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Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil: What You Need to Know

Essential oils are fundamental in aromatherapy. Although not scientifically accepted in Western medicine, aromatherapy is still used as a supplement to conventional medical treatments because it is believed to improved one’s well being.

Aromatherapy isn’t just about smelling natural oils that have been extracted from a plant. It also includes massages and water immersion (such as a foot spa). To allow for more applications, the scent produced by the oils are put into soaps, candles, massage oils, perfumes, sanitizers, and other cleaning and beauty products.

Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil

More and more clients ask for various kinds of scent as demand for aromatherapy products grows. However, only a few plants can really be turned into an essential oil. The main reason is that it takes a large amount of the plant in order to produce a small quantity of essential oil. Additionally, some plant extracts are harmful when absorbed by the body. That’s why some scents are simply impossible to make by natural means.

Fragrance Oil - Strawberry Scent

This is where the fragrance oil comes into the picture. What cannot be done naturally can mostly be done artificially. Want your room to smell like strawberry? There’s a fragrance oil for that. Coconut? What about banana? There’s certainly one for them too. Fruity scents are mostly fragrance oils.

If you prefer an all-natural scent, then here’s a list of pure essential oils that are commonly sold in the market:

Essential Oil Source Extraction Process
Bergamot fruit rind Cold Press
Chamomile flower Steam Distillation
Citronella leaf Steam Distillation
Eucalyptus leaf Steam Distillation
Frankincense tree sap Steam Distillation
Ginger root (rhizome) Steam Distillation
Jasmine flower Steam Distillation
Juniper fruit/berry Steam Distillation
Lavender flower Steam Distillation
Lemon fruit rind Cold Press
Lemongrass leaf Steam Distillation
Orange fruit rind Cold Press
Patchouli leaf Steam Distillation
Peppermint whole plant Steam Distillation
Pine tree sap Steam Distillation
Rosemary leaf Steam Distillation
Sage leaf Steam Distillation
Tangerine fruit rind Cold Press
Tea Tree leaf, branch Steam Distillation
Ylang Ylang flower Steam Distillation

Extraction Process

Fragrance oils are not extracted. Instead, they are manufactured in the lab. Sometimes, a certain fragrance is made up of a blend of essential oil and its synthetic counterpart. Due to these, fragrance oils can be produced in large quantities and at a more affordable price. Get a feel of how fragrances are made by watching a perfumery lab tour below:

What’s Inside a Fragrance Laboratory? (9:42)

Essential oils, on the other hand, require more meticulous processes. There are several ways to extract the essence of a plant, but the most common methods are steam distillation and cold pressing:

How Essential Oils Are Extracted (4:28)

Steam distillation involves putting specific parts of a plant in a container filled with steam, going through a condenser, and finally filtering the essential oil through a separator. Watch the video below for a more detailed overview of how lemongrass is extracted:

How Lemongrass Essential Oil is Made (2:30)

Similarities and Differences

The table below list some of the characteristics of fragrance oil vs essential oil.

Attribute Fragrance Oil Essential Oil
Composition Synthetic Natural
Blends Yes Yes
Complexity Moderate Difficult
Fragrance Options Plenty Limited
Production Quantity Large Small
Applications Many Limited
Price Inexpensive Costly

What to Use?

When it comes to fragrance oil vs essential oil, what should you buy? There is an ongoing debate about this among soap makers, candle makers, essential oil retailers, and just about any advocate who’s passionate about scents. On one side, you would read or hear about purists who are using only 100% natural essential oils to protect themselves from illnesses caused by ingesting unknown chemicals. On the other side, they would tell you that it doesn’t really matter. If it smells good, then it’s good.

Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil - Sickness

Both sides have a point. Those using 100% essential oils have reassurance that the products they are using have no harmful effects. Those who don’t may not have the same guarantee, but there also hasn’t been any widespread trend of people getting sick from using body spray, cologne, perfume, soap, or scented candles. Most, if not all of these products use fragrance oils for various reasons.

Perhaps it’s safe to say that what really matters is the amount that’s being absorbed by the body. Here’s an excerpt from a Spice Girls song that we should always remember when consuming products:

Too much of something is bad enough,
but something’s coming over me to make me wonder.
Too much of nothing is just as tough.
I need to know the way to feel to keep me satisfied…
Too much of nothing so why don’t we give it a try.
Too much of something we’re gonna be living a lie.

