Fragrance Oil vs Essential Oil

What is the difference between Fragrance Oil and Essential Oil? Is there even a difference?  This subject is quite complicated which causes confusion among consumers and makes it easy for companies to make “misleading” claims. An EO company had a lawsuit filed recently for this very reason…misleading their customers.

First let us address the definition of Fragrance Oil. According to WikiPedia: Fragrance Oils can include synthetic oils, as well as essential oils. Synthetic, as most of us knows mean man made…usually to imitate something found in nature.

By this definition, anything scented, for example scented lotion, will contain Fragrance Oil. It could be naturally scented or synthetically scented…how can you tell? Well, you would have to look up the ingredients. Which usually means you have to look up the definition of the ingredients. Now generally, if it is scented with natural oils, you will see the plant’s scientific name. For example, Lavender is known in the science world as Lavandula. Now there are variations of Lavandula.  doTERRA uses Lavandula Angustifolia, aka English Lavender.

Now for the definition of Essential Oils. EO’s are extracted from plants, usually by steam distillation. The problem is…there is no state or federal level regulation at all, at least not in the US. And there is not a single organization you can look to and verify the authenticity of an EO company. Which means anyone can use the term “Essential Oil” as they please. I know…it sounds all kinds of wrong. Well…the FDA has no interest in regulating Essential Oils except to limit how it is marketed in terms of benefits. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It is up to the consumer to do their research.

It is worth mentioning the company above did list the scientific name as their only ingredient for their Lavender. However, the suit claims the label was misleading. The word “deceitful” comes to mind. As mentioned in my previous post, it worked well enough but after using doTERRA, I came to the conclusion (long before there was a lawsuit) that I was using the wrong product. I have vowed never to purchase EO’s from Amazon again.

Please note that Essential Oils are highly concentrated and meant to be diluted before use. On the other hand, you may be familiar with Infused Oils. This is basically a carrier oil that have been infused with plants. This method is a less expensive alternative to distilling plants, especially if they contain very little oil. It is also an economical alternative that can be made at home. However, keep in mind buying infused oil may seem like a less expensive option but you may generally need more of it.  

Back to EO’s, how can you protect yourself against deceptive practices when deciding which Essential Oil companies to use?

  • Price point: Legit Essential Oil products aren’t generally sold cheaply at Walmart, Target or the Dollar Store. Natural products do generally tend to cost more. But they are well worth it.
  • If the scent lasts for long periods of time, it’s probably synthetic. Natural scents do not last for hours at a time. Only synthetic products do. EO may last up to a couple of hours but, generally, it would be a faint scent after 20 minutes or so. Depending on how you used it.
  • The EO company should be able to go into details about their extraction process: how it’s extracted (steam distillation), from where (country the plant is harvested) and how it’s tested.  These are all very important information.

These days, when I look for a new product (such as lotion), I look at the list of ingredients. If the list is too long, I would put it back. I generally like to see less than 20 but less than 10 is more preferable. Then I will look to see how many of them I can identify. I then look up the ones I don’t understand. Not to say if it had more than 20 ingredients listed, it isn’t worth it.  It just doesn’t draw my attention… I find they tend to have a higher chance of containing synthetic ingredients.

Remember that products with natural ingredients tend to cost more. Going natural is an investment in your selfcare. I hope this helps a little the next time you try to determine which product is natural.  Please be sure to click on the links embedded above for more information.

Happy Oiling!

Dr. Axe 
The Essential Life 5th Edition