If you've dabbled in DIY skincare, you may have seen recipes that call for a specific liquid oil (carrier oil), but encourage you to swap it out for your carrier oil of choice. We've included the same direction in all of our personal care DIYs. But perhaps it's not always clear which carrier oils will work well and which won't. Here are some items to consider to make sure you're comfortable making substitutions in DIY recipes and formulating potions all your own!
Carrier oils: In DIY formulations, oils are often referred to as “carrier oils,” because they serve the purpose of diluting (or carrying) essential oils. Your DIYs may not always (or ever) include essential oils. Nevertheless, we’ll continue calling these carrier oils for lack of a better term.
What to Consider When Picking Your Carrier Oil
1. The benefits
Carrier oils each have their own unique benefits to the skin, whether they are ultra-nourishing, protect from the negative effects of sun-exposure, heal dryness, prevent excess sebum, soothe irritation, or calm puffiness. Since we each have such unique skin, it's easy to see how some carrier oils are likely to have the benefits we need, while some just won't serve us.
2. Absorption rate
You might like your skincare product to spend a little more time on the surface of your skin so that you can know it's really working. Or maybe you feel like your skin has the whole oil production thing covered, and you'd really prefer that your skincare product soaks right up. Some oils absorb quickly, some don't. It's helpful to know which oils will meet your absorption expectations.
3. Comedogenic vs. non-comedogenic
Comedogenic substances have a tendency to clog pores, while non-comedogenic substances do not. The comedogenic ranking of oils has no real legal definition, nor is it overseen by any type of cosmetic regulating body. It's very possible that an oil that is considered comedogenic (such as coconut oil) will work great for you, and an oil that is considered non-comedogenic (such as almond oil) will be problematic. The classification of certain oils as comedogenic versus non-comedogenic is not meant to guarantee which will and will not cause blackheads and breakouts. It is, however, a very helpful guideline when you are just getting started and haven't yet tested a variety of oils on your skin.
The Low-Down on Common Carrier Oils
Almond oil (sweet almond oil)
Almond oil is anti-inflammatory, making it a great option for reducing under-eye puffiness. It is used for soothing and moisturizing skin and has been used for treating minor wounds.1 The fatty acids in almond oil may help absorb excess oils on the skin, making it especially helpful for those with acne.5 It is light-weight and relatively fast-absorbing, so it’s a great option if you want to make sure your formulation doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy.
Almond oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Argan oil contains antioxidants that may protect the skin from some of the negative effects of sun exposure.6 Like almond oil, it is relatively fast-absorbing, has anti-inflammatory effects, and can help regulate your skin’s natural oil production, which can prevent and treat acne. It’s known to be especially beneficial for aging skin, as it can improve skin elasticity.6
Argan oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Avocado oil is made from mashing the flesh of the fruit and extracting the oil. It's known for being extra-nourishing and moisturizing, which is why mashed avocado is such a common home remedy for dry skin! Avocado oil can also help protect your skin from some of the damaging effects of sun exposure. It is known for being regenerative to the skin, making it a good option for dry, damaged, and aging skin. It has a medium absorption rate.
Avocado oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Coconut oil is naturally anti-microbial, giving it an especially long shelf-life (2-3 years3) and helping to extend the shelf-life of your DIY formulations. And the goodness applies to your skin, too - coconut oil can help treat skin infections. It is also anti-inflammatory, supports immunity, and strengthens skin. The healing properties of coconut oil make it a good option for irritated/inflamed skin. It has a slow absorption rate.
Coconut oil is considered comedogenic.
Hemp seed oil
Hemp oil helps to regulate your skin's oil production and prevents acne. It is anti-inflammatory, promotes skin regeneration, and has pain-relieving effects, making it a great option for healing and soothing damaged skin. Hemp oil has a medium absorption rate.
Hemp seed oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Jojoba has a relatively long shelf-life (2-3 years3) making it a nice addition to keep your DIY product lasting longer. It is antimicrobial, antifungal, and high in antioxidants, so it is a great way to protect your skin from whatever life throws at you. Because it is so similar to the sebum produced by your skin, it helps to regulate your skin's oil production and balance your skin's pH. It is also helpful in healing wounds, reducing the appearance of scars, and may reduce the appearance of wrinkles.9 Jojoba is an excellent option for overall skin health. It has a fast absorption rate.
Jojoba oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Olive oil contains antioxidants and has been shown to protect against damage from UV rays.10 It also helps fight bacteria, making it a great option for cleansing and preventing acne. It has a medium absorption rate.
You can use the same olive oil you cook with for your skin! Many sources suggest that you opt for the purest option available - 100% organic, cold-pressed, non-GMO, and extra virgin.
Olive oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Sunflower oil contains antioxidants and helps protect skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure. It is anti-inflammatory and fast-absorbing, making it a good option for those with dry or irritated skin who prefer lighter moisturizers.
Sunflower oil is considered non-comedogenic.
Whether you're keeping it simple with a single oil for your face and body, or whipping up a DIY, we hope these details can make it a little easier to decipher what is likely to work. If you're intrigued by DIYs and looking for a way to get started, here are some of our favorites:
1| Healthline, How to Use Carrier Oils; 2| Better Shea Butter, The Different Types of Carrier Oils & Their Benefits; 3| Galper, A. and Daigneault, C. Plant-Powered Beauty. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, Inc. 2018. Print.; 4| Well + Good, How to Avoid Buying Beauty Products that Will Clog Your Pores; 5| Healthline, Are there Benefits to Using Almond Oil on Your Face?; 6| Healthline, Argan Oil for Skin Health; 7| Healthline, What are the Benefits of Using Avocado Oil on My Skin?; 8| Healthline, Hemp Oil for Skin; 9| Healthline, 13 Reasons to Add Jojoba Oil to Your Skincare Routine; 10| Healthline, Olive Oil Benefits for Your Face