The natural hair community moves at the speed of light and it can be extremely difficult to keep up with the new lingo, and the changes that happen almost on a daily basis. The most difficult thing to keep up with is the buzz words and new trends. For example  we’ve been hearing many things about the importance of essential oils to helping natural hair flourish and grow. Thing thing is… there’s a bit of confusion between what a carrier oil is and an essential oil is. They are both beneficial and play different rolls in your natural hair care regimen. So let’s dive right into the major differences/similarities and how they should be used.

Carrier Oil Vs. Essential Oil : What’s The Difference?

Carrier Oil: Carrier oils are often used in conjunction with the essential oil to do just that “carry” the essential oil into your scalp to help assist the treatment. Carrier oils are derived from nuts and are often called “vegetable oils” . This oil is often extracted through the method of cold pressing. Carrier oils are often praised for their assistance in moisturizing, sealing, strengthening and nourishing the hair. I discussed some carrier oil benefits in a previous post this week but I can reiterate a few of the benefits below as well. So here are some examples of my favorite/ most used carrier oils are as follows:

carrier oil vs. essential oilJojoba Oil Jojoba Oil rapidly penetrates down to the scalp and hair shaft, and readily loosens and dissolves hardened build-up. Your scalp and hair follicles are left feeling clean and refreshed after use of this carrier oil. All hair types can use this oil but can be most useful for dry hair to help moisturize the hair properly.

Olive Oil – “Extra Virgin” Olive oil has been cold pressed and contains no chemicals which makes it a great oil to use to prevent and cure hair loss.

carrier oil vs. essential oil Coconut OilCoconut Oil is my absolute fave and contains more than ninety percent of saturated fats  (like Vitamin E and Vitamin K) Using coconut oil with jojoba oil or olive oil creates an awesome pre-poo or hot oil deep treatment conditioner.

carrier oil vs. essential oilCastor Oil – Castor Oil is derives from the castor bean and is generally colorless of a pale, yellow shade. However the more popular Jamaican Black Castor oil in the natural hair community is a darker shade.  Castor oil can be used to prevent the hair and scalp from drying, because the oil is an excellent source of moisturization. Castor oil is best used to seal in the moisture from your cream based moisturizer. If you are still confused by the difference between the regular castor oil and Jamaican Black Castor oil (JBCO) you can check out the differences right here! 

Vitamin E Oil – The use of Vitamin E increases scalp circulation with the presence of antioxidants which can help increase hair growth. Vitamin E is also a great moisturizer for the skin as well.

carrier oil vs. essential oilAvocado Oil–  Avocado Oil is taken directly from the avocado itself. This oil is chalk full of vitamins that are essential for healthy hair growth such as Vitamin A, E  and D. I use avocado oil as a part of my pre-poo recipes to get soft manageable hair.

carrier oil vs. essential oilAlmond Oil- My second favorite carrier oil is absolutely almond oil. It smells amazing and is derived from almonds. I’ve been swooning non stop over this oil. I’ve been using it to soothe my scalp and on my dark circles. Almond oil is filled with magnesium, which reduces shedding and improves the overall health of your hair. It also helps to eliminate dandruff and dry scalp. Definetly a part of my new holy grail. I’ve been using the Mielle Organics brand for their  sweet almond oil and I have been beyond pleased. You can grab some here and get a discount using code  tresses13 at checkout!


Essential Oil: An essential oil carries a scent/fragrance from the plant that they were extracted from. They are extracted most often through the use of distillation and stem form the non seed part  of the plant. Most essential oils are best for scalp treatments and scalp health which is why they are so recommended and spoken highly of in hair products and DIY hair concoctions. Essential Oils are a bit pricier than carrier oils and often more difficult to find, but with the increase in natural hair care in our beauty supply stores, we are finding it easier to find. If not we can always go the Amazon route. It is also important to note that essential oils should be  mixed with carrier oils in diluted states. A few drops of essential oil are all that is necessary to reap the benefits. Here are a list of some of my fave/ most used essential oils that you may want to give a try in your natural hair regimen.

Chamomile Oil:  Chamomile has many benefits but when it comes to the essential oil for hair it soothes the nerves on your scalp to decrease inflammation, itchiness and dandruff.

Peppermint Oil:  Smells amazing and also helps to stimulate blood flow the scalp/root of the hair. With this proper nourishment hair stimulation occurs causing an increase in hair growth. It also gives a great tingly feeling which is extremely relaxing after you have massaged it in for a few minutes.

Rosemary Oil – Rosemary oil also smells rather amazing and can be used in a few drops within carrier oils to alleviate dandruff issues on the scalp by stimulating hair follicles to grow longer and stronger.

Tea Tree Oil:  I have been using tea tree oil for about two years now and mostly I use it for skin issues. However a few drops into a carrier oil can also help to keep your scalp bacteria and fungus free. Also this oil can be used for dandruff relief when mixed into a carrier oil as a scalp treatment.

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Have you had an experience with any of the above oils? If so how have you used them?

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2 Responses to Carrier Oil Vs. Essential Oil What’s The Difference?

  1. Hi and thank you for this article it was super helpful! I have long thick sometimes wavy hair and I’m trying out my luck on the no poo method. I was wondering is it okay to use more than one carrier and essential oil together? For example if I used jojoba oil, avocado oil, peppermint and tea tree. I have dandruff and I work outside most of the time so I swear a lot. My hair gets really oily but it feel dry sometimes. Do you think if I mixed all four it would eventually work or would they not mix well and not help my hair as I hoped?

  2. Just discovered you on Pinterest. Would love more information on how to mix carrier and essential oils. I am five months into locking my hair and want to use oils on my scalp.