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Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils

At some point every chandler asks the question “what is the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils?” The answer to this question is really quiet basic and your preference of which to use will depend more on your beliefs and type of candles you want to produce.

Fragrance oils (F.O.’s) are made synthetically, by man. They are also generally much cheaper than most Essential Oils (E.O.’s). F.O.’s can be blended to re-create an E.O. fragrance or a unique scent. Most F.O.’s available today contain many different scents in them with a single scent containing as many as 100 other scents. F.O. also falls under the FDA “trade secret” law. This means that the exact ingredient list does not have to be disclosed.

Essential Oils (E.O.’s) are natural oils extracted from different parts of plant materials. It is important to note that some extraction processes do use chemicals which would then affect the “all natural” of the E.O. E.O.’s are also generally much more expensive than F.O.’s. It takes hundreds of pounds of plant material to make a few mere ounces of E.O. It may also be harder to know the quality of your E.O. The time of season or even day the plant material is harvested to how it is handled can affect the quality. Bruised product or partially crushed will have already lost some of the oil natural in it.

Probably the biggest debate over E.O.’s vs. F.O.’s is the naturalness. Chandlers that desire a 100% natural candle will obviously prefer the E.O.’s. As a society, we are taught to believe that all natural is better for everyone and the environment. And this may be true, but there can also be a negative environmental effect. High market demands for some E.O.’s can cause a shortage if not enough plants are planted to support the demand. How many rose bushes must be planted to harvest the thousands of pounds of petals it takes to create a few ounces or rose essential oil?

The second question is if there are any aromatherapy benefits from E.O.’s instead of F.O.’s. I would first like to point out that most people with a strong belief in aromatherapy are of the “all natural” persuasion. I am not a diehard all natural person, so I view this topic a little differently. Aromatherapists swear that there are chemicals in E.O.’s that trigger chemicals in our brains. They will also admit that a “negative scent memory” can override this benefit. For example, lavender is calming, but if your 1st grade teacher that constantly sat you in the corner wore lavender, this scent would be distasteful and negative for you. On the other hand, if your mother wore lavender as she rocked you to sleep or held you after a night mare, then the scent will continue to relax you. I personally believe that our scent memories and thoughts are what supply the benefits. I cannot stand the smell of lavender. I have no negative scent memory of it, and I really want to like it, but I just don’t. The scent of Roses relaxes me and I get this reaction from both E.O.’s and F.O.’s.


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