Working with water-based carriers

Water and oil don’t mix...or do they? Learn to blend essential oils into water-based carriers.

Water-based carriers are ideal when you’re crafting blends like room sprays, body mists, linen sprays, and natural cleaning products. Most of them blend easily with one another, and with liquid Castile soap. (Lotion, however, doesn’t easily blend with other water-based carriers.)

However, essential oils don’t naturally disperse into water-based carriers.

Water and oil don’t mix.

what's an emulsifier?

Essential oils will mix with oils and butters because they’re all lipids. For example,when you blend an essential oil into jojoba, the oils can’t separate back out again. They’re a true blend!

But if you put water and essential oils into a bottle together, the oils will just float on the surface of the water. Shaking the blend may seem to disperse the oil, but what you actually have is millions of tiny drops of undiluted essential oil floating in the water. These teeny-tiny drops of essential oil will come into direct contact with your skin—which is basically like using undiluted essential oil.

That’s why water-based carriers don’t protect your skin from essential oils.

How can you overcome this challenge to make safe water-based products?

You can use a dispersant.

Dispersants are ingredients that help keep essential oils distributed through a water-based carrier.

Two types of dispersants you can work with

two types of dispersants you can work with

1. Solubol

A natural emulsifier that helps essential oils stay dispersed through water-based products. (Emulsifiers allow you to mix substances that wouldn’t otherwise combine, such as water and oil.) Solubol has a mild, barely-there aroma. See the ingredient list!


2. Alcohol

Very strong alcohol of at least 190 proof can distribute essential oils through water. To use this method, you’ll need to add the essential oils to the alcohol first and let the mixture sit for about an hour. Then add the alcohol & oil blend to your water.

An important safety note is that water-based carriers are more vulnerable to bacteria, so they have shorter shelf lives than other products. Many people get around this by working with preservatives, or simply by making fresh blends every few weeks.

Water-based carriers

Now that you know how to blend oils into water-based carriers, let’s take a look at some common carriers in this category.

1. Water

Just pure water!

Water works well in any type of spray or mist, including natural cleaning blends. Just remember that water itself doesn’t get rid of germs and microbes. You may want to add alcohol or Castile soap to cleaning products.

If your water blend is meant to be applied to the skin, be sure to use one of the dispersants mentioned above.

However, if your product is something like a room spray or natural cleaner, you don’t need a dispersant. Just be aware that your product will still be vulnerable to bacteria, and should be replaced every few weeks.

2. Hydrosol

water-based carriers: hydrosols

Hydrosols are the water-based portion of a distillation session.

When an aromatic plant is steam distilled, the plant material is loaded into the still along with water. The still is heated, and the water becomes steam. As the plant releases its essential oils in the heat, the steam particles carry the oil up through a cooling coil. As it cools down, the steam turns back into water. Everything drips slowly into a collection container.

Now the container is full of water with essential oil floating on top!

But the water itself has absorbed some of the plant’s components. The water is now hydrosol.

Learn more about hydrosols (and why they’re gentler than essential oils).

Hydrosols are richly aromatic! Treat them just like water when you’re blending. (See the section above, “Water,” for details.) Many hydrosols are even potable. Add a teaspoon of blood orange or peppermint hydrosol to a glass of water for a refreshing drink!

At Aromatics, we carry a curated selection of over 35 pure hydrosols, including lavender, frankincense, elderberry, and more.


3. Lotion

water-based carriers: lotion

Lotions are water-based emulsions—meaning water is blended with oil-based substances. Lotion makers achieve this by adding “emulsifiers,” such as plant emulsifying wax.

Most lotions are made with preservatives. Preservatives help protect the lotion’s shelf life while reducing bacteria. (Using a lotion with zero preservatives may sound like a good thing at first, but it won’t be long before the lotion starts looking a little pink, feeling slimy, or smelling funky—a sure sign that bacteria growth has set in!)

There are plenty of natural preservatives to work with. At Aromatics, our lotion is naturally preserved with mung bean bioferment. It’s paraben-free, gluten-free, phthalate-free, and vegan, with no synthetic chemicals whatsoever!


At Aromatics, our lotion is paraben-free, gluten-free, phthalate-free, and vegan, with no synthetic chemicals whatsoever!

4. Aloe vera gel

water-based carriers: aloe vera gel

Aloe vera gel is silky and lightweight. It blends beautifully with water, hydrosol, and Castile soap.

Aloe vera gel is intensely skin nourishing all by itself, and works to purify skin in natural cleansers. It’s also popular for oily and acne-prone skin, since it’s gently drying and soothes redness. Try putting it in a roll-on bottle to make an acne spot stick!

If you’d like to blend aloe vera gel with an oil, such as avocado oil, you’ll have to shake your blend before each use. The aloe and oil won’t stay combined.

When you’re blending with aloe vera gel, treat it like water and hydrosol. You’ll need a dispersant if you’re blending in essential oils, and your product will still be vulnerable to bacteria. It’s best to make aloe vera products in small batches (unless you know how to work with preservatives).


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