Essential oils are typically extracted from plants using steam distillation, cold pressing, or activation with a solvent like alcohol. They may also be derived from plants of the same species through microencapsulation.
Fragrance oils are low-volatile plant extracts blended with various fragrances used in perfumery and cosmetics to produce fragrance mixtures. Due to their relatively long release into the air (usually 12-24 hours), they are mainly used in personal care products.
The significant difference between essential oil and fragrance oil is a legal one. Essential oils are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas fragrance oils are not. This difference can be confusing, as many important oil companies list essential oils and fragrances on their labels. For example, the large US-based actual oil company Young Living has a toned-down label that reads “Essential Oils – Natural Styling Fragrance Oil.” Because of this labeling confusion, it is sometimes helpful to look at the ingredients of manufacturers’ product pages on eBay where they list every product in order of ingredients.
Fragrance oils are extracted from plants using solvents like alcohol or steam distillation to get the desired scent. Solvents are added to enhance their scent and often partially dissolve the waxes that give essential oils their color.
Essential oils contain a very high amount of constituents (more than 200), making them much more potent and effective than fragrance oils. Essential oils are extracted from the whole plant by steam distillation or cold pressing. In contrast, fragrance oils are only removed from the petals or leaves of a plant via steam distillation, alcohol extraction, or enfleurage. These processes leave behind many active ingredients in a pure essential oil that are usually lost in applying essential oils topically in fragrances.
Fragrance oils can be synthetic or natural; these two types have very different properties. Synthetic fragrance oils are not chemically derived but are formed by combining natural ingredients with a synthetic compound. The main difference is that synthetic fragrance oils have a much shorter shelf-life (around 30 days) than natural compounds, making them less appealing for use in cosmetics. Natural fragrances are derived from plants, have a longer shelf-life (up to 2 years), and can be soothing and calming. They tend to have a more feminine or floral smell than synthetic ones and can be used in both men’s and women’s products.
Role Of Essential Oils And Fragrance Oils In Home Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is based on using essential oils for their therapeutic properties rather than their perfume or cosmetic fragrance-like effects. For example, the Roman physician Pliny the Elder wrote in “Natural History” that the oil of lemon was good for those suffering from “the bite of venomous snakes.” The modern aromatherapy pioneer was the English chemist William Perkin, who, in 1856 accidentally discovered oil that has now become known as coal tar. He called it phenol, which was first used to treat various ailments.
It is important to note that when using products containing fragrance oils, you use a mixture of perfumery and cosmetics chemicals. Fragrances contain approximately 90 percent volatile compounds, which evaporate easily and quickly. Among them are many synthetic compounds known to be toxic or carcinogenic.
If you prefer the more natural approach and want to take advantage of the benefits of essential oils, it is best to use essential oils on their own or create your blend with essential oils and carrier oil (like coconut oil). This will ensure that you are not endangering your health with synthetic fragrances.