Essential Oils/Fragrance Oils…What’s the Difference?

For this post I want to discuss essential oils and fragrance oils which are important whether you’re making fragrant products (soap, candles, potpourri, etc.,) for sale, or buying them for your own use. First of all, what are they and is there a difference between an essential oil and a fragrance oil?

While many people use the words essential oil and fragrance oil interchangeably there is actually a difference between them. Essential oils are natural essences derived from plants, flowers, and fruits. Many parts are used to extract essential oils – leaves, petals, leaves, rinds, etc., The most common way to extract them is by distillation, in which the plant/fruit parts are crushed and steam-heated and the essential oils are condensed from the steam. The amount of plant material needed to extract the essential oils varies, which is why you will find a great difference in prices of various essential oils. Some of them are quite expensive for a small amount, for example over 60,000 roses are required to make just one ounce of essential oil. Since essential oils are natural essences of plants they are used in aromatherapy for their medicinal properties and mood enhancing qualities.

Fragrance oils, on the other hand, are synthetically produced aromatic oils. Since they are commercially produced they are much less expensive than the natural essential oils. Also, because they are synthetic, fragrance oils do not contain the natural aromatherapy properties of essential oils, although some fragrance oil do contain certain amounts of essential oils in them. But since they are not derived from nature but are manufactured, you will find a great many interesting varieties of fragrances like cinnamon buns, pecan pie, sweet candy corn, and buttercream. Fragrance oils are used to make fun, fantastic bakery scented candles and soap/bath products. Keep in mind though that not all fragrance oils are safe to use on the skin and if you’re a crafter, be sure to check with fragrance oil companies to check which ones are safe to be used in bath products.

So does this mean that since essential oils are natural they are better than the synthetically produced fragrance oils? Well, no actually, and in the cases of some essential oils, make that hell no. Just because something is natural it doesn’t mean that it is good for you. All essential oils are highly concentrated and very strong and they should never be used directly on the skin (called “neat”) without being diluted first, either in carrier oils, bath salts, body scrubs, etc., Some essential oils are actually milder than others but even these can cause a bad allergic reaction if used neat and if it happens to you, you’ll definitely be thinking this is so not neat. Some essential oils shouldn’t be used at all because they can be toxic and some shouldn’t be used by pregnant women.

But all this doesn’t mean that you should be looking at all essential oils with a nasty side-eye and avoiding them like the plague, they are safe when used correctly and make wonderful additions to fragrance and aromatherapy crafts. It’s just always better to err on the side of caution.

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