Fragrance vs Essential Oil: What are the Differences?

One of the most commonly asked questions from our newer clients when it comes to selecting the ingredients for their soaps, candles and diffusers is what is the difference between fragrance oils versus essential oils? Simply put, fragrance oils, also referred to as synthetic oils, are designed and developed in a laboratory using synthetic chemicals. Essential oils are oils that have been extracted from within a plant, the “plant essence”.

What Are Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are commonly found everywhere in modern life from laundry soaps, cleaning products, hand sanitisers, room fresheners, foods, drinks and many more everyday items. Fragrance oils are synthetically developed chemical scent compounds. Synthetically made ingredients, in some cases have been linked to causing irritation and dryness of the skin or, further health problems such as allergies etc.

What Are Essential Oils

Essential oils are the concentrated resin or liquid that is extracted, pressed or distilled from different parts of the plant and can include petals, leaves, berries, seeds, stalks to name a few. Distillation is the most common form of essential oil extraction. Essential oils can also be withdrawn from a plant by expression and solvent extraction. Given the natural characteristics of essential oils, they can be very volatile compounds and can change from season to season, crop to crop and country to country. 

The other main difference between fragrance oils and essential oils is the latter is believed or perceived to have therapeutic effects and benefits. Essential oils have long been used in the practice of natural therapies including aromatherapy. They are believed to have balancing effects on us emotionally, mentally and physically. Given fragrance oils are synthetic duplicates of essential oils, they are not thought to have the same natural healing properties.

It’s important to be mindful that essential oils and fragrance oils are both powerful concentrated chemicals, be them naturally or synthetically made. Just because something states it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s any less harmful than something synthetically produced.

When selecting soaps, candles and diffusers for your home or space, consumers need to be informed that even though a product can be labelled as “natural”, they may indeed contain a percentage of fragrance oils. As such, products like these may state “contains essential oil” however, more often than not they are combined with synthetic fragrance oils. 

So, what is the best choice when it comes to selecting either fragrance oils or essential oils for production of your soap, candle or diffuser? Well, you’ll be interested to know that there are both advantages and disadvantages to both fragrance oils and essential oils. 

Our advice to you from our professional research and development team here at Fragrance Innovation Australia is to educate yourself on the pros and cons of both oils. This way, you can make an informed decision as to what is the best choice for your product requirements.

Fragrance Oil Versus Essential Oil in Soap

The main benefits of using essential oils in soap is that they are 100% pure and natural. Given the nature of essential oils, there can be fewer options of fragrances to select from. They can fade or discolour the soap and, you need to be aware of any contraindications to using essential oils topically on the skin given certain health conditions. Essential oil characteristics (odour and colour) can have variability due to place of production and from season to season.  This is a challenge to manage for the consumer market whom demands consistency in a product.  Fragrance oils are considered to be more stable in cold process soap however, they are synthetic and just like essential oils, can also cause discolouration in cold process soap if not formulated correctly.   

Fragrance Oil Versus Essential Oil in Candles

Essential oils come from many sources and because of this, this can cause variability and makes consistency difficult when used in candles. Although natural, when you have an inconsistent ingredient in your formulation, the outcome can also become inconsistent. Therefore, you’re left with a product that may not consistently perform the same every-time and be inferior. Some essential oils are considered flammable and due to the seasonal variability of available crops, essential oils are exposed to large price fluctuations through the year.  Given fragrance oils are formulated with synthetic ingredients, you can be assured that they will be produced with a consistent recipe each and every time. Fragrance oils can provide you with a much greater range of fragrances and can be more cost-effective long term.

Fragrance Oil Versus Essential Oil in Diffusers

There are four main types of diffusers on the market including nebulizing, heat, ultrasonic, and evaporative diffusers. There are pros and cons for the use of both fragrance oils and essential oils in all four options. We suggest talking to our experts at Fragrance Innovation Australia to help discover what solutions best fit your product and brand.

Availability Of Fragrance Oil Versus Essential Oil

Generally, given the nature of essential oils, there are factors like location, climate, sustainability and quality that can impact the availability of the product versus fragrance oils. These factors combined can cause issues and delays. If end products are reliant on such product, this can have a detrimental effect on your business and market.  

Cost of Fragrance Oil Versus Essential Oil

Due to the involved production methods to obtain essential oils, they can be more expensive than fragrance oils. The synthetic nature of fragrance oils generally means they are less expensive due to their more reliable, consistent and predictable methods of production. 

Fragrance Range of Fragrance Oil Versus Essential Oil

The synthetic nature of fragrance oils results in the curator not being limited by ingredients when it comes to fragrance oil selections. The process of creating a fragrance oil is one of complexity. However, this allows greater flexibility to adjust the profile through amending ratios of the aromatic compounds resulting in the profile being just right.

No matter your personal preference for essential oils versus fragrance oils, by educating yourself on both the advantages and disadvantages of both oils, you will be well on your way to making an informed business decision best for your product and brand. If it’s all to overwhelming, then simply let the experts here at Fragrance Innovation Australia happily guide you through this journey

Scroll to Top