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Posted in Essential Oil Basics by Rocky Mountain Oils

What is the Difference? Essential Oils vs Fragrances

The beautiful and pleasing aromas of essential oils have drawn people to the use of aromatherapy for centuries. But with the desire for these scents, people have created synthetic fragrances to imitate these natural oils. 

Most of us want to choose the natural version of oils, but with today’s green-washed marketing, it is easy to mistake a synthetic fragrance oil for a 100% pure essential oil. Keep reading to find out the difference between essential oils and fragrances and why it matters. 

What is a Fragrance?

The FDA defines fragrances as a combination of chemicals that give a product its distinct scent. These fragrances can be man-made and are not the natural form of the aromas they are trying to imitate. Fragrance oils may include some natural raw materials, but they typically contain chemical components like petrochemicals, solvents, stabilizers, preservatives, and dyes.

Fragrances and fragrance oils are found in a variety of products, including scented candles, soaps, perfumes, laundry detergents, cleaning products, and more. Even products labeled as ‘unscented’ may contain fragrance ingredients to mask the unpleasant smell of other ingredients. On a packaging label, a ‘fragrance’ may look like one ingredient, but more often than not, it indicates a list of undisclosed and potentially harmful ingredients. Under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), companies are not required to list all fragrance ingredients. 

The Dangers of Fragrances

Fragrances have been linked to many health risks classified as hormone disruptors, allergens, and respiratory issues. 

Unlike 100% pure essential oils, fragrance oils do not require rigorous testing to ensure quality and purity. 

Did you know? The U.S CDC has followed a fragrance-free policy since 2009 to protect its employees, especially those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). 

What is an Essential Oil? 

Aromatherapy is the healing practice of using 100% pure and natural essential oils to enhance physical, emotional, and mental health. Essential oils are highly concentrated liquid plant extracts. These plant extracts come from many different sources, including flowers, leaves, bark, resin, and fruit peels. They are called ‘essential’ because they contain the essence of a plant. There are a variety of ways to extract essential oils. The most common methods are steam distillation and cold pressing. 

However, to be a TRUE essential oil, it must be 100% pure, meaning there are no adulterants, preservatives, or additives. 

What is the Difference Between Fragrance Oils and Essential Oils? 

Purity & Quality

The definition of ‘purity’ may differ between companies. At Rocky Mountain Oils, 100% pure means our oil is exactly what we say it is. There are no additives, preservatives, or adulterants. The oil is extracted directly from the plant material and is free of any synthetic material. 

Each of our essential oils is tested twice by a third-party independent lab to confirm the quality and purity of the essential oil. Afterward, our in-house quality team will perform additional analyses, including organoleptic, refractive index, and pesticide testing.

You can even view the test results of your essential oils here.

Health Benefits

Fragrances and fragrance oils are made with just the aroma in mind. While the aroma of essential oils is desired, these powerful plant extracts also provide many health and wellness benefits. The most well-known benefits of essential oils are: 

  • Supporting healthy immune & respiratory function 
  • Reducing stress
  • Easing feelings of anxiety 
  • Promoting restful sleep 
  • Relieving physical pain and tension 
  • Uplifting the mood 
  • Promoting healthy skin 


As we shared above, many fragrances include harmful ingredients derived from synthetic chemicals. Because essential oils are derived directly from safe plants, essential oils are a non-toxic alternative to synthetic fragrances. You can feel safe and confident using essential oils around your family because you know exactly what is in your bottle. 

Our Favorite Essential Oils & Blends to Replace Popular Fragrances & Candles

Volcano by Capri Blue

Flannel by Bath & Body Works 

Gardenia by Bath & Body Works Dupe

Stress Relief by Bath & Body Works Dupe

Chanel No. 5 Perfume Dupe

Spa by Aveda