Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils

It’s not uncommon to confuse essential oils with fragrance oils as they are both aromatic oils. They are actually very different from one another, vastly varying from their compositions and how they’re manufactured. Essential oils are natural whereas fragrance oils are not. Furthermore, their price points, shelf life and uses are also different.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are volatile oils derived from various parts of plants, such as flowers, leaves, tree barks, wood, resins and etc, containing the purest essence of the plant’s fragrance which they are derived from. They are commonly used in aromatherapy, skin care, soaps and more. To date, there are over 100 types of essential oils in the market.

The oils are extracted via multiple methods – steam distillation, expression, solvent extraction, florasols extraction. Steam distillation is the most common and popular method to extract essential oils, the plant is steamed gently to preserve the natural aroma while preventing the decomposition.

The purity of essential oils are no joke, a little goes a long way. Pure essential oils are imbued with medicinal and therapeutic benefits. They do also tend to be pricier. However, too much of a good thing can end up doing the opposite. Therefore, essential oils must always be practiced with precaution. They are never to be applied directly on the skin without prior dilution and never to be ingested unless instructed by a qualified aromatherapist.

In terms of shelf life, essential oils do last significantly longer than fragrance oils. Essential oils tend to last for at least 2 years, often more, when they are stored correctly, in a dark colored or amber glass bottle to prevent oxidation, kept away in a dark cool place and away from direct sunlight.

What are fragrance oils?

Fragrance oils are non volatile, artificially man made oils that are commonly used in perfumery and cosmetics. They contain both natural and synthetic ingredients such as natural essential oils, aromatic resins, synthetic aroma compounds that can come in the forms of liquid, powder, crystalline, and solvents. A common solvent used is DEP (Di Ethyl Phthalate).

Fragrance oils are often cheaper than essential oils and will have one or more of the following words labelled on the product – fragrance, fragrance oil, fragrant oil, perfume or parfum. Fragrance oils will present you with more options in terms of scents, and they will often have scents that aren’t available in the forms of essential oils – chocolate, blueberry muffin, strawberry, watermelon, pumpkin spice, etc.

In addition to that, fragrance oils are commonly diluted in carriers such as propylene glycol and mineral oil. However, diluting does vary from brand to brand, not all brands sell watered down fragrance oils. They don’t offer the same aromatic and therapeutic quality like essential oils, and are also not considered aromatherapy.

In terms of shelf life, fragrance oils expire significantly quicker. Fragrance oils don’t have a very long shelf life, they typically last anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Additionally, fragrance oils cannot be used on the body like essential oils but they can be incorporated in some DIY crafts.

Hopefully this clears up the confusion between essential oils and fragrance oils. If you prefer natural scents and the medicinal benefits, then you should opt for essential oils. However, if you’re looking to make DIY scented candles or bar soaps, then you’re better off with using fragrance oils.