Carrier oils vs essential oils in skincare: what makes them different?

Carrier oils and essential oils are different types of oils used in skincare which vary in the way they’re formulated and applied. At ishga, we use both types for various reasons. 

What is a carrier oil? 

Carrier oils can sometimes be called base oils. These can come from vegetable, plant and seed sources. They are called ‘carrier oils’ because they are used to dilute the essential oils, which then makes them safe to be applied directly to the skin. On their own, carrier oils are safe to be applied directly to the skin. They are full of nourishing vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal skincare ingredient.  

Example of carrier oils 

  • Argan Oil - Contains moisturising factors and can reduce excess sebum. Argan oil’s omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and linoleic acids, work to hydrate skin and soften dry areas. This is used in our Hydra+ Marine Cream and Hydrating Hand Cream. 
  • Jojoba Oil - Jojoba is ideal for all skin types. It hosts antioxidant properties to protect and heal the skin. It can help to reduce redness and keep skin calm and soothed. Used in a lot of ishga products, you will find it used in our Face and Body Oils. 
  • Apricot Kernel Oil – This enhances skin elasticity and leaves a soft and smooth quality on the skin. It is absorbed easily and is perfect for those with sensitive skin. It also brightens, reduces fine lines and decreases any puffiness of the skin. This is used in our Anti-oxidant and Balancing Marine Creams. 
  • Almond Oil - An emollient excellent for hydration, to moisturise and smooth the skin. It improves skin texture and is ideal for those with sensitive skin, as well as being lightweight and quick to absorb.  

What is an essential oil? 

Essential oils can also be called ethereal oils. The oils can come from various parts of a plant such as the flowers, fruit, bark and leaves. The beautiful scent we get from these essential oils is found in compounds which produce the aroma. Once these compounds are extracted, we are ‘capturing’ the plant's essence, and that is where the name essential oil came from. 

Why can’t I apply an essential oil directly to my skin? 

Essential oils are highly concentrated due to the volume of plant material that is required to create even a small amount. Diluting the essential oil with a carrier oil is not only safer and better for your skin, but it also helps to increase absorption. 

Example of essential oils 

  • Lavender oil - Contains relaxing properties to ease stress, soothe the mind and improve low mood. Helps to ease muscle cramps and aches. Used as part of the ishga signature scent you will find this oil used in many of our products such as the Shampoo & Body BarSanitiser, Invigorating Body Oil & Hebridean Dreams Candle. 
  • Frankincense oil - Can reduce skin redness and skin sensitivity. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and can help to restore the epidermis whilst calming irritation. It’s a key ingredient in our new Hydra+ Marine Cream. 
  • Lemongrass oil - Has skin healing properties and is an effective cleanser for all skin types. Its antiseptic and astringent properties make lemongrass oil perfect for getting even and glowing skin. Also used as part of our signature scent. 
  • Bergamot oil - Bergamot is a natural cleanser and can help to unblock pores. It also deeply nourishes the skin and helps to control sebum levels for balance in natural oil production. You will find this in our Marine Cleansing Balm and Balancing Marine Cream. 


Although carrier oils and essential oils are very different when viewed individually, they work together perfectly once combined. 

Discover our range of nourishing skincare bestsellers here.