As a rule of thumb, consume moderately. If you feel sick after inhaling a fragrance oil, then try to lower the amount, or switch to another scent. If you feel that it still does not work, then test drive its more expensive essential oil equivalent.

Popular Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils

Those who are new to aromatherapy are usually introduced to an apparatus known as a diffuser. They are efficient at letting the oils out into the air and spreading the scent.

How Essential Oil Diffusers Work

Want to know more about diffusers, their various types, as well as what the most sought after and affordable brands are? Read our article to find out.

Diffusers can accommodate essential oils or fragrance oils. For instance, an ultrasonic diffuser does its magic by turning oil and water into mists that can then be released into the air through the spout. The scent will depend on how powerful the oil is. Usually, only a few drops of essential oil are needed to generate a strong scent. On the flip side, it takes double the amount for fragrance oils to create the same scent.

Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil - Diffuser

Here’s a list of essential oils and fragrance oils that you can try out. Hopefully, they’ll lessen your doubts on fragrance oil vs essential oil. Regrettably, there is no regulatory body that tests essential oils. So, there is no guarantee that what’s being claimed by a brand is pure or otherwise. Whether the effects are placebo or not, what matters is that feeling good will keep you away from stress and anxiety.


Fruity Fruits Good Essential Fragrance Oil Set (PACK OF 10) 5ml Set Includes Strawberry, Apple, Watermelon, Pineapple, Cucumber Melon, Red Cherry, Mango, Peppermint, Lemon, and Orange

Good Essential Fruity Fruits Fragrance Oil Set

Fragrance Oil 10 5 mL / bottle 4.1 out of 5 stars

Homemade Desserts Good Essential Fragrance Oil Set (Pack of 10) 5ml - French Vanilla, Cotton Candy, Blueberry Muffin, Strawberry, Coconut, Apple Pie, Marshmallow, Harvest Spice, Brownie, Sugar Cookie

Good Essential Homemade Desserts Fragrance Oil Set

Fragrance Oil 10 5 mL / bottle 4.2 out of 5 stars

Premium Grade Fragrance Oils - Flower Garden - Gift Set - 6/10ml Bottles - Violet, Rose, Plumeria, Gardenia, Jasmine, Lilac & Lillies

Barnhouse Blue Flower Garden Fragrance Oils

Fragrance Oil 6 10 ml / bottle 4.5 out of 5 stars

P&J Trading Summer Set of 6 Premium Grade Fragrance Oils - Peach, Strawberry, Plumeria, Coconut, Ocean Breeze, Pina Colada - 10ml

P&J Trading Summer Set Fragrance Oils

Fragrance Oil 6 10 ml / bottle 4.4 out of 5 stars

Freshly Baked - Gift Set of 6 Premium Fragrance Oils - Blueberry Pancakes, Caramel Nut Muffin, Butterscotch Cookie Dough, Cinnabon, Chocolate Fondue, Creamy Nutmeg - Eternal Essence Oils

Eternal Essence Oils Freshly Baked Fragrance Oils

Fragrance Oil 6 10 ml / bottle 4.5 out of 5 stars

Natrogix Nirvana Essential Oils - Top 18 Essential Oil Set 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade 18/10ml Incl. (Tea Tree, Lavender, Lemon, Rosemary And 14 More) Made in USA w/Free E-Book

Natrogix Nirvana Essential Oils

Essential Oil 18 10 ml / bottle 4.6 out of 5 stars

Essential Oils Set TOP 8 - Therapeutic Grade Aromatherapy Essential Oils - Pure and Natural - Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Orange, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Anxiety Relief - Blend Kit

O'linear Essential Oils Set

Essential Oil 8 10 ml / bottle 4.6 out of 5 stars

Artizen Aromatherapy Top 14 Essential Oil Set (100% PURE & NATURAL) Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils - All of Our Most Popular Scents and Best Essential Oil Blends

Artizen Aromatherapy Top 14 Essential Oil Set

Essential Oil 14 5 mL / bottle 4.4 out of 5 stars

doTERRA - Family Essential Kit

doTERRA Family Essential Kit

Essential Oil 10 5 mL / bottle 4.4 out of 5 stars

Young Living Everyday Oils Collection - 10 Oils/5ml

Young Living Everyday Oils Collection

Essential Oil 10 5 mL / bottle 4.4 out of 5 stars
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