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The Difference between Fragrance Oils and Essential Oils

In the world of fragrances used in perfumes, candles and skin care products, there’s a lot of room for confusion. You have fragrance oils, essential oils, absolutes, cosmetic grade, food safe, therapeutic grade oils (which, by the way, there is no such thing), pure oils, organic oils and synthetic oils. By knowing the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils, you will know which to use in order to make perfect spa creations.

A Goddesses Short Spa Glossary

Fragrance oils – There are two types of fragrance oils: 1. completely synthetic 2. a blend of essential oil and a carrier oil such as jojoba. Fragrance oils have a more consistent aroma than do essential oils, but are not as physiologically reactive as pure essential oils.

Essential oils – Essential oils are distilled or cold pressed from part(s) of a plant. Some essential oils are fragrant, but the scent may vary depending on where the plant was grown, how it was harvested and the growing conditions. The bioactive essential oils are used by aroma therapists to assist in healing a variety of illnesses.

Absolutes – Essential oil absolutes, like essential oils are derived from plant material, but the method of extraction is completely different. Absolutes are derived by using chemicals and solvents to extract the oils from plants. Absolutes are more concentrated than essential oils and thus require careful handling. Because of their highly concentrated nature, absolutes are more likely to cause allergic reactions.

Cosmetic grade – If a product is listed as cosmetic grade, it supposedly meets the Food and Drug Administration’s safety guidelines. However, the FDA does not review products for safety; it depends on the companies manufacturing the products to do that. I know, it’s kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse, but that’s the way it is right now. The FDA also doesn’t determine the validity of claims made by cosmetic companies as to the efficacy of their products.

Cosmeceutical – A totally made up marketing term designed to suggest that a cosmetic also has medicinal properties. Antidandruff shampoo is a cosmeceutical product. It’s important to note that any ingredient administered internally or externally is carefully regulated by the FDA for safety.

Food safe – This one is easy. It is an ingredient that is considered safe to use in foods. Quite a few essential oils are considered food safe. However, they are usually used in small quantities as many can be toxic if large quantities are ingested.

Therapeutic grade –This is another made up marketing term. There is no such thing. However, to be fair, the term may mean an oil meets ISO-AFNOR standards for chemical content of essential oils.

Organic oils – These are essential oils derived from plant material grown organically without pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. I buy only organic essential oils even though they cost a little more. I think I’m worth it and so are you.

Wild grown –The plant material is harvested in the wild and not as a crop. Of course, if it’s harvested in the wild, it’s also organic. We will probably see fewer and fewer wild grown oils in the future in order to sustain the plant species.

Pure oils – This one is a stickler and here’s why. The word pure here means the oil comes from a single plant species. For instance, if you buy pure lavender oil, the manufacturer has distilled that oil only from lavender plants. However, if those plants are part of a crop heavily sprayed with insecticide, the oil derived from them may be contaminated with the pesticide. Yet, it’s still considered “pure.” Only oils that undergo rigorous testing should be able to make that claim, but that’s not the way it is.

Synthetic oils – These oils are made in the lab. Most fragrance oils are synthetic.

There, now you know the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils plus a bit more of the skin care product terminology. There are hundreds of terms related to cosmetics and skin care, but these will get you started. I’m a firm believer that an informed goddess can keep her family and herself safer and healthier.

Now go have fun and relax.