What’s the Difference Between Carrier Oils and Essential Oils?

A Quick Guide to Natural Beauty Products

If you are an avid fan of natural cosmetics or aromatherapy, chances are that you have frequently heard the terms carrier oils and essential oils used together. You may have even assumed that the two could be used interchangeably. While both are used in holistic products and practices, they are actually quite different. It is crucial to understand these differences to ensure proper usage.

Carrier Oils

Leven Rose Cold-Pressed Carrier Oils Pure Organic Jojoba Oil
Carrier oils are commonly utilized in situations where oil is applied directly to the skin. Generally, this includes oils used for massage, pain relief or beauty treatments.

The oil is derived from the fatty portion of a nut, seed, fruit or kernel of a vegetable or other plant using one of two main methods of extraction: maceration or cold-pressing. Maceration is a method that involves placing a dry plant in warm oil to extract the properties of the desired plant. Cold-pressing, however, is the preferred method.

Cold-pressed carrier oils use expeller pressing, which consists of pressing the nut, seed, fruit or kernel at temperatures under 122 degrees Fahrenheit to extract oils. Cold-pressing preserves more of the desirable properties of the plant than other methods. The extracted cold-pressed carrier oils are suitable for direct skin application and can be used with essential oils to dilute essential oils.

Some of the most common carrier oils include: Olive, Argan, Coconut, Jojoba, Pomegranate, Sweet Almond, Carrot Seed, Grape Seed, Moringa, and Rosehip Seed Oils.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are more concentrated than carrier oils and are often too strong to apply directly to the skin. Because of this, they are frequently used in aromatherapy but must be diluted with a carrier oil or water for most other purposes. To extract the potent oil, a process known as steam distillation is used.

This method involves suspending plants over boiling water to draw out the oils into the steam, which is captured in a vessel. The steam cools as it works its way through tubing; condensing the steam back into water. The oils do not mix with water and the two separate to create essential oils and hydrosols. Learn how to use Essential Oils here. 

Common essential oils include: Lavender, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree Oils, along with many others.

Floral Toners (or Hydrosols)

Leven Rose Rose Water with Mist Top

Hydrosols, more commonly known as floral toners, are also frequently mentioned in discussions of carrier oils and essential oils. This is due to the fact that hydrosols are simply the water that remains after the steam distillation process in essential oil extraction. This water is aromatic and contains the properties and nutrients of the plant used in creating the essential oil.

Because these qualities exist in water, they are already diluted and are less harsh than the concentrated oils created through the process. This makes hydrosols ideal for direct application to the skin. Did you know floral toners naturally balance your skin's pH? It's true! Read more about floral toners.

Hydrosols that are used for this purpose include: Rose Water, Lavender Water, Orange Blossom Water and German Chamomile water.


Carrier Oils:

  • Plant-based cold-pressed Carrier Oils are better than either macerated or mineral oils..
  • Carrier Oils can be directly applied to the skin and have moisturizing benefits.
  • Cold-pressed Carrier Oils contain the potent nutrients from plants that you need for healthy, glowing skin.
  • Popular Carrier Oils include Jojoba Oil, Rosehip Seed Oil, Pomegranate Seed Oil, and Carrot Seed Oil.

Essential Oils:

  • Essential Oils (EOs) are steam-distilled and very strong.
  • Always dilute Essential Oils with a Carrier Oil since they are often too strong for skin.
  • Popular Essential Oils are Lavender EO, Lemongrass EO, Peppermint EO, and Rosemary EO.


  • Hydrosols are created through the steam distillation process and are often called floral waters or toners.
  • Because Hydrosols are naturally diluted with water, they are safe to use directly on your face and skin.
  • Natural Floral Toners are soothing for the skin because they contain nutrients and properties of the steam-distilled flowers.
  • Popular Hydrosols are: Rose Water, Lavender Water, Orange Blossom (Neroli) Water, and German Chamomile Water.


Leven Rose is an all natural beauty company in Colorado Springs, CO making the best in chemical free skincare and hair care products that you can trust. Our carrier oils and other products have been rated #1 on Amazon and featured in GQ and Glamour. Learn more about Leven Rose and our full line of organic beauty products at LevenRose.com. For news on latest releases and tips, follow us on social media.


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