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What's the difference between Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils?

You'll have heard of essential oils, but perhaps not fragrance oils. What are the two and how do they differ? In this no frills blog, we take a look into the two different types of scented oils, their pros and cons and how they can be used in candle making.

What is an Essential Oil?

Put simply, an Essential Oil (EO) is a concentrated liquid that is extracted from plants. Whether it be the flowers, leaves, peel, root, seed or bark... plants provide an abundance of ways to use their properties. There are various ways to extract the oil from the plants, including cold pressing & steam distillation to name just two. This is why EO's vary so much in colour. Citrus oils will have yellow or orange tones, and woody scents will have a darker appearance. Since the oil comes from plants it is considered a natural source and is becoming an ever increasingly popular "green" choice.

Although all EO's come from natural sources, not everything in nature produces EO's. For example, you won't find any strawberry or vanilla. Instead these fragrances are mimicked, these are called Fragrance Oils.

What is a Fragrance Oil?

Fragrance Oils (FO's) are synthetic oils, found in perfume, soap, bath products & many cosmetics we use today. In fact most of the major candle players in the market use FO's, mainly due to their amazing scent throw, but more on this later. FO's allow us to create any scent we desire, as it's man made. Think about fragrances such as Bakewell Tart, Warm Apple Pie or Fresh Linen. These are manufactured scents, and are usually a complex blend of different fragrance notes, making for a well balanced, rounded fragrance.

When candle makers work with EO's they have to blend the various oils to get the different notes, which can absolutely be done, it's just trickier to find the right balance. When it's done right though, the results can be amazing! With an FO, the hard work is done for you.

With regards to the ethics around Fragrance Oils, people slander them as they're not natural. There have been claims that FO's release harmful toxins when you burn them. However, used sensibly scientific studies have shown that candles are safe for home use. The levels of emissions from candles are well within World Health Organisation guidelines. The British Lung Foundation is of course concerned with the level of everyday pollutants and gives advice on how to reduce them. But even they concede that candles are unlikely to pose much of a health risk. You'd have to burn A LOT! Candle organisations within Europe have also been working hard to promote candle safety. There are three European standards concerned solely with emissions from candles. It has been found that emissions from well-made candles are low and are

within safety guidelines.

Medicinal Benefits of Essential Oils

Since EO's are from natural sources, they provide real therapeutic benefits, known as aromatherapy. For example, lavender is known for being calming and relaxing. Citrus oils are known to be uplifting and help to improve mood. Some even claim that essential oils can help with anxiety and depression, but this has not been proven. There is no good medical evidence that aromatherapy can either prevent, treat, or cure any disease.

It's said by aromatherapists that you gravitate to fragrances that you're deficient in. For example, if you are stressed you're drawn to scents such as lavender, rose & ylang ylang which are known for reducing stress. Fragrance oils, since they are synthetic, cannot provide such benefits, although simply lighting a candle (no matter what oil it's made from) can still help you to feel relaxed and unwind!

Scent Strength

Essential Oils provide a much subtler scent throw and definitely aren't as strong as fragrance oils. So if you like a stronger scented candle, FO's are definitely for you. However, since FO's can be very strong they can sometimes be too much for some people, giving you a headache or making you feel sick. We always recommend burning any candle in a well ventilated area to ensure there's plenty of air movement.

As you know, honesty & transparency is at the heart of everything we do here at Rowbert. We mention on each and every product page whether the product is scented with essential oils or fragrance oils, so you can make an informed decision for yourself. If you have any questions about our products you can always drop me an email at I'm always happy to help!

What scents are your favourite? Or do you have fragrances that you're really not keen on? I'd love to know!



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