What is the difference between essential oils vs fragrance oils? Real vs fake? Hippie vs department store? Healing vs toxic?
Simply put essential oils are derived from plants and fragrance oils are a mystery concoction of undisclosed synthetic chemicals.
By definition Aromatherapy is the healing practice of using natural essential oils to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Calling something natural or aromatherapy that contains synthetic fragrance is one of the most common misrepresentations among natural products, and especially in soaps and candles.
Synthetic fragrance is not Aromatherapy.
Essential oils are volatile plant extracts made from steam distilling or cold-pressing flowers, bark, stems, leaves, peel, roots, seeds, resins, or other parts of a plant.
Here I will explain in detail the difference between Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils. Essential oils (EO’s) are steam-distilled pure plant extracts used for scenting, flavoring, or healing applications in aromatherapy. Fragrance oils (FO’s) are synthetically made chemical scent compounds found everywhere in modern life.
Synthetic fragrance oils are hard to get away from as they’re found in most commercially offered cleaning products, room fresheners, personal care products, laundry soap, stationary, hand sanitizers, baby diapers, toilet paper, tampons, food, drinks, candy, toys, and so much more.
Many skincare products, soaps and candles, even those labeled “natural” often contain fragrance oils. It is common for a soap label will say “contains essential oils.” However, such a label can be deceiving — it is always important to check if it ALSO contains fragrance oils.
Fragrance oils are problematic because these synthetic compounds, they are drying and irritating to the skin, and can cause many other potentially serious health problems.
Learn more in our interview with clean beauty expert Lauren Karapandzich who shares her touching story about choosing “go green” including her best tips on making the switch to a more natural lifestyle.
At SpaGoddess Apothecary, all of our skincare products are purely herbal and contain only true, plant extracts, essential oils, and natural botanicals. It is always advisable to read a product’s label before purchasing or using it, especially if you have sensitive skin.
If the ingredients list includes the words: fragrance, fragrance oil, FO, perfume, fragrant oil, or parfum then it’s synthetically scented and definitely not all-natural, even though the label may state that it is a natural product.
Synthetic fragrance is one of the top cosmetic ingredients to avoid. You will find it in every single natural beauty expert’s list of toxic cosmetic ingredients to avoid. Burning synthetic fragrance oils in candles is potentially even worse than using them in your cosmetics as the it the burning candle produces an even more toxic chemical smoke vapor.
On a cosmetic label, terms for a Synthetic Fragrance include perfume, fragrance, fragrance oil, and parfum.
These are ubiquitous terms for a chemical substance which can contain up to 200 undisclosed ingredients. Common side effects are headaches, dizziness, rash, hyper-pigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation, more…
Historically popular fragrance notes such as civet, musk, ambergris, and castoreum are derived from animals, typically by mistreating and even killing the animals that create the scent. In 1979 the Musk Deer was placed on the endangered list and the use of natural musk was banned. In small amounts they provide depth and a sensual feel to a fragrance. If you must smell like musk, then we hope you actually do choose the synthetic version and let you be the one harmed by your choices instead of the innocent animals. Or you can opt of a naturally derived “White Musk” which typically contains a combination of Ambrette, Angelica, and/or Musk Flower.
In a 2001 study, the EPA reported that synthetic fragrances were shown to cause “possible mutagenic and genotoxic effects.”
Synthetic fragrances have also been shown to contain hormone disruptors which are linked to abnormal cell reproduction and may result in tumor growth. Companies using fragrance oils will sometimes claim that their FO’s are alcohol and phthalate free, but truthfully they are still a toxic synthetic substance.
Another sneaky way companies will list their fragrance oils is by calling it something like this: “pikake oil” or “plumeria oil.” Certainly you can infuse oil with the actual pikake or plumeria flowers to produce a scented oil, but most commonly these are synthetic fragrance oils. You need to be extra diligent with floral scents like Japanese cherry blossom or freesia, fruit scents like peach, watermelon or banana, and scent names like white rain — most often they are synthetic.
Burning a synthetically scented candle, you are igniting a chemical cocktail that is anything but healthy – and it’s certainly not the healing art of Aromatherapy.
If you feel sick when you smell them, well no wonder!! With information like this, I am so thankful that I have always been extremely sensitive to these nasty chemicals. My body has been flatly rejecting synthetic scents for as long as I can remember. I would get sick to my stomach or get a really bad headache from exposure, even walking down the laundry soap aisle at the grocery store would make me sick. I am so thank for my body’s natural instinctive response which literally mandates that I avoid this toxic junk.
To avoid synthetics, look for natural brands with products containing pure essential oils from companies that you trust.
Take good care and be well!!