The Great Debate: Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils

I've titled this "the great debate" because I've found that many people have very strong feelings on this subject.   I, personally, don't have strong feelings either way.  I can see the pro's and con's of each.  I will say that when we started selling our bath and body products I reluctantly used some fragrance oils because friends and family really wanted specific scents.  Scents that couldn't be found in essential oils.  My intention all along has been to phase out the fragrance oils only because it seems most people who seek out handcrafted products are looking for essential oils.

However, since I've entered into the world of selling bath and body products I've been surprised to hear how many of our customers have serious sensitivities to essential oils.  I've always been aware of sensitivities to fragrance oils, I just hadn't realized how many people are affected by essential oil sensitivities.  So, for right now, we will continue to offer both high-quality essential oils and high-quality phthalate-free fragrance oils {clearly labeled, of course}.

Some people absolutely refuse any product that contains fragrance oils.  Others are ok with fragrance oils in some products, but choose essential oils for leave-on products such as lotions or creams.  Still others shop by scent, not necessarily caring whether it comes from essential or fragrance oils.  Regardless of where you fall, the good thing is, there are choices out there for all.

I think it's worth noting - don't assume a product is "good" because it uses essential oils.  There are plenty of products on the market, both handcrafted and commercially made, that utilize high-quality essential oils only to have other ingredients of great concern such as sodium laurel sulfate, propylene glycol, etc. in their product.  Also, check the ingredients for fragrance oils.  I've also found that some items labeled "made with essential oils" have essential oils AND fragrance oils.

This post is not meant to try and sway you either way, just simply to put some of the facts out there to help answer questions about the two.

Lets first take a look at the difference in how each are made:

Essential Oils = are a natural product extracted from the leaves, flowers, stems, root or bark of plants.
Fragrance Oils = almost always is a synthetic product.

Some of the Pro's and Con's of each:
Essential Oils

  • Have effects on the body that can be very positive.
  • Are a natural product.

  • They can be very expensive.
  • Read the label - there are different grades of essential oils and some companies bring down the price by cutting it with a carrier oil or adding synthetic materials.
  • Quality and scent can very depending on the crop.
  • Some can be dangerous to use.
  • People can have sensitivities.
  • Some plants are now endangered from over-harvesting.
  • Some extraction processes can include the use of chemical solvents.
  • You can't extract essential oils from all plants = somewhat limited.

Fragrance Oils
  • Usually last longer than essential oils.
  • More affordable.
  • Allow us to have access to scents that can't be naturally extracted {i.e. lilacs, lilies, chocolate, coconut, etc.} = offer a wider range of scents.
  • Consistent quality.
  • They fall under the FDA's "trade secret" law which means they don't have to disclose ingredients.  {they do, however, have to follow guidelines}
  • People can have sensitivities.
  • Does not contain therapeutic qualities.
This is just a basic overview of each - there are certainly more points that can be made for either side.  

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Suzie Simplelife said...

Hi Staci, I tend to think there isn't really an sum it up in your very informative blog...natural vs synthetic...for me there is no option for synthetic anything. Nothing beats pure essential oils and if people have an allergic reaction they should choose oils that don't react with them. Natural is the only option for real health benefits as far as I am concerned. lovely things on your blog by the way.

daisy g said...

I concur with the previous comment. Natural is provided to us an is better for our bodies overall.