The Difference Between Essential Oil and Fragrance Oil

Today’s post is written by Lea Harrison, a Certified Aromatherapist. She discusses Fragrance Oils vs. Essential Oils.



There are a lot of great things about natural oils, particularly essential oils and fragrance oils we have heard everyday. They are usually present in different health and skin care products. How can you tell the difference between these two groups? For those who are still new to the aromatherapy community, this might be a bit confusing if you do not have a good research about them. Fragrance oils and essential oils may be the same in so many ways but there are also a lot of differences and they will be explained below:

  • Essential oil is a product of direct extraction in several ways and they generally came from plants such as herbs, leaves, barks, flowers, roots, or resins. Normally, essential oils are extracted through compression or steam distillation.


These essential oils serve many purposes, including providing remedies for a lot of health problems. Some of the benefits that you can get from essential oils are relief from muscle pain, menstrual problems, emotional symptoms, skin issues, and many others.

  • Fragrance oils, on the other hand, are synthetic products that have gone several processes in the laboratory. Although some may include natural compounds, they are different compared to essential oils because they are not naturally produced and they imitate other smells. To simply put it, essential oils are like apples, but fragrance oils are like apple candies.
  • Fragrance oils do not contain healing properties like essential oils. What they do is to provide a wonderful aroma. They are mainly used as an ingredient for perfumes, lotions, soaps, and other skin products.
  • Essential oils have chemical components that are difficult to synthetically reproduce as some of the components are not recognized by the scientists. Essential oils can serve as either top, middle, or base oil.
  • Essential oils can be a bit more expensive compared to fragrance oils because essential oils as they are prized for their medicinal uses and benefits. An example of this is the Rose Otto Essential oil which requires a thousand rose petals in order to come up with a drop of oil. Once the fluid is produced, it would cost you at least 200 dollars.
    However, the cost of this essential oil is worth it because the scent is perfect, pure, and one of a kind that even a small amount of oil can do wonders to your senses. Only few could afford to indulge in this essential oil regularly, though, because of its expensive price. Some may just resort to fragrance oils since they are much cheaper.
  • Both fragrance oils and essential oils are safe for the skin. They are perfect for use if you intend to use them as bath and body products. You can either choose essential oil or fragrance oil if you are making your own hygiene products like soap, perfume, and several others. However, you still need to be aware of the safety issues that are associated with essential oils as some of them may contain potent substances which cause skin irritations and adverse reactions.
    Some essential oils must go through the process of careful dilution so they would not burn your skin.
  • Fragrance oils have ingredients that are all tested before the products are packaged and sold. These ingredients have specific usage rates that are determined by the International Fragrance Association or IFRA. Take note, though, that they also have a fair share of disadvantages and these include the cause of sensitization. Essential oils are generally considered a lot safer because of their gentle quality.
  • Fragrance oils are protected by the FDA and are marked with “trade secrets”. This means that there are ingredients that are not declared and listed on the labels.

Things to Remember when Looking for Personal and Home Care Products

When buying a skin care product that has natural compounds, you have to check the ingredients listing and product description first. Those products that come with fragrance oils or compounds should be considered as “fragrance” instead of essential. If you encounter ingredients with essential oils such as Lavandula officinalis (lavender oil), then the product is considered “essential”.

Both fragrance oils and essential oils are good to use. They have a fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Essential oils may be a bit expensive but the benefits that you can get from them are priceless. Aside from that, essential oils are pure natural oils and they have gone through a natural, free-of-chemicals process.

Fragrance oils, on the other hand, are cheap and they can be bought anywhere. The fragrance that they provide also stays longer especially in soaps. Apart from that, they also come in different combinations and flavors, so you can basically choose any flavor you want. However, they offer some downsides. They are synthetic and compared to essential oils, they are not natural as they may compose chemicals and resins. They also lack natural benefits that essential oils have.


Difference Between Essential Oil and Fragrance Oil

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