Are you interested in making your own herb infused oil, essential oil blends, or natural skin care products, but aren’t sure what carrier oil to use? Olive, jojoba, sunflower, coconut… There are so many interesting oil options out there, it can be tough to choose! Read along to learn about the 10 best carrier oils to make infusions, homemade salves, balms, and more. This article will discuss the unique properties, benefits and potential drawbacks of each oil. We’ll also cover important concepts like comedogenic ratings and oil extraction methods.
A note about oil and skin health
When it comes to skin care, don’t be afraid of oil! Contrary to popular belief, using oil on your face won’t necessarily make it more oily or cause breakouts. (Especially if you choose the right carrier oil for your skin). Rather, oil plays a vital role in skin health. Many modern skin care products claim to “reduce shine” and impurities. In reality, they strip away natural oils, leaving your skin tight, high and dry. Dry irritated skin then overcompensates and produces more oil. All aboard the greasy rollercoaster, amirite?
Instead, just a few drops of the right oil can restore natural sebum balance, lock in moisture, soothe irritation, and heal “imperfections”. In fact, homemade face oils are the only thing I use on my face anymore – and my skin has never been happier! It’s time to embrace fresh and dewey shine, and leave the rollercoaster behind.
What is an herbal infusion?
Herbal infusions are created by steeping dry herbs (or other dried plant material like flowers, spices, or fruit) in a carrier oil of choice for an extended period of time. It’s crucial to use dry plant material for oil infusions as wet material can easily lead to mold and spoilage. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial components of the herbs are slowly extracted into the surrounding carrier oil.
Then, the infused oil may be used on its own – such as directly on your face or hair, or a culinary oil for salad dressing or cooking. Infused oils also serve as an important base ingredient in homemade personal care products such as salves, balms, body butter, lotion, lip balm, soap and more. Of course, you can use plain oil (not infused with herbs) in all these things too!
I will write up a guide with more detailed instructions and best practices on making herbal oil infusions soon. In the meantime, check out our guides on how to make calendula oil, lavender oil, rosehip oil, or cannabis-infused oil.
Choosing the Best Carrier Oil
When it comes to choosing a carrier oil, there is no single “best” option. What works well for you depends on your skin type, preferences, budget, and what you intend to use it for! For instance, olive oil and avocado oil are awesome options for edible creations, ultra-rich coconut oil and sweet almond oil make fantastic body care products, while you may prefer something more delicate (and non-comedogenic) like argan oil or jojoba oil for your face.
Here are a few other things to consider:
Extraction Method: Refined vs Unrefined Oils
Have you ever wondered what cold-pressed vs expeller-pressed oil means? Or, what’s the difference between refined and unrefined oils? Both of these concepts relate to how an oil was extracted or produced, and greatly influence the final product!
Broadly speaking, “virgin” cold-pressed or unrefined oils are considered the highest quality carrier oils for skin care. Cold-pressed (unrefined) oils are created by crushing and pressing the raw material to extract oil without the use of heat. By avoiding heat exposure, cold-pressed oils retain the highest nutrient content. Even more, cold-pressed oils are not exposed to toxins that often go hand-in-hand with other extraction methods.
In contrast, refined oils are extracted with heat. They’re often further heavily processed and filtered to remove color, odor, or other “impurities”. Yet at the same time, they’re also being stripped of many health benefits. Enzymes and nutrients are destroyed during high-heat mechanical extraction (including expeller-pressed). What’s worse, heat can create new toxic byproducts such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) – known carcinogens. Toxins like hexane are also introduced during chemical or solvent extraction, further contaminating the oil.
Oil labels or product descriptions should always specify if it’s refined, unrefined, or what extraction method was used.
Benefits of Organic Carrier Oils
Personally, we like to use certified organic carrier oils to make skin care products and infusions. The goal is to create the most healthy, healing, and helpful products possible after all! Plus, our skin is our largest organ – and a highly absorbent one at that. Be it olives, sunflowers, or almonds, if a crop was treated with pesticides and herbicides while it was growing, residual toxins will be present in the oil extraction too, and likely even more concentrated than they were on the crop themselves!
The same idea applies to essential oils, which is why we only use USDA-certified organic essential oils from Plant Therapy. Many other popular EO brands claim to be “self-certified” or “better than organic” but I am skeptical. This is a personal decision of course, but we try to be just as cautious about what we put ON our bodies as what we put in them.
