Essential Oils VS Fragrance Oils: What's the Difference and How to Tell One From The Other

When it comes to scenting homes or doing DIY projects like soap, massage oils, shampoo, candles etc, only two products come to mind: fragrance oils and essential oils. At face value, there doesn't seem a considerable difference and often, they are used interchangeably.

Since we are all about aromatherapy and everything organic, here's a detailed comparison between fragrance and essential oils and some tips on how to differentiate one from the other.



Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are a concoction of several man-made substances synthesized in laboratories. It can be a mixture of essential oils, synthetic aroma chemicals, and aromatic resins. To achieve a certain scent, the perfumist has more than 3000 different fragrance ingredients that he may use. In the production process, synthetic substances are used as well to perform tasks such as dissolving crystal and powder ingredients into a liquid form that resembles oils.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are natural compounds extracted from the aromatic parts of plants such as roots and leaves. These are "neat" oils, meaning they are pure, undiluted and have not been adulterated in any way; therefore capturing all the health benefits in its entirety. No chemical and synthetic substances are needed and involved in the extraction process. Most common processes of extraction are steam distillation and cold-press. Extraction of one kind of oil can be more complex than others. The compounds making up the oils also vary depending on the plant part they were extracted from, the climate and the environment the plant was grown which is why an organic lavender essential oil may not exactly smell like another organic lavender essential oil.



Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are made to mimic the scents of naturally-occurring substances. They can be manufactured to have stronger scent. One reason sellers use fragrance oils in their products is the ability to synthesize it in a way that the scent becomes consistent and more long-lasting.

Essential Oils

Only pure, organic essential oils are for aromatherapy or the use of nature's healing powers. They enhance mental and physical well-being through their therapeutic properties working with the systems of the human body, mainly the digestive, limbic, endocrine and respiratory systems. Through inhalation and correct topical application, we benefit from their sedative, anxiolytic, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties among others.They're often used in diffusers, candles and massage oils.



Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils can be irritating to the skin and pose serious health risk. When diffused or used in body products, you are basically inhaling and getting inorganic, chemical compounds into your system. More often than not, use of these oils results to allergic reactions, hormonal imbalance, headache, nausea, a wide range of respiratory problems and medical complications in the long run. Besides its harmful cosmetic use, burning synthetic fragrance oils produces an even more toxic chemical smoke vapor.

An expired fragrance oil usually develops an unpleasant smell. 

Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly-volatile. They lose potency through oxidation so proper handling is important. With careful storage, they last minimum of 2 years. You'll know when an essential oil is already expired when it loses its scent.

Some citrus essential oils are also photo-toxic. You have to dilute them well in carrier oil and avoid the sunlight several hours after topical application or they may cause irritation if you have sensitive skin.



Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are a lot less expensive because they can be manufactured. Essential oil extraction is a rather more expensive process.

Essential Oils

Due to a more complicated and more costly production process, essential oils are high-priced. These oils are made up of more than just scent components and thus difficult to imitate. The rarity of the plant, the region where the source is grown and the difficult conditions of growing a certain plant all contribute to its generally expensive price.  


How to tell an essential oil from fragrance oil?

A fragrance oil's label usually includes terms such as FO, fragrance, scent, parfum, perfume, fragrance oils and fragrant oils. If you spot these words then it's definitely not organic and can't be used for aromatherapy even if label claims "all-natural."

Here's how a fragrance oil looks like:

  • Fresh Bamboo Fragrance Oil
  • Eucalyptus Scent
  • Lavender Fragrance
  • French Vanilla
  • Coffee
  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Peach
  • Watermelon
  • Banana
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • White Rain
  • Christmas Eve
  • Bubble Gum
  • Sun and Sand
  • Dragon's Blood
  • Japanese Cherry Blossom

Examples of Essential Oils:

  • Lavender Essential Oil
  • Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • Lemongrass Essential Oil
  • Rosemary Essential Oil
  • Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
  • Clove Bud Essential Oil
  • Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil
  • Grapefruit Essential Oil
  • Juniper Essential Oil
  • Patchouli Essential Oil
  • Peppermint Essential Oil
  • Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • Lemon Essential Oil


For certified pure essential oils and organic products refer to all-natural brands that you trust.


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