Choosing The Best Carrier Oil: Unrefined Or Refined?

People ask me all the time which carrier oil they should choose, and although it’s really personal preference, there are definitely a few things to consider when making your choice. What is the purpose for the oil? Do you want something less greasy that will sink in quickly? Do you want something that has a scent to it, or no scent at all? Are you looking for an oil that is going to help smooth out those fine lines and wrinkles? Do you have a wound you are trying to aid in healing, or a skin condition?There is an endless list of carrier oils to choose from, but each of these oils come in a few different forms. Unrefined, refined, and partially refined. These are really the most important considerations when choosing, and these differences are what I am going to cover in this post. (There is a list at the end of this post of different carrier oils you may like to try.)

What is an unrefined carrier oil? Unrefined refers to an oil or butter being crude, unprocessed, or untreated in any way. These oils have either been expeller pressed or cold pressed.

The expeller pressed method is done with mechanical pressure, without the use of chemicals or heat. That being said, some heat is created from the friction of moving parts in the machine. At times this heat can be high enough to cause the oil to lose some of its nutrients.

The cold pressed method is done by filtering the seeds with air pressure, to remove any impurities, then milling the seeds into a paste. Pressure is then applied to force the oils to separate from the paste.

Pros of Expeller and Cold Pressed Oils:
Expeller and cold pressed oils retain all of their nutrient rich qualities. With these methods we get all the “good stuff”. All the essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals each oil offers.
*Cold pressed oils are considered superior to expeller pressed. This is due to the friction/heat issue with the machines in the expeller pressed method mentioned above.

Cons of Expeller and Cold Pressed Oils:
Because these oils are not refined, they may have a “less than appealing” aroma. Some may smell downright awful! Certain oils have such a potent scent that they “takeover” all the pleasant scents you may be adding to them. They are also far less stable than their refined counterparts. This means they are prone to becoming rancid more quickly. If you are using them to make a natural product they will likely decrease its shelf life.

*Solvent extraction is another method of extraction that preserves the phytonutrients of an oil, but a trace percentage of the solvents can remain in the oil.

What is a refined carrier oil? Most oils undergo the process of expeller or cold pressing, but the process is then taken several more steps. After being pressed, some oils are then heated, up to 450℉, or subjected to cold temperatures, as low as -30℉. Often they are solvent treated to deodorize them, and some are even bleached to further remove the scent or to make them a more desirable color.

The Pros of Refined Oils:
These oils tend to have no scent at all, making them unlikely to “taint” the smell of your favorite blend or product. They are more stable than unrefined oils, and the shelf life of your product will be extended. Refined oils are less expensive than unrefined oils.

The Cons of Refined Oils:
The most obvious con for refined oils is the lack of the majority of the nutrients that oil possesses. If the oil has been treated with a solvent, you risk trace amounts of the solvent remaining in the final product. In some cases, preservatives are added to further the shelf life of refined oils.

*There are many partially refined oils on the market that can give you at least some of the benefits of unrefined oils.

So which one should you use, and when?
Hands down you should be using unrefined oils and butters for skin care in order to reap the rewards they offer. All those active compounds are readily available for your skin to absorb. These oils and butters are excellent for aging skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, and a whole host of skin afflictions.

Refined carrier oils and butters are the ONLY safe options when caring for wounds. Let me be perfectly clear here…… DO NOT USE UNREFINED OILS OR BUTTERS FOR OPEN WOUNDS! The refining process removes impurities making them a safe option for this purpose. Refined carriers are great for massage, and will carry, beautifully, the relaxing scent you add to them. They do make for great product bases if you don’t want your scent to be overtaken by the oils natural scent, and they will certainly cost you less money.

Using refined or unrefined oils really does come down to personal preference and/or your purpose for them. If you are looking to capitalize on all the “goodness” they have to offer, then unrefined is the obvious choice. If you want at least some of the benefits, but less of the natural scent, then partially refined may be perfect for you. If you just want a carrier so you can apply your essential oil or blend, safely, to your skin then go for refined (and save money). It’s really all about what you want! How great is that?!  

                                                         Carrier Oils 

                Sweet Almond Oil                                           Kukui Nut Oil
                Apricot Kernel Oil                                           Macadamia Nut Oil
                Avocado Oil                                                    Meadowfoam Oil
                Borage Seed Oil                                             Olive Oil
                Camellia Seed Oil                                           Peanut Oil
                Cranberry Seed Oil                                         Pecan Oil
                Evening Primrose Oil                                      Pomegranate Seed Oil
                Fractionated Coconut Oil                               Rose Hip Oil
                Grapeseed Oil                                                Seabuckthorn Berry Oil
                Hazelnut Oil                                                    Sesame Oil
                Hemp Seed Oil                                               Sunflower Oil
                Jojoba Oil                                                       Watermelon Seed Oil

*The list of carrier oils is courtesy of! You should really stop by this site!  It is a wealth of information on everything aromatherapy.

My faves and why they are my faves:

Jojoba will always be HANDS DOWN my fave carrier oil! You will also see it in almost every body care product we have. And yes, we only carry unrefined Jojoba.  Jojoba is actually a wax and is as close to our skin's own sebum (natural oil we create ourselves) as it gets.  Using Jojoba can help your own skin stop overproducing oil, and help stop acne in its tracks.  Another seriously awesome reason to use Jojoba is it's ability to extend the shelf life of your products!  Remember, it's technically a wax, not an oil! Huge bonus!  Lastly, it is not greasy!  I detest using a greasy oil! I know y'all probably love yourself some coconut oil, but let's be honest, that stuff is greazy (urban dict spelling)!  (fyi-I do love me some coconut oil, just not on my skin.)  

Grapeseed is second on my list of faves.  It's sinks in faster than any oil out there! It is light, and so, so, so very good for your skin. It is one of the oils least likely to cause breakouts. But, and this is a big but, truly unrefined grapeseed oil smells like fermented grapes. Seriously, it does.  Finding unrefined grapeseed oil is next to impossible!  If you have grapeseed oil and you crack the top on that puppy and smell nothing....You do not have unrefined grapeseed oil, even if your bottle says so!  I have to purchase my grapeseed oil out of South Africa to get it unrefined.  When I first smelled it I was a tad concerned.  I actually had to hunt down the experts at my aromatherapy school to confirm that I did not just sell my soul to Customs to get this amazing grapeseed oil for nothing!  After confirming I have indeed acquired a very rare gem, I started to use it on my skin and OMGOSH it's amazing.  The smelling like a wino only lasts for about 15 minutes and it's gone, leaving your skin feeling amazing!  

*We will be adding this grapeseed oil to our site soon.  Please try and remember that I did not have too much wine and end up spilling some in your carrier oil! It's supposed to smell like that! 

My last, but not least, fave is Argan!  You want to know why those French women seem to have found the "fountain of youth", it's their constant use of argan oil.  I swear the moment they are birthed their mama's start rubbing it all over them!  Argan is a little heavy, for my taste, by itself.  I love to add it to jojoba and/or grapeseed oil to cut that heaviness a bit. It's lovely, and if you use it your face will thank you!

If you have any questions about carrier oils, or if you would like to see us carry an oil you love on our site, please shoot me an email at  I'd love to help you in your search for your fave!