Fragrance Oils vs Essential Oils in Candles | Best of Both Worlds
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Scented candles derive their scent from fragrance oils or essential oils. While each of these oils smell great, there are very major differences between these two scent makers that need to be explored. For this reason, we decided to create a post covering the many differences and similarities of fragrance oils vs essential oils in candles.
To really compare the two types of oil it is important to first understand what each is.
Essential oils are concentrated liquids derived from organic plant matter, and as such they are contain the strongest scents of that particular plant. For this reason the oils are referred to as "essential" in that the oils reflect the essence of a particular plant, root, or flower. (source)
Fragrance oils are highly concentrated synthetic or natural aroma compounds that have been mixed with a near scentless carrier oil. These aroma compounds are lightweight which allow them to reach your scent receptors as they breakdown (source).
Now that we have covered what each of the oils are it is time to take a deeper dive into how essential oils and fragrance oils differ from one another. The differences between the two spans production, price, user experience, shelf life and more.
Understanding just how different these two oils are from each other needs to start in how they are produced. Essential oils are produced with plants while fragrance oils are produced with chemical compounds.
Yes, there is much more that goes into the actual manufacturing process, but the main difference between the two really does come down to essential oils actually requiring the plant in order to have the scent created. Fragrance oils do not require any plant matter to create the scent you are experiencing.
If you are looking for the most intense scent per unit, fragrance oil candles win.
That is to say, if you take a single drop of essential oil and a single drop of fragrance oil and you put each in a different candle, the candle with fragrance oil will have the more intense scent 9 out of 10 times.
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Fragrance oils are manufactured specifically for the purpose of delivering a strong scent that makes an impact. For this reason, specific scents can be pinpointed and delivered in high concentrations.
If you want to see an example of a candle with strongly concentrated scent, check out our Espresso Stout Camping Candles; these are strong scented, and would be difficult to replicate through an essential oil candle.
Essential oils have a difficult time providing the same scent profile per quantity of oil. This means essential oil candles often require more oil to achieve a similar scent intensity.
This is primarily due to the fact that essential oils are not diluted with a benign carrier oil. Since they are being presented to you in their purest, non-diluted form, essential oils are more concentrated.
How long do essential and fragrance oils hold their scent? There is no easy answer because so many variables impact the shelf life of either, but when used in a candle the shelf lives tend to be pretty comparable.
Since every fragrance oil is comprised of different molecular compounds that dissipate at different speeds it is difficult to say with absolute certainly how long each will last. The industry standard for candle makers using fragrance oils is to assume the fragrance oil has an approximate shelf life of 12 months.
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This shelf life translates pretty consistently to candles made with fragrance oils. That is to say, fragrance oil candles will hold their scent for about one year (depending on the candle of course) if left uncapped and open to air.
The shelf life of essential oils can be much longer than the competing fragrance oil. The shelf life range for most essential oils range between 2 and 5 years while essential oils derived from specific types of organic matter can have shelf lives of 15 years or more.
With the above being said, essential oils can evaporate and dissipate much faster than fragrance oils and can hold their scent less than 12 months in candle form. For this reason it is extremely important for essential oil candles to have lids to help seal the scent.
Whether using fragrance oils or essential oils it is important to note that both begin to break down when making contact with oxygen, heat, or light. This is one of the reasons both fragrance and essential oils are sold in solid color containers. Oils will also evaporate so it is important to make sure lids are tightly sealed.
Both fragrance oils and essential oils are generally safe, especially when being used in candles. That said, there are a lot of guidelines for what you should and shouldn't do with either oil when they are in their concentrated liquid form. Whether in a candle or as a liquid, the first rule of thumb is not to consume any of these oils.
Just because an oil has been derived from a plant or something has been labeled as organic or naturally derived, does not mean it is harmless to ingest or use topically. According to the Food and Drug Administrations page on Aromatherapy:
Many plants contain materials that are toxic, irritating, or likely to cause allergic reactions when applied to the skin (FDA Aromatherapy Page).
With the above in mind, there are various benefits to aromatherapy when practiced correctly in a safe manner. Taking into consideration the manufacturer's recommended safety precautions is the first step in using either essential oils or fragrance oils in candles.
Essential oils are derived from plant matter, and because of this there is a relatively intense production process making essential oils more costly (in most cases).
In addition to the oils themselves being more costly, essential oil candles require more volume of the oil to create a relevant scent profile. If you are using more of an expensive oil in a candle it is guaranteed that your end candle will be more costly.
While essential oil candles are more costly there are definite aromatherapy benefits to certain essential oils that make their premium price point more than worth while.
When comparing essential oils and fragrance oils in candles it should be noted that it doesn't need to be an "either / or" proposition. Fragrance oils and essential oils can be blended to create specific notes, and each type of oil has wonderful applications on their own.
While essential oils and fragrance oils are different, the candles produced with either smell great.
Image Source: Ian Sane |(https://www.flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/) | image cropped and file size reduced | Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)