it good for more sensitive skin.

Avocado oil is on the thicker side, so combining it with lighter oils, such as sweet almond oil, will create an oil blend ideal for massage. It is also excellent for sensitive, dry and mature skin, as well as eczema, psoriasis and other similar conditions. It is a good ingredient to use in blends focused on repairing damaged tissue.

  Star Combination:  
To boost the emollient and moisturizing effects of avocado oil, pair it with a vitamin E serum.

Using avocado oil is not recommended for those with allergies to avocado. A skin patch test is recommended for individuals with a latex allergy, as crosssensitivity has been found.


Sweet almond oil is best for dry, sensitive or irritated skin. Its properties help soften, moisturize and revitalize skin with its high levels of monounsaturated fats, minerals and vitamins A, B and E. This naturally light oil is wonderful for blending with thicker oils like castor and coconut oil to penetrate deeply into the skin. The vitamin E also promotes the regeneration of skin cells, and its emollient properties help improve complexion and skin tone, while relieving inflammation and irritation.

Sweet almond oil makes a great addition to masks and serums due to its ability to quickly absorb into skin without leaving it oily. It is popularly used for massage, and is even used on babies due to its hypoallergenic properties and easy absorption into the skin.

  Star Combination:  
Sweet almond oil is a great carrier oils for hyaluronic acid, which is able to hold 1000x its weight in water. The hyaluronic acid combined with the sweet almond oil will lock and load the skin with hydration.

This oil is not to be used on those with almond or other tree nut allergies.


Rich in vitamins A, D and E, sunflower seed oil absorbs deeply into the skin, and its highly nourishing and conditioning properties make it great for dry, weathered and dehydrated skin. It is high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, keeping them from destroying and damaging healthy cells. In addition, sunflower seed oil contains powerful skin cell regenerating properties while softening wrinkles and preventing premature aging.

Safe for use on the face and body, it is popular for massages and facial treatments.

Sunflower seed oil is one of the most moisturizing of the carrier oils, and is great for use on mature, delicate or dry skin.

  Star Combination:  
Vitamin C serum has been touted as the daytime free radical fighting serum, but using a vitamin C serum paired with sunflower seed oil can help repair postsun damage.

Do not use this oil if an allergy or hypersensitivity to sunflower seeds or other members of the Asteraceae family is present.


Hemp seed oil is ideal for all skin types and contains rich concentrations of skin benefitting linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids. It is a light oil with a non-greasy texture that assists with skin cell regeneration, as well as premature aging.

Benefits of this oil include its antiinflammatory properties and delivery of natural antioxidants to the skin, while promoting healing. It is also great to use in preventing blemishes and premature aging. Hemp seed oil is also an analgesic, or pain reliever, so it is a good option for treating muscle and joint pain, especially combined with other analgesic essential oils such as lavender and peppermint.

  Star Combination:  
For a gentle, yet effective acne treatment, use a salicylic acid based serum with hemp seed oil to assist in exfoliation and cell turn over, while feeding the skin with fatty acids.

Do not use this oil if a sensitivity to hemp seed or hemp related allergies exist.

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