The comedogenic scale is a rating system for how likely an oil (or other product) is to clog your pores and therefore cause breakouts. The lower the comedogenic rating, the least likely it is to clog your pores. Therefore, carrier oils with a rating of 0 to 2 are considered “non-comedogenic”. A rating of 3 is slightly comedogenic, and 4 to 5 is moderate-to-highly comedogenic and very likely to clog pores. In most cases, oils with higher ratings are increasingly thick or “greasy”, while lower-ranked oils are more lightweight and easily absorb into skin.
The severity of the potential breakout depends on each individual’s skin and sensitivities, as well as the part of the body the oil is used on. For instance, using a comedogenic oil or butter may not cause issues when applied to your legs, hands or arms, though it may lead to acne when used on your face, shoulders or back.
If you’re going through the list of the best carrier oils below and think “shoot, several of these sound good!” then by all means: mix them up! Create your own custom blend with two or three different oils. For example, we usually use half sweet almond oil and half sunflower carrier oil in the organic skin care products we offer in our shop. Both are organic, cold-pressed, and highly nourishing, but offer a great balance to one another – both in texture and in price.
Shelf Life and Storage
You may also want to consider shelf life and storage requirements when choosing a carrier oil for skin care or infusions. For instance, rosehip oil tends to have a shorter shelf life (only 6 months) while jojoba oil stays good for up to 5 years! Some oils suggest refrigerating after opening (especially hemp oil), while many others do not. These characteristics vary a lot by brand and formulation, so refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations on the bottle.
Now without further ado…
11 Best Carrier Oils for Skin, Salves, Edibles and More
1) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Comedogenic rating: Olive oil comes in at a 2 on the comedogenic scale. Though it’s only “mildly comedogenic”, olive oil is known to be on the thick and heavy side – which may lead to breakouts for acne-prone individuals.
Edible? Yes. As a popular healthy cooking oil, olive oil is an ideal choice for edible herb infusions, such as homemade rosemary or basil-infused oil!
Unique properties: Extra virgin olive oil (also known as EVOO) is possibly one of the most readily-available oils on this list. You should be able to find great organic olive oil options at your local natural food store! High in natural fatty acids, polyphenols and vitamin A, E, D and K, it is also extremely nourishing and hydrating for dry skin and hair. Olive oil also contains a rare antioxidant called hydroxytyrosol, an anti-aging compound that protects against free radical damage.
Compared to many other carrier oils, olive oil does have a fairly strong and distinct odor and flavor, which will also influence your final product.
2) Argan Oil
Comedogenic rating: Coming in with a rating of zero, argan oil is totally non-comedogenic.
Edible? Argan oil is available in both culinary-grade (edible) and cosmetic-only (non-edible) versions, so read the label! It has a subtle nutty flavor.
Unique properties: Argan oil, also known as Moroccan oil, is fantastic for your skin! It goes on light but is highly moisturizing, and is a great choice for all skin types. The high levels of Vitamin E, stearic acid, and palmitic fatty acid found in argan oil help to reduce fine lines, discoloration, scars, excess oil production, and even acne. It’s known to soften skin, increase elasticity, and protect against sun damage. It’s also a very popular ingredient in hair care products. Argan is one of my personal favorite carrier oils for skin care!
3) Jojoba Oil
Comedogenic rating: Jojoba oil is rated a 2 but is still considered non-comedogenic. The molecular structure of jojoba closely resembles that of our skin’s natural oils, so it absorbs exceptionally well! Overall, it’s lightweight, non-greasy, and tolerated well by most users. In fact, it is one of the most popular carrier oils for skin care!
Edible? No, jojoba oil is not edible. Even though it shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities, it’s perfectly safe to use jojoba oil as a carrier oil for homemade lip balm recipes however!
Unique properties: Jojoba oil (which is actually a liquid wax, not a true oil) is an antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. It boasts high levels of Vitamin E, zinc, and omega fatty acids. All of which make jojoba oil effective at soothing eczema, acne, psoriasis, wounds, and other skin conditions. Its exceptional shelf-life (up to 5 years), neutral aroma and color are added benefits.
Eicosenoic acid (EA) accounts for 70% of the total fatty acids found in jojoba oil – a powerful plant-based monounsaturated fatty acid. EA works to break down oil build up, unclog pores, remove impurities, and reduce excess sebum (oil) production. This helps stressed skin regain a healthy moisture balance, and makes jojoba a great option for those with dry, oily, or combination skin alike! Because of this however, some people experience a temporary initial “purge” of small breakouts when they first begin to use jojoba oil. Rest assured it’s just doing its job.
