Essential Oils Vs. Fragrance Oils

Essential Oils Vs. Fragrance Oils

Our love of fragrance has been around forever and is deeply rooted in many cultures. As early as 2000 B.C. the Ancient Egyptians were extracting natural plant essences to use on their bodies. Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese, infused oils and created herbal preparations for medicinal, fragrance and cosmetic use. Cleopatra is said to have seduced Marc Antony by surrounding her bed with rose petals.

rose scent



  • Essential Oils
  • Synthetic Fragrance Oils/Nature Identical Fragrance Oils
  • Natural Fragrance Oils


Essential Oils

Essential OilsThe essential oils within a plant are Mother Nature's creations. Essential oils (EOs) are aromatic chemical compounds of grasses, leaves, flowers, needles, twigs, peels of fruit, seeds, bark, and roots. The chemical profile of an essential oil determines its scent and overall quality. The most common way to make essential oils is through steam distillation of a plant.  The chemical profile of an essential oil determines its scent and overall quality.

Essential oils are not only highly therapeutic aromas, but they often provide healing properties or other therapeutic benefits not found in synthetic aromatics. 

The word "fragrance" will never be used in an ingredient list to mean essential oils. You will always see the word "essential oil."


Fragrance Oils

Fragrance Oils are made in a laboratory from synthetic compounds and composed almost entirely of petroleum by-products such as benzene derivatives, aldehydes, toluene, and other known toxic chemicals. They are much cheaper, offer greater variety, and utilize scent binders like phthalates to help retain their aroma for a longer period of time. Chemists can create lovely scents produced through chemical reactions that have no corresponding scent in nature. Synthetic fragrance oils are completely human-made from chemical compounds that do not exist in nature.

Nature Identical oils are also synthetic and built from materials that are not natural. The difference between creating a "Nature Identical" fragrance oil and a synthetic fragrance oil is that in the end the Nature Identical Oil is chemically identical to that naturally occurring in nature. It basically a man-made copy of a molecule found in nature.

These scents are often listed as "fragrance," "parfum," or "nature-identical" oils on the ingredients list. 

Natural Fragrance oils are also made in a laboratory but rather than being made from synthetic materials they are created by isolating one of the natural aromatic components from a complex scent such as that of an orange or rose. It is a part of something real rather than man-made from another material. 

Natural fragrance oils are blends of isolates that are extracted through the same processes that are used to get essential oils. The difference is that ...

  • when you extract an essential oil you are extracting the entire scent complex compound
  • when you extract an isolate you are extracting a single scent molecule

For a very simple example, a water molecule is H2O, meaning it is 2 parts hydrogen and 1 part oxygen. So if we could pull out the hydrogen it would be an isolate of water. We could then use that hydrogen to make or build some other compound.

Lack of Aromatherapeutic Properties 

Lavender essential oilEssential oils are not only highly aromatic, but the natural chemical composition of many essential oils offers therapeutic benefits.

For example, lavender essential oil can help reduce tension with its soothing, calming and harmonizing effect on the nerves. Lavender also has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties promote healing and ease inflammation. Lavender tones the skin and is useful for acne, oily skin, burns, sunburn, wounds, eczema, and psoriasis.

One Interesting Difference:


When Mother Nature builds a scent blend there are a lot of variables that can get in the way of consistency. For example, the quality and aroma of a natural essential oil, like rosemary, are affected by yearly weather conditions and can vary from crop to crop and region to region.

This makes it difficult for companies to produce natural products in which the scents are always the same. When a scent profile is built in a lab the conditions are controlled and consistency maintained. Consumers expect that type of consistency in fragrances created by the cosmetic industry.


Though it can sometimes be more expensive to use essential oils, you’ll feel the benefits to doing so once you’ve integrated these remarkable products into your aromatherapy or skin care regimen. If you’re looking to improve your health and well-being, you’ve got to go with the real thing.



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Kara Mathys @Wellnessgrit

Essential oils are a part of my daily life! I love Cedarwood oil – can be used to treat eczema and other skin issues; it too has a calming and relaxing effect.


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