Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil

Selection of essential oils, with herbs and flowers in the background

I’ve been asked this question plenty of times especially when making my own candles, reed diffusers and bath salts. So what really is the difference between fragrance oil and essential oil?

To put simply, essential oil is derived from pure plant extracts and fragrance oil is a compound of synthetic chemicals.

Essential oils are often used for aromatherapy for the healing effects while synthetic fragrance is not. Aromatherapy may be useful to induce relaxation, but there is not sufficient evidence that essential oils can effectively treat any condition.

Many skincare products such as soaps and candles will contain fragrance oils. The scent throw is much stronger than essential oil. Plus there are hundreds of different scents to choose from. While essential oils are limited in scents with fragrances such as Lavender, Peppermint or Orange.

On occasions both fragrance oils and essential oils are used in a fragrance blend which wouldn’t normally be considered ‘natural’ by those looking for aromatherapy type scents. It is very common for a soap label  to say “contains essential oils.” However, such a label can be deceiving, it is always important to check if it also contains fragrance oils.

Bad reactions and allergies
You may have concerns about the safety of essential oils and rightly so. Essential oils are powerful organic chemicals. But the same care should be taken whether using fragrance or essential oils in your candles and soap. Chemicals are chemicals whether they’re created in a lab or created naturally.

Fragrance oils are problematic because these synthetic compounds tend to dry out and irritate the skin.

Improper use of essential oils may cause more harm including allergic reactions and skin irritation, which is why they are always recommended to be mixed with a carrier oil if applying to bare skin.

Which should I use if making candles?
Some essentials oils are very delicate and don’t react well to heat. This means that scented candles made with essential oils will not always smell as strong as candles made with fragrance oils.  Though certain essential oils smell stronger than others for example lavender, patchouli and lemongrass.

Which is better?
It’s really down to personally preference and price. I tend to use both, I opt for fragrance oil, simply because there is a wider range of scents to add to candles, bath salts and soaps. But for aromatherapy massage or aroma or reed diffusers, I always opt for purer essential oil scents. Like with all things, it is up to us candle makers and soap makers to learn all we can so that we can make educated choices about the products we make.

18 thoughts on “Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil

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