The Difference Between Fragrance Oils And Essential Oils

If you have been following our blog, you would know that essential oils are oils from plants that have been distilled using steam (except for some citrus that is often cold-pressed).

Essential oils, when diffused, helps kill airborne microbes and purify the air (which is important in these times to keep your family safe!). It is also reputed to have health benefits due to its therapeutic properties. That said, make sure you know how to inhale essential oils the right way. Besides diffusing, you can also use essential oils to make products such as soaps and you can also use them topically i.e on your skin, or use them in your bath for luxurious pampering.

If you are using them on your skin, note that not all essential oils can be applied directly to the skin; some essential oils need to be diluted with vegetable carrier oils such as sweet almond oil.

But there are also other products out in the market that are not essential oils. These fall under the fragrance oil category.

Fragrance oils are created in a laboratory to be non-volatile and scent-wise, they last longer. There are two types of fragrance oils – synthetic and natural although both are still created in the laboratory.

Synthetic fragrance oils are artificially created from chemical compounds that do not exist in nature. Many commercial products are made with synthetic fragrances because they’re cheaper and offer longer-lasting scents. You may have heard of fragrance oils that smell like French vanilla, pine forest, new car smell, apple cinnamon, and sea breeze.

Natural fragrance oils, while created in the lab, are made by extracting them from natural compounds. While they are made using natural compounds, they are still created inside the lab. Furthermore, since only the aromatic components are extracted, we miss out on the potential benefits the plants can offer. This also the reason why it no longer has its therapeutic properties that pure essential oils offer.


Not surprisingly, fragrance oils are everywhere around us. They’re found in everyday commercial products such as detergents, soaps, hand wash, room freshener sprays, hand sanitizers, deodorants, shampoos, and more. The “strawberry smell” in your hand wash? It’s definitely fragrance and chemically produced. They’re also found in your expensive perfumes and skincare products!

You may inadvertently buy fragrance oils assuming they are essential oils for aromatherapy, diffusing, or for making soaps.

The problem with fragrance oils is that they may be irritating and drying to your skin, causing a plethora of skin problems if not health issues! Some fragrance oil might not be suitable to be used for making soaps as well, causing it to seize, heats up, or even separate during the process of making soaps.

And children are the most susceptible to such problems. Other side effects include skin rashes, dizziness, headaches, and coughing. They can also cause hormonal imbalances with long-term use. The  Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that about 75 percent of products that list fragrance contains the hormone-disrupting chemical, phthalates.

EWG states that fragrance is usually “a chemical cocktail containing individual chemicals associated with allergic reactions and hormone disruption”. It argues that “natural” does not mean safe as natural ingredients can be harmful primarily because the term “natural” isn’t regulated and manufacturers often claim that their products offer natural fragrances. Furthermore, manufacturers are not required to list their fragrance ingredients on product labels. This is because fragrances are considered to be “trade secrets”.

Fragrance oils mimic scents or aromas but the danger is that many synthetic chemicals in fragrances are derived from petrochemicals which are known to cause cancer and birth defects.

We can’t avoid using everyday products with fragrance oils but if you can make a choice, opt for something that’s good for your skin and body.

Only diffuse essential oils. Never diffuse fragrance oils as you will be breathing in harmful chemical compounds. If you are not sure, don’t diffuse or inhale.

Choose all-natural products that do not contain any scent or fragrance especially if you are prone to skin allergies and rashes. If you have children, be vigilant in reading household product labels. If it says fragrance oil, parfum, or perfume, it is not natural.

If you want to scent your soap or bath bombs, choose essential oils. You can easily make your own perfume with essential oils too. If you want to make your own air spray or hand sanitizer, here’s a safer and quicker way to do so.


Featured Essential Oils

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