What's the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils?

What's the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils?

June 13, 2019

Oftentimes when people are using essential oils, they're unfamiliar with the chemical constituency of the compounds, so they're used in the recommended ways to optimize the effects. This is how it should be - until you're educated on the right ways to use your essential oils, use the recommended methods in order to maintain a level of safety and effectiveness. However, what can exist only as minor ignorance (and not in a bad way) can quickly turn into misguided use and can lead to less than optimal effects. This is often what happens when fans of the fragrance of their favorite essential oils turn to "fragrance products" as a comparable replacement for all-natural essential oils. Today, we're going to look at the difference between all-natural essential oils and fragrance oils, when to use them, and how to avoid complications.

What are essential oils?

The major difference between fragrance oils and essential oils is that essential oils are 100% naturally occuring substances in nature. This means that you could literally walk outside, find a plant with a broad constituency of terpenes, cold-press it, and at the end of the process be left with a highly potent essential oil for everyday use.

Essential oils are the most basic form of aromatics, in that there are no additional chemicals added in order to make them more potent, or less harmful. Because they're not developed in a lab with a laundry list of additional chemicals, the potency of essential oils is not adulterated; this is why essential oils have such a wide array of both positive and negative effects. A great example of this is Cinnamon Leaf essential oil - the reason we (and many others) suggest that you use Cinnamon Leaf essential oil in a carrier oil is that it can be highly irritating to the skin, but it's also a powerful astringent and antiseptic! 

Because of their potency, essential oils are used in aromatherapy to positively affect mood, physical and mental health, and many other things. They often enter the body through the skin or through the olfactory nodes and can be deployed in a variety of contexts or methods to achieve their desired effect.

What are fragrance oils?

Fragrance oils, unlike essential oils, are created in a lab and are a combination of many chemicals aimed at mimicking a particular scent or, in many cases, environment. Such fragrances might be labeled "lavender fragrance oil" all the way to "spring rain fragrance". Because of the way they're created, using a variety of chemicals that are more widely available and more easily developed, fragrance oils are often far less expensive than essential oils, making them an appealing "replacement" for essential oils. However, just because they're appealing does not mean they're an effective or worthwhile replacement.

In the case of many fragrance oils, using them on your skin or diffusing them into the air can expose you to undesired chemicals that can cause more harm than good. A great example of this is paraffin candles. While these products smell great, they're not a great way to detoxify your home or make your environment safer or healthier for living. In fact, many of the chemicals in these candles can actually make it tougher to breathe or irritate your skin. 

Fragrance oils are often only useful as just that, a fragrance. If you want your house to smell like lavender without having to pay for lavender essential oil, you can use a candle or something of the like that's made to mimic the scent of lavender. 

How to avoid complications with fragrance oils

One of the best ways to avoid complications with fragrance oils is to do just that, avoid them. However, there are added costs to using all-natural essential oils. So, if you must purchase fragrance oils to avoid the extra costs, just remember that you should not be using them on your skin or for the purpose of aromatherapy. There's a use-case for essential oils in which you can reduce the amount of money your spending to get the scent of lavender in your life without risking the health of your skin and olfactory system. Just be smart!

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