4) Coconut Oil (Regular or Fractionated)
Comedogenic rating: Regular coconut oil (the stuff that is solid at room temperature) is a 4 on the comedogenic scale, which means it is likely to cause breakouts. On the other hand, fractionated coconut oil (liquid at room temperature) is slightly lower – rated a 2 to 3.
Edible? Yep! Coconut oil is a good choice for edible infusions, though keep in mind it will add a coconut-y flavor to your final product.
Unique properties: Rich, luxurious, and loaded with nutrients, coconut oil is often praised for its numerous benefits in the world of natural health and beauty. In addition to offering deep moisture to soften skin and hair, the high levels of lauric and caprylic acid in coconut oil make it antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal. Meaning, coconut oil can aid in healing wounds, infections, and potentially acne.
However, acne-prone folks should proceed with caution – especially with coconut oil infusions intended for your face, shoulders, or upper back. Coconut is exceptionally thick and can easily clog pores, counterproductive to its healing properties. In that case, fractionated coconut oil may be a better choice, which is less thick and greasy.
5) Sweet Almond Oil
Comedogenic rating: Sweet almond oil is rated 2 on the comedogenic scale, but it is still largely considered “non-comedogenic” and is unlikely to cause breakouts.
Edible? Sweet almond oil is indeed edible, though cooking or high heat will decrease its nutritional value.
Unique properties: Sweet almond oil is rich but gentle. It’s an excellent carrier oil choice for sensitive skin, dry and delicate skin, and is also safe for babies. Sweet almond oil is packed with vitamins and nutrients, including omega 6 and 9 fatty acids, vitamin A and E, potassium, and zinc. It’s effective at reducing inflammation, excess sebum, eczema, acne, and dryness. Sweet almond oil may help to improve overall skin tone and complexion by reducing scars, dark circles, and discoloration.
6) Rosehip Seed Oil
Comedogenic rating: Rosehip oil has a comedogenic rating of 1, making it non-comedogenic.
Edible? Rosehip oil is made by pressing the fruit and seeds of rosehips, the small berry-like fruit of rose plants. Though rosehips themselves are edible, it’s generally recommended to NOT consume processed (concentrated) rosehip oil or use it internally.
Unique properties: Rosehip oil is a lightweight and hydrating carrier oil that absorbs easily into skin. It’s loaded with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, flavonoids, polyphenols, and Vitamins C, A, B, E and F that all help fight inflammation, redness, scars, fine lines, stretch marks, and sun damage. Rosehip oil also contains retinoids that can soothe acne, dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.
All in all, rosehip oil is really fantastic for your skin! However, it’s fairly rare and costly to make, so high-quality rosehip oil tends to cost a pretty penny. So, we make our own rosehip-infused oil instead! Learn how here. It’s not exactly the same as a commercially-extracted rosehip seed oil, but by steeping homegrown organic rosehips in a carrier oil of choice (such as argan oil) we’re able to reap the benefits of both!
7) Hemp Seed Oil
Comedogenic rating: Hemp seed oil is another zero on the comedogenic scale.
Edible? Yes! In fact, hemp seed oil is becoming increasingly popular to use in salads, smoothies and other meals as an easy source of healthy essential fatty acids. Hemp seed oil has a low smoke point so it’s not the best for hot cooking.
Unique properties: Hemp seed oil is a fine carrier oil choice for any skin type! Chock-full of omega 6 fatty acids, a powerful anti-inflammatory that also promotes new healthy cell growth, hemp oil can calm irritation, psoriasis, eczema and acne. It’s very light, “dry”, and highly absorbable oil because it closely resembles the fat and amino acid composition as our skin’s natural sebum. Hemp seed oil will leave your skin supple and hydrated but not greasy.
Note: Don’t confuse hemp seed oil with other hemp oils. Hemp seed oil is an innocuous oil that comes from hemp seeds, not cannabis flower. Unlike some other types of hemp oil out there, it does not contain cannabinoids like THC or CBD.
8) Sunflower Oil
Comedogenic rating: Sunflower oil is non-comedogenic (rated 0 or 1 depending on how it was processed) and will not clog your pores.
Edible? Technically, sunflower oil is edible. Yet when it’s exposed to extreme heat (such as frying), sunflower oil can produce harmful substances including aldehydes – a toxin that is linked to cancer, heart disease and dementia. Therefore, it’s best to avoid cooking with sunflower oil. On the other hand, rest assured that lightly heating sunflower oil to make salve or balm (e.g. in a double boiler) is not hot enough to form aldehydes. (It has to be heated to 365F or 180C for that to occur).
