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Essential Oils vs Fragrances Oils? Which is the better choice?

Essential Oils vs Fragrances Oils 

A while back, we released an article documenting some of the differences between essential oils and fragrances oils. In summary of that article, here's a quick 1-minute read on the table of differences.

Essential Oils  Fragrances Oils
Natural plant oil extracted through distillation, cold pressing, a centrifuge, solvent extraction, press extraction to name a few. A blend of essential oils (sometimes), carrier oils and synthetic fragrance creating chemicals. However the exact ingredient list and components of different fragrance oils are often protected as trade secrets.
Essential oils can be used on their own by inhaling, through a diffuser, in soaps and washes, in candles and topically with the help of carrier oils effectively turning them into massage oils. Fragrance oils can be used pretty much the same ways as essential oil, except they can't be topically applied and inhaled directly due to their chemical mixture.
Benefits/ therapeutic effects
Depending on the type of essential oils, the benefits range from environmental benefits such as killing airborne bacteria or repelling insects, to physical benefits (through topical application) such aiding removing of dark spots and healing of injuries, to mental benefits such as increasing focus.      A very watered down effect when compared to essential oils for those that contain minute amounts of essential oils. Else than that it is just the advertised scent.

Scent is inconsistent due crop and farm differences (e.g. weather, rainfall, changes in season, geographical location of farm), which cause varying conditions for the plants that the essential oils are extracted from.

This leads to differences in scent even from plants from the same farm.

Scent is very consistent due to lack of fluctuation in chemicals creation and ratios of chemicals used in the fragrance oil creation.
Due to the volatile (higher evaporation rate at room temperature) nature of essential oils, the scent is not as strong and may fade over time or fade if not properly stored. Scent is adjustable as the ratios of scent making chemicals can be adjective in the fragrance oils. Often fragrance oils makers opt to go for a stronger and longer-lasting scent. 
Only risk of being poisoned is through prolonged consumption or improper topical application without a carrier oil.  

Fragrance oils were linked to a large number of health risks such as neurotoxins, carcinogens, developmental effects & birth defects.

They commonly contain chemicals such as phthalates which are used to lengthen the scent which can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.

These chemicals need not be listed but can be just listed as "fragrances" as they are considered a trade secret. 

A large amount of plant material must be collected in order to be processed into essential oils. To put this into context it takes 1000 Rose petals to create one drop of Rose essential oil. Thus, the higher price of essential oils. Consisting mostly of lab-produced chemicals which are not subjected to the whims of nature, fragrance oils can be easily massed produced making them much cheaper compared to essential oils. 


In this article, we shall be covering some new points to ponder over.

1. Toxicity

With regards to the toxicity and ways one can accidentally poison themselves with essential oils, we have covered them in articles on the consumption of essential oils and the need for diluting the essential oil before topical application.

The first thing to note about the fragrance industry is that its main safety standard, IFRA (International Fragrance Association) is self-regulated.

Fragrances have been linked to a large number of health issues such as neurotoxins, carcinogens, developmental effects, reduce reproductive health & birth defects to name a few. We shall be focusing on the potential health effects of 3 chemicals found in fragrance oils. 


Acetaldehyde poisoning could affect the kidneys, reproductive and nervous system. It listed as a potential carcinogenic or a known/ suspected cause of cancer in some US states.


Benzophenone has been linked to endocrine glands disruptions (thyroid & adrenal glands) and increases organ toxicity. It too has been listed as a potential carcinogenic in some US states with some experimental studies finding that it is linked to certain tumour growths.


Phthalates are used in the fragrance industry to lengthen the scent and make it last longer. The potential health risk that have been linked to phthalates include cancer (no surprise), negativity reproductive health (particularly males' development and sperm count) and growth development, respiratory issues, birth defects and premature births and behavior problems for children (explains why I always felt cranky when every I entered a car with fragrances).

All this being said these toxic chemicals like essential oils can enter the body through the skin and into the bloodstream making pregnant woman and children more valuable to these chemicals.

Now one might ask why don't I see any of these chemicals on the ingredients list of the fragrances? Well, according to the rules set by the IFRA theses fragrance compounds (3,059 of them) need no be shown but are instead listed as "fragrance"  as they are considered trade secrets.

2. Conclusion 

Both essential oils and fragrance oils have their pros and cons, and it depends on the individual consumer's needs and wants to determine which is a better choice. But a word of advice, if you are just looking for a way to have a certain scent that is strong and lasts long, are not concern about any health risk, fragrance oils may be your first go-to choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for an all-natural product that has more methods of application and has the potential to address certain health/environment/mental issues, essential oils will be the better choice.