One of the most commonly asked questions we receive at EROMA is:
"Should I use fragrance oils or essential oils? What's the difference?"
We wanted to take the time to create a comprehensive blog post to help answer this question and to provide some more transparent, balanced information for our customers to help differentiate essential oils and synthetic fragrances.
When you want to make a fragranced product such as candles or soaps, there are usually two main options to consider: fragrance oils or essential oils. Essential oils are natural while fragrance oils are mostly synthetic. To help you understand the variances between these two options and to help inform your decisions in the future, we will explain the differences between fragrance oils and essential oils.
Fragrance oils (also known as perfume or aromatic oils) are synthetically made chemical scent compounds. Fragrance oils can also be blended with small quantities of essential oils but this isn't always the case.
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts or distillations derived from completely natural substances such as flowers, plants, bark and more. These oils are usually obtained through quite complex and expensive processes such as solvent extraction or steam distillation. Essential oils are incredibly difficult to reproduce as a fragrance oil because they can be made up of between 50 to 500 different naturally occurring chemicals found in a plant and not all of them have been identified.
Traditionally, essential oils have been used in skin care, massage and aromatherapy to help provide remedies for particular ailments as they can possess therapeutic qualities that may benefit a user. For example, lavender is known to produce a calming, sleep-aiding effect when smelt before bed.
Which should I use?
There are a number of different factors to take into account when you are trying to decide whether to choose to employ essential oils or fragrance oils in your candles, soaps, diffusers or other applications. Read through the following major considerations and reference it to your own context, this will help to form your decision.
Cost Efficiency and the Environment
As previously mentioned, because of the complex nature of production, essential oils are not as sustainable as fragrance oils since they require huge quantities of natural plant matter to produce a small amount of oil. For example, it takes 1000 kilograms of rose petals to produce 1 kilogram of rose essential oil.
This is also coupled with the fact that natural environmental fluctuations such as weather, natural disasters, climate change and others can also have an impact on the supply and demand of these oils. For instance, if a common region for oranges experienced a natural disaster, the total product available decreases, cannot meet demand and thus the price goes up.
Because fragrance oils are manufactured using much simpler processes and generally include small quantities of essential oils, production costs can be kept at a minimum.
Consistency in Product Lines
These fragrance oils are more stable and have a much longer shelf life than essential oils. This represents one of the main reasons that they are much better suited to be used in candles and diffusers.
Fragrance oils rely on easily reproduced components which can be batch tested every single time to confirm perfect (100%) consistency between one fragrance batch and another. While essential oils can still technically be batch tested, there is naturally much more variance in their components.
All of our fragrance oils possess batch numbers on the bottle which can be referenced so that you can ask to see the batch certifications to make sure your fragrance oil never changes.
There are a number of different options you can employ to ensure the quality of your fragrances, including:
- Ask your fragrance supplier for a Certificate of Analysis - this will help to guarantee the consistency of the fragrance between batches.
- Consult the International Fragrance Research Assocation (IFRA) certificate for information about usage within specific applications.
- Refer to the fragrances' Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for additional safety, handling, transport and storage information.
- Check where your fragrances are produced and whether they adhere to specific guidelines advocated by international fragrance bodies such as the International Fragrance Research Assocation (IFRA) and the Research Institute of Fragrance Materials.
Essential oils can be quite limited in terms of what they can produce. Due to the intensive manufacturing tends to be far more restrictive in terms of what the perfumer can make and create. You will never find a strawberry essential oil - these types of oils simply cannot be created.
Fragrance oils much more accessible to a perfumer and the potential for extending the range of scents or diversification is huge. The possibilities are endless and our perfumer could technically create almost any aroma. Check out our latest release (Fruit Loops anyone?!).
As nice as they smell, you do of course need to be careful and responsible whether you're using either fragrance or essential oils in your products.
It's important to pay close attention to how heavily you load your products with fragrance during manufacturing as these are products that will inevitably be a part of peoples homes or even come in contact with the skin (such as soaps, body lotions and body wash).
On each of our individual fragrance pages, you will notice a properties table which notes the maximum fragrance loading to be applied in specific applications.
Like fragrance oils, essential oils blended into candles can ignite if the fragrance loading is too high or if the candle is positioned in a confined space. Take particular care when employing citrus based essential oils such as lemon, lime, bergamot, orange and others as these tend to be more volatile.
When considering the use of either essential oils or fragrance oils for your products, you need to take all of these factors into account and try to make the best decisions based on your context - what suits your brand? What suits your product lines? What are your goals?
In terms of application, we always recommend using fragrance oils in products such as candles, diffusers and other products that focus on the diffusion of the scent rather than an application to the body. When it comes to soaps and body lotions, essential oils can offer valuable properties that can be used to market products, but it's recommended that you conduct proper testing to ensure optimal fragrance loading.
When taking into account consistency and costs, fragrance oils are the clear winner. They will not alter or change over time and their costs usually remain fairly consistent whereas essential oils are much more dynamic and subject to great external influences which can impact their quality and properties.
We believe regardless of whether you choose to use fragrance oils or essential oils, one of the best ways you can find out more about your fragrances is to have a conversation with your supplier - find out where your fragrances are sourced from, research the company, ask to see supportive documentation that help to indicate the quality of the product.
A Note on the Fragrances at EROMA
At EROMA, all of our fragrances are designed, tested and manufactured right here in Sydney, Australia by our exclusive fragrance partners, Luxaroma. Their perfumer and his team have worked both locally and in France and have a combined 55 years experience in refining the highest quality essential oils and fragrances. With this comes industry wisdom and confidence.
Luxaroma work with our product development team closely to ensure that all of our fragrances adhere to international best practice guidelines as advocated by IFRA. Luxaroma is Australia's ONLY home fragrance supplier that owns and operates its own fragrance manufacturing - this gives complete control over the fragrances they make available, allows them to listen to customers and they are constantly working to produce enticing new fragrances we're sure you'll love.
For more of an insight into the EROMA's fragrances, check out our blog post, Inside Look: The Fragrances of Luxaroma.