Unique properties: Sunflower oil is exceptionally high in Vitamin E, an incredible antioxidant that rejuvenates skin while fighting inflammation, redness, irritation, free radicals, and UV sun damage. It’s also known to help repair the natural skin barrier. High oleic sunflower oil has the longest shelf life along with the highest concentrations of Vitamin E, C, K, and nourishing omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.
Sunflower oil is considered a “dry oil”, meaning it is lightweight, absorbs quickly, and leaves your skin feeling hydrated but not greasy. That said, it doesn’t provide as intense of moisture as other carrier oils on the list but is a good choice for oily and combination skin. It’s also a good one to pair with heavier oils if you’re considering mixing a couple.
9) Avocado Oil
Comedogenic rating: Avocado oil is rated a 3 on the comedogenic scale.
Edible: Absolutely! Along with olive oil, avocado oil is an ideal option for edible oil infusions.
Unique properties: Avocado oil is thick and somewhat heavy, and offers deep, long-lasting, skin-softening moisture. It’s a great carrier oil for dry skin or luxurious body creams, but may not be the best choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Avocado oil boasts lofty levels of fatty acids, lecithin, beta carotene, protein, and vitamins E, A, and D. Studies show it can help boost collagen production as well as aid in healing wounds, inflammation, scars, age spots, and potentially psoriasis. Note that avocado oil is typically quite green. This will impact the color of your herbal infusion, salve, or balm.
10) Safflower Oil
Comedogenic rating: Safflower oil is rated 0 on the comedogenic scale, so it should not lead to breakouts.
Edible? Safflower oil is edible at both low and high temperatures.
Unique properties: Safflower oil is often underrated as a carrier oil for skin. While it doesn’t quite have the allure of argan or esteem of EVOO, safflower oil has a lot to offer for dry, acne-prone, oily, or sensitive skin alike! Its neutral aroma lends itself well to herbal infusions and homemade body care products.
Like sunflower oil, safflower oil is a lightweight “dry oil” that soaks right in but offers long-lasting hydration. Similar to jojoba, safflower oil is known to help unclog pores and restore balance to natural oil levels. It boasts antioxidants and fatty acids that can soothe inflammation, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and protect against UV damage. The high linoleic acid content in safflower oil promotes cell renewal to improve acne, scars, hyperpigmentation and overall skin texture.
Note: Safflower oil comes from a flower that is part of the ragweed family. Thus, those with allergies to ragweed should avoid this oil.
11) Grapeseed Oil
Comedogenic rating: Grapeseed oil is rated 1 on the comedogenic scale.
Edible? Yes, but not recommended for high-heat cooking. When exposed to high heat (such as frying) it forms harmful compounds and free radicals.
Unique properties: Grapeseed oil is naturally antimicrobial and may help reduce acne. It’s high in polyunsaturated fats (mostly omega 6 fatty acids) and Vitamin E. As another “dry” oil, grapeseed oil is especially lightweight, non-greasy, and easily absorbs into skin. It won’t provide quite as deep of moisture as some other oils on the list, which makes it a great carrier oil choice for oily skin – or one to combine with another richer oil.
One thing to be aware of is that grapeseed oil is sometimes contaminated with trace PAHs – or polyaromatic hydrocarbons (known carcinogens). This occurs when the grapeseeds are heated to dry before extraction, so cold-pressed grapeseed oil doesn’t necessarily avoid this. The PAH content seems unpredictable and varies depending on how the oil is further refined and filtered after extraction.
And that sums up the 11 best carrier oil options for your skin, body, and culinary creations!
Well folks, I hope that was enlightening and informative! There are so many awesome carrier oil options out there, but it was pretty easy to narrow it down to these top 11 choices. I left out a few other popular options like castor oil (great for hair growth and inflammation, but rather thick for your face) and meadowfoam oil (more rare and difficult to source organic). Did I miss your favorite? Please let us know or feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Also please consider pinning or sharing this post if you found it useful! Thanks for tuning in.
Don’t miss these related posts:
- Homemade Natural Lip Balm Recipe
- How to Make Lavender Oil, Calendula Oil or Rosehip Oil
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- Calendula Salve Recipe for Healthy Skin
- Homemade Cannabis Oil and Salve Recipe (THC or CBD)