Essential Oils vs. Fragrances: Heavenly Aromas

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Difference between Essential Oil and Fragrance

Essential oils are some of the latest buzzwords in the cosmetic scene, and a fragrance that contains such oils is often held in higher regard. What both these products have in common and how they differ is the subject of this comparison article.

Essential Oil


Essential oil is made from plant essences, which are extracted from different parts of plants such as the petals, the whole flowers, roots, bark, leaves and stems. Some examples of essential oils are rose (which is derived from rose petals) and patchouli (which is derived from patchouli leaves). It is important to note that essential oils aren't really oils per se, but rather natural chemicals found in plants. These chemicals are then extracted and used as aromatic ingredients.

Fragrances may also be made from chemical compounds found in plants, although they are more commonly synthetic compounds that replicate the smell of plants or essential oils derived from certain plants. Fragrance oils sold on the market today are either natural, artificial, or a combination of both.

Production Process

Essential oils are extracted from plants through a variety of methods including CO2 extraction, cold pressing and steam distillation. Products sold as essential oils are generally pure and do not contain any type of coloring ingredient. These oils usually have to be diluted several times since they are often highly concentrated. They are also quite expensive, since even very large quantities of raw materials will yield only small amounts of oil. A single drop of rose oil for instance requires as many as thirty petals. Jasmine oil itself requires 1,000 pounds of flowers just to make a single pound.

Fragrances are usually made from essential oils mixed with carrier oils. As long as the ingredients used are all natural, the product itself can still be sold as "natural". There are also fragrances that combine essential oils and artificial fragrance compounds, and products that use purely synthetic or artificial ingredients. Products in the latter category are sold as “fully artificial” fragrances. Different fragrance oils may also interact with each other to produce entirely new and different fragrances.

Key Differences

There are actually as many as 150 different types of essential oils sold on the market today. This respectable number pales in comparison with the number of aroma chemical used to manufacture fragrance oils, which number over 500. The main difference between the two is that essential oils are all natural, while fragrance oils may either be partly natural or fully artificial.

Some essential oils may also provide therapeutic effects. This is why they are commonly used in aromatherapy. Fragrance oils on the other hand do not have similar health benefits. Essential oils are also quite volatile, and their scent tends to fade more quickly than fragrance oils. Finally, essential oils are available only in a limited variety of scents while fragrance oils come in more numerous varieties.

Similarities and Differences

Essential oil

  • Made from plant essences
  • Aren't really oils, but rather natural chemicals found in plants
  • Used in aromatherapy; pregnant women should research which essential oils are to be avoided


  • May also be made from chemical compounds found in plants, although they are more commonly synthetic compounds
  • Usually made from essential oils mixed with carrier oils


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