We get asked this question quite often. The average individual tends to think of natural oils as just that, oil. However, when it comes to dealing with carrier oils and essential oils, there is a vast difference.
Essential oils are distilled from aromatic leaves, barks, and roots of various plants. The distillation process can be done either through steam distillation, C02 extraction, cold press extraction, or through absolutes (aka solvents). These methods are used depending on what type of plant you are extracting from. One method may work better for certain types of plants than others. When applied directly to the skin, essential oils can cause irritation, or severe redness and burning.
Carrier oils on the other hand are oils derived from the nut, kernel, or seeds of a certain plant such as coconut oil, apricot kernel oil, hemp seed oil, etc. The reason these are called “carrier oils” is just that, they dilute the essential oils and “carry” them to the skin. Different methods of extraction for carrier oils include cold pressed or cold expeller pressed, expeller pressed, solvent extraction, C02 extraction, infusion/macerate, RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized), or winterized.