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What's The Difference Between Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils?

Updated: Feb 18

Aromatic hand sanitizers and soaps can have endless variations of aromas. Many of these products on the market use essential oils or fragrance oils to create aromas. There’s conflicting information surrounding essential oils and fragrance oils that can make it hard to know what to do. Everyone is unique, and what works for one person may not work for you. Learning about the differences between these oils can help you discover what products may be best for you.


Fragrance Oils

There are a few key differences between essential oils and fragrance oils, but the most important one to know is that fragrance oils are synthetic or contain some synthetic ingredients. These synthetic oils are created in a lab by combining chemical and natural ingredients like essential oils, plant extracts, resins, and aromatic chemicals. Often fragrance oils will contain some natural oils and some synthetic chemicals. The production of these aromatic oils is not limited to natural resources. These oils are often cheaper to purchase.


How you use synthetic oil is the determining factor for whether or not the synthetic fragrance oil is safe to use. Some people with sensitive skin will never use fragrance oils topically because they are potentially drying or irritating. Other people with less sensitive skin are okay with fragrance oils because they can smell lovely. However, some studies argue that you should not use synthetic oils in your diffuser. Similarly with candles, when you burn a candle, you ignite a chemical cocktail and release those heated chemicals into your surrounding area. Research studies have reported candles can be very toxic depending on the materials used to make them. Others have reported adequate ventilation can lower the risk of irritation. Those with respiratory conditions or eye conditions are instructed often to avoid candles.


As far as topical application goes, some people are okay with fragrance oils, making product purchasing easier due to having more options. At Sympol, we avoid using synthetic oils because we want to make sure our products are as non-irritating as possible.




Product labeling

Product labeling can be confusing.

Synthetic fragrance is identified on product labels as perfume, fragrance, fragrance oil, and parfum.

Essential oils can be identified as essential oils and sometimes pure natural oils.


Essential oils

Inside many plants roots, bark, or flowers are concentrated and highly potent chemical compounds. These compounds are known as essential oils. Essential oils are sourced through a labor-intensive process. These natural plant oils are most often extracted from steam distillation. Other methods include mechanical force such as cold pressing. The way the oil is extracted is very important. Plant oils extracted through chemical processing are not considered pure essential oils. The labor-intense process of sourcing essential oils and the high-quality grade can make the price increase.


Many companies blend a small amount of essential oils with synthetic fragrances for that reason. Unless a company says their product only uses pure natural oils, there is a possibility they are using synthetic ingredients. When referring to essential oils, it is important to know essential oils are only high-quality pure plant oils derived through distillation or cold pressing. Any other type of natural oil may be a pure natural oil, but it is not an essential oil.


The plant extracts known as essential oils are pure natural oils that have many benefits. They are most commonly used in aromatherapy and topically for skin benefits. Inhaling aromas from essential oils can play a role in enhancing your mood, balancing your emotions, releasing stress, and relieving congestion. According to Healthline, essential oils are not meant to be swallowed, although some brands have essential oils that they identify as edible. As always, it is best to consult your doctor before trying a new health regimen.


Many essential oils have great qualities for natural topical skin treatments. For example, tea tree oil and lavender oil provide anti-inflammatory qualities that can soothe skin irritation. Peppermint and eucalyptus oil are often used to relieve pain. There are many oils that may aid in healing, toning, and brightening skin. Skincare experts recommend always using properly diluted oil and doing a patch test before using skincare with essential oils on your face. When it comes to dilution it is important to know that essential oils diluted in a carrier oil are less likely to cause an adverse skin reaction. If you are applying essential oils to the skin you should dilute it in a carrier oil or use it in a skincare product with other components such as an enriched moisturizer.


Despite the widespread use and rich history of essential oils as natural healers, western medicine has yet to research essential oils’ ability to treat certain health conditions. There is a big opportunity for more thorough research on the health benefits of essential oils.



Natural oils

Our vanilla and spring blossom aromas are the only aromas we have that aren’t qualified as aromas from essential oils. For these aromas, we use pure natural plant oils to create the aroma. Some natural oils, such as vanilla, cannot be sourced through distilling or cold pressing as needed to be classified as an essential oil. However, you can ensure you are using pure vanilla oil and not a synthetic chemical that smells like vanilla. You can tell our vanilla is pure natural vanilla oil because it changes color after exposure to the sun!


The difference between our pure natural oils and essential oils is that the pure natural oils are classified as such due to their extraction method. They are still purely natural oils derived from plants without any synthetic ingredients. The main difference between natural oils and fragrance oils is that fragrance oils have a mixture of natural oils and synthetic chemicals or they are entirely synthetic.


Check out our other blogs detailing the aromatherapy powers of our aromatic oils and the cleaning ability of tea tree oil!



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