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Fragrance Oil Vs. Essential Oil: Everything You Need To Know

fragrance oil vs essential oil - bottles of oils on table

Are you considering whether a fragrance oil vs. essential oil is the right choice for your needs? While both are widely available, they’re different products that serve independent purposes.

Both are beneficial for particular uses, but it’s essential to understand what they are before deciding. Here, we discuss the differences between the two to help you make the right decision for your needs.

Essential Oils Vs. Fragrance Oils

While essential oils and fragrance oils may seem similar at first, they’re very different. They are derived from different processes and used for a variety of purposes.

How Essential Oils Are Made:

essential oil distiller

Essential oils consist of a combination of volatile compounds that give a plant its characteristic odor. It takes a lot of plant material to produce a bottle of essential oil. Manufacturers achieve this through two main processes.

Mechanical Expression

Essential oil producers use mechanical expression to express oils from the rinds of citrus fruits. It’s a method derived from ancient times. Today, it involves tumbling the fruit in a spiky mechanical drum to expose the essential oils. Then, they’re flushed out with water and separated in a centrifuge.


The distillation process uses heat to coax essential oils out of plant material. There are three main methods for distilling the oils from plant materials:

  • Water Distillation uses boiling water to extract the essential oils from plant material. The water evaporates, leaving behind the essential oils.
  • Steam Distillation uses pressurized steam to extract the essential oils from plant material. The steam is then condensed and evaporated to leave behind the essential oils.
  • Dry Distillation uses dry heat to smoke the plant material. The vapors, which contain the essential oils, are collected. However, this method has the potential to create carcinogens. As a result, it is uncommon in modern aromatherapy.

Essential Oil Uses

Essential oils have several beneficial uses at home and in clinical settings:

  • Aromatherapy. The scent of essential oils can trigger the brain to produce a desired emotional or physical response. You may use a diffuser or inhale/waft straight from the container.
  • Topical Use. Essential oils can be mixed into carrier oils and applied directly to the skin. Your body can absorb them, and you carry the scent with you for consistent benefits.

Essential oils used in these ways can reduce headaches, improve sleep, boost mood, and more.

How Long Do Essential Oils Last?

All essential oils degrade over time through a process called oxidation. The oxidation process occurs because of exposure to light, moisture, and heat. Limiting these factors can keep essential oils fresh for longer. 

Essential oils that have oxidized may begin to smell “off” or lose some of their potency. Some oils, like citrus oils, may become cloudy due to moisture exposure. 

How long this takes will depend on many factors and will vary from one oil to the next. With proper care and storage, you can expect your essential oils to last 1-2 years. Store them tightly capped in a cool, dark, and dry place. Cabinets, closets, and drawers are ideal locations.

How Fragrance Oils Are Made

reed diffuser with fragrance oil

Perfumers create fragrance oils specifically to evoke a particular scent. While they lack some of the more powerful properties of essential oils, they do often have a longer-lasting scent and are less expensive.

Synthetic Fragrance Oils

Synthetic fragrance oils do not contain any naturally occurring fragrance compounds at all. Instead, synthetic chemicals are combined in a laboratory to create the desired scent. These smells may or may not exist in nature.

While there is a trend towards using natural fragrance oils rather than artificial, synthetic fragrance oils are not all bad. Synthetic fragrance oils make it possible to create scents that we otherwise can’t obtain safely, sustainably, or ethically.

Natural Fragrance Oils

Natural fragrance oils, like synthetic fragrance oils, are created in a laboratory. They create scents that may be difficult or impossible to attain from essential oils. Natural fragrance oils, however, use scent compounds from natural sources, including essential oils. As a result, there is some debate over how natural these oils are, considering their modification in labs.

Fragrance Oil Uses 

person pouring laundry detergent with fragrance oil

Fragrance oils are a great way to create a scent that may not be available in nature, such as cotton candy or other artificial fragrances. You can also use them to bring home scents that may not be available ethically or sustainably. 

You’ll likely find fragrance oils in many products that you have in your home, even ones that you use daily. You can often find them in scented candles, creams, and soaps, as well as deodorizing room sprays.

You’ll also find fragrance oils in your favorite laundry detergents and fabric softeners. And, of course, fragrance oils make up the smell of many fine colognes, perfumes, and body sprays.

When you want a product that smells like something specific, fragrance oils are often the solution. Still, you should be mindful if any of these products are going to touch your skin or clothes. Use natural fragrance oils in those cases. 

Common Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils help recreate scents that are difficult or impossible to obtain naturally. One popular fragrance oil is cinnamon, which can cause skin irritation and burn if undiluted in essential oil form. It also combines well with other scents, such as orange and apple.

Other common fragrance oils include sandalwood, peppermint, and vanilla. Natural vanilla is often too expensive to use in mass-produced products. However, it’s affordable and common as a fragrance oil.

If you can think of a scented product in your home, the odds are good that the product contains fragrance oils that compose that signature scent. 

Which One Is Healthier For You?

lavender essential oil and other natural products on table

When trying to establish which is healthier for you, it depends on how you intend to use them. Essential oils are concentrated and contain compounds from plant material; in other words, they’re found in nature. These compounds serve a greater purpose beyond smelling good.

If you’re trying to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of a particular plant, essential oils are going to be much more effective than fragrance oils. Aromatherapy goes beyond the simple smell of something. It is also influenced by the chemical composition of what you are smelling.

Our sense of smell is very powerful when it comes to triggering specific responses in the brain. Because of this, some fragrance oils have been effective in aromatherapy practices. They make it possible to obtain therapeutic effects from scents that aren’t available as essential oils. 

Essential oils are highly concentrated, so you may have to be more careful when you handle them. On the other hand, synthetic fragrance oils can irritate and dry the skin. 

In general, we prefer to use things that are found in nature so our top choice is always essential oils. 

Final Verdict: Essential Oils Vs. Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils and essential oils are different products with unique uses and advantages. Fragrance oils are perfect for capturing a scent that would be difficult to obtain through essential oils.

Essential oils, on the other hand, contain more natural compounds and are therapeutic in ways that fragrance oils aren’t. They harness the natural power of plants for ease of use at home.

If you’re considering purchasing essential oils, check out our 100% pure, lab-tested selection of oils. Our oils are of the highest quality and trusted by hospitals and medical facilities across the U.S.

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