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Differences Between Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils

What is Essential Oils?

Essential oils are oils that have been extracted from plants for their scents and chemical properties. They are commonly used in aromatherapy and in products that need natural scents and flavors. Essential oils are completely organic by nature and only capture naturally-extractable aromas.


What is Fragrance Oils?

Fragrance oils are synthetic scents. They are either partially derived from plants or completely artificial and can mimic unusual scents outside of the range of essential oils. While fragrance oils don’t usually offer the same potential health benefits as essential oils, they are cheaper, more accessible, and have longer shelf lives than essential oils.


Differences between Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils


Source of Essential oils:

Essential oils are extracted from aromatic plant parts. These oils traditionally come from bark, leaves, flowers, roots, and fruits. Not every plant has an extractable oil, however, even if it has a unique scent and taste. Importantly, essential oils are pure extracts that have not been added to a carrier oil or combined with synthetic scents. Carrier oils, or oils extracted from vegetables, are usually less irritating essential oils and can be used to dilute essential oils for human use and consumption. Some essential oils can be created by hobbyists, but other oils (rose petal oil, most famously) are difficult to create without mass quantities of the necessary plant parts.

Source of Fragrance Oils:

Fragrance oils are synthetic compounds. They may include essential oils, but at least part of the fragrance is artificially added. Fragrance oils are usually manufactured and not created by hobbyists because they require combining synthetic compounds.

Range of Scents

Scents of Essential oils:  There are many plants that can have essential oils extracted from them. However, essential oils are limited in range to the scents available naturally from plants. Also, some fruits like bananas do not have an extractable aroma. Common essential oil scents include citrus oils, tea tree oil, and bark extracts.

Scents of Fragrance Oils: Fragrance oils have a much wider range of potential scents than essential oils do. Because fragrance oils are at least partially synthetic, the manufacturer of the oil can mimic almost any possible scent using a combination of chemical compounds. This synthetic nature allows fragrance oils to capture aromas that are not naturally extractable from plants.


Uses of Essential oils:

Essential oils are well-known for their therapeutic uses and for their inclusion in health and beauty products. These oils are often used in aromatherapy kits, massage oils, and similar products because they are believed to contain natural chemicals that aid in healing the human body. Essential oils are also common in lotions and other beauty products to promote healthy skin or to simply add a pleasant scent. Some essential oils are even added to food.

Uses of Fragrance Oils :

Like essential oils, fragrance oils are used in beauty products. Perfumes, lotions, soaps, and hair products are all everyday items that may be enhanced by fragrance oils. However, fragrance oils are not traditionally used in aromatherapy because the synthetic compounds are not thought to carry the therapeutic chemicals that are inherent in essential oils. Likewise, fragrance oils are not meant to be used as food flavorings.

Shelf Life and Stability

Shelf Life and Stability of Essential oils:

Essential oils have a shorter shelf life than typical fragrance oils because they are organic products. They are also more chemically volatile than fragrance oils. While carrier oils can go rancid, essential oils do not. Instead they lose efficacy over time from being exposed to air, and eventually, oxidized essential oils will offer no aromas or health benefits. Essential oils also may not be compatible with all carrier oils, since essential oils cannot be significantly chemically altered for stability. The variation in essential oils is much greater than synthetic oils since the quality and intensity of the oil depends on the potency of the original plant.

Shelf Life and Stability of Fragrance Oils:

Fragrance oils can have much longer shelf lives than essential oils because they can be altered and combined with preserving chemicals. Because fragrance oils are partially or wholly synthetic, they are also usually more stable than organic essential oils.

Potential Dangers

Potential Dangers of Essential oils: 

Essential oils are pure extracts and, by nature, have not yet been diluted by a carrier oil. Many essential oils are skin irritants and should not be placed directly on users’ skin. Instead, essential oils should be added in small amounts to a carrier oil to prevent irritation or illness. Similarly, essential oils should not be inhaled and should be added to food carefully. Any person may have an allergy to a specific oil; essential oil users need to watch for rashes and other reactions to make sure they’re not exposing themselves to an allergen.

Potential Dangers of  Fragrance Oils: 

Fragrance oils vary in their risks. Unlike some essential oils, fragrance oils are not usually safe for ingestion. Fragrance oils are generally diluted before purchase, but they can still be irritants or allergens and should not be inhaled. Users should test a small amount of the fragrance oil before extensive use.

Price and Availability

Price and Availability of Essential oils: 

Like any product, essential oils vary in quality and availability. Because they must be extracted from real plants, some essential oils are very difficult to produce in bulk. While common essential oils can be found in retail stores, others are manufactured only by experts with large resources and are therefore expensive and difficult to find.

Price and Availability of Fragrance Oils:

Fragrance oils are typically cheaper than essential oils because they can be manufactured with less dependence on organic ingredients. These oils are popular and can be found in many everyday products.

Table of Differences between Essential and Fragrance Oils


Summary of Essential Oils verses Fragrance Oils

Essential oils and fragrance oils are both used to add aromas to a variety of products, especially consumable health and beauty products. However, there are significant differences in the manufacturing, chemical properties, shelf life, and price of these oils.

  • Essential oils are completely organic and are extracted from aromatic plant parts. Fragrance oils may contain essential oils but are at least partially synthetic.
  • The aroma of an essential oil is limited to the natural scent of the source plant. A fragrance oil can have an artificial aroma that does not exist organically or that cannot be extracted.
  • Because essential oils are organic, their shelf lives are limited – especially when exposed to air. They can also be expensive depending on the availability of their source plant. Fragrance oils tend to be cheap because they can be made without as many organic parts, and their shelf lives are typically much longer.
  • Both essential oils and fragrance oils can be used in health and beauty products. However, essential oils are also used in aromatherapy, and they can sometimes be ingested. As a general rule, fragrance oils are not safe for use in cooking.

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References :

[0]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vetiver_aromatics/6782320983

[1]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/essential-oils-aromatherapy-spa-oil-1433692/

[2]Sharon Falsetto. “Differences Between Essential Oils & Fragrance Oils.” LiveStrong. July 18, 2017. https://www.livestrong.com/article/74592-differences-between-essential-oils-/

[3]Jessica Ress. “Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils.” Angel Face Botanicals. June 11, 2015. https://www.angelfacebotanicals.com/blogs/angel-face-botanicals/58740741-essential-oils-vs-fragrance-oils

[4]Essential Oil Safety Guide.” Young Living Essential Oils. https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/discover/essential-oil-safety

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