Are Essential Oils better than Fragrance Oils?

Essential Oil vs Fragrance Oil in handmade products, Which should you choose?

Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils both add an aroma to soaps but both are not equal.

To simplify the explanation, Essential oils are natural oils taken from plants that have their own scent, while fragrance oils are often synthetic scents and made in a lab.

Because of the way both are made one is considered natural while the other is considered synthetic.

So which one should you choose?

You may not like this but it really depends upon you. Do you prefer natural scented products or are you OK with artificial scents?

Ask yourself this question and you should be able to answer it for yourself, however if you are still not sure lets break down the pros and cons of both.

How should you decide which is better for you?

Firstly let me say I am not a doctor and do not prescribe any treatment using soaps or other cosmetics on your skin with essential oils or fragrance oils in them.

Please consult a doctor if you have a skin issue and are looking for a solution.

Having said that lets take a look at these two types of oils.

Essential Oils Pros

essential oil vs fragrance oil

# 1 Does not irritate skin easily

It is recommended that if you have skin issues such as sensitive skin it is best to avoid scented soaps. However essential oils may not irritate most sensitive skins as they often help repair and ease any irritation.

I say “most sensitive skins” because some persons may have unusual skin or even some sort of skin condition that will make their skin even more sensitive.

In this case just about anything they use on their skin may cause irritation.

Customer Study

A customer once contacted us at Bahamas Candle and Soap asking about soaps for irritated sensitive skin and eczema.

We developed two soaps that were gentle that contained no scent at all and only used vegetable oils and butters.

After discussing the matter for a while and being unsure we offered the customer to try two of our soaps. Mr Grey and Baby Carrot.

They were both made for our new born child after we found out that she suffered from eczema and her skin seemed to break out easily.

This customer obviously had a serious skin condition. They advised us that no matter what type of soap they used their skin would break out and we could see the break out was bad.

We gave them the samples and got a call back about two days later. They loved it. It was the first time they could have used a soap to clean their skin and not have a reaction.

Mr. Grey became their favorite soap to use.

If you know that you have sensitive skin there may be many reasons not to use products with either fragrance or essential oil.

Hence it is a great practice to test the use of any substance you will use on your skin.

Side Note…

To test a soaps, place small amount behind your ear and leave it there overnight as you sleep.

If you wake in the morning and there is no irritation then chances are the product will not irritate other parts of your skin.

The skin around the eyes and behind the ear are very thin. If there is something in the product that will irritate your skin you will know pretty soon

To test if a product will be good for your facial skin, carry out the same test however this time place a small amount of the product near the eye.

It is suggested to use a finger tip amount at the below the corner of the eye. If the next morning there is no irritation or discoloration then you can use the soap on your face as well.

#2 Essential Oils are a work of Nature

essential oil vs fragrance oil

The process of making essential oils is an age old one and is known as distillation.

Steam distillation of a plant matter causes the plant to release its aromatic compounds from within the plat material.

When this vapor of scented steam is cooled there is a mixture of water and oil. This is the beginning process of extracting essential oils.

The natural aromatic fragrant liquid is separated, purified and converted in to the essential oils we use today.

Most essential oils come from the plant leaves but can also be distilled from peels and in some cases limbs.

This steam distillation is the best way and most natural way to extract plant essential oil, however there are other methods that are quickly growing in popularity.

With Essential oils you know for sure that the scent is a natural scent taken from an actual, flower, plant or fruit or spice.

#3 Essential Oils come in concentrated forms

Because of the distillation process of extracting essential oils, they often come concentrated.

This means you will have to use some sort of carrier oil to dilute them before use.

The concentration also means you can use smaller amount that would be allow you stretch the product.

Essential Oils Cons

#1 Essential Oils come in concentrated forms

NO this is not a typo but rather a warning. It’s because the oil is often concentrated that makes it also a con.

Persons may see fit to apply this concentrated form of the essential oil directly to their skin thinking it would work faster.

SORRY…Chances are if you use essential oils without diluting them first you will cause more damage than you could expect.

The concentration of the essential oil is just too much for many body types and skin types. It is recommended you use oils even when diluted carefully if applying to the skin.

#2 Essential oils are not Magic

I’m sorry but the use of essential oils for your skin or for health reasons does not make it a magic oil.

New age practicioners swear by these oils and their healing properties and are advising persons to ingest essential oil.

WARNING – There have not been enough studies that back up this claim of ingestion to heal and keep the body healthy and we do not advise you practice this without consulting your doctor.

This was placed as a con because there is more evidence that ingesting concentrated essential oil may cause harm to your body rather than healing you.

Please be careful.

#3 Essential oils are Expensive

essential oil vs fragrance oil

When you learn of how the distillation process works and the amount of equipment, electricity and manpower is needed then you have a better understanding as to why they are so expensive.

To make matters worse, some of your favorite essential oils such as Lavender essential oil uses the petals of the lavender plant to extract the oil.

The petals of the lavender plant are very small hence fields of them are grown to extract a fraction of essential oil.

The process is very labour intensive and requires massive resources.

Fragrance Oil Pros

essential oil vs fragrance oil

#1 Wide Variety

Because fragrance oils are made in a laboratory there is no limit to the many scents that can be developed.

In fact many of the scents and taste that we experience on a daily bases are all fabricated in a labratory.

Many fruits excluding citrus fruits cannot produce essential oils, hence we depend on scientist to develop a scent as close to the real deal.

What is also very good about fragrance oils is that unique and blended scents can be made that are not found in nature.

You will not be limited to what can be extracted from a plant.

#2 They are cost effective

essential oil vs fragrance oil

The production of fragrance oils is a relatively easy one for most scents. So much so that a fabricated scent can be reproduced at will.

This ease of production in a lab makes the cost of fragrance oils much lower than essential oils.

When used in your cosmetic product it would also reduce the over all cost that you can pass on to your customer.

This makes a great pro reason to choose fragrances over essential oils.

#3 Fragrance Oils scent last longer

This can be a pro and a con mainly because the scent of fragrance oils in products tend to last longer.

Think of perfumes, they are typically similar to fragrance oils. They can have strong scent that can last a long time.

Unlike some essential oils, fragrance oils do not dissipate as quickly with time. For example essential oils in soap will loose its scent slowly over a period of time.

Fragrance oil in soap will last longer and still remain strong for a much longer period of time..

This can all be due to the synthetic nature of the oil, its shelf life and usage will be longer.

Fragrance Oil Cons

essential oil vs fragrance oil

#1 Not made by Mother Nature

It should go without saying that fragrance oils are not from nature.

They are scientifically formulated. The actual ingredients are trade secrets so its pretty much impossible to know what a fragrance oil is made up from.

Commonly the make up of such oils range from aroma chemicals, essential oils and essential oil components, alcohols, aldehydes, esters, resins, and absolutes.

That is just too much to get into. Its best just to say fragrances are a mixture of ingredients that run through test for irritation and other skin issues.

#2 Fragrance Oils are not as regulated

In various countries the regulations for fragrance oils are not policed by a governmental standard.

Typically findings are given to a regulatory private board and then given the ok. That’s the short version of their regulations.

Due to the lack of regulation its difficult to say if a fragrance will be absolutely safe for you to use on your skin, directly or indirectly.

This uncertainty can put you or your client at risk if they have sensitive skin or even an allergic reaction to the fragrance.


Essential Oils and Fragrances do add that nice scent release while taking a bath with your handmade soap or other skin product

However safety is always first when it comes to your health and you should know how your body will react.

Keep in mind soaps made with essential oils may be slightly more costly than soaps made with fragrance oils and the same with body butters and facial creams.

Do not consider essential oils a magic oil that will solve your problems and do not think of fragrance oil as cheap and useless.

In the end it all depends on the user of the product that contains either essential or fragrance oil.

Learn more before you judge or rule either out.

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