Thursday, April 9, 2009

Essential Oils vs Synthetic Fragrance

When you know better, you do better and now I know better.

Up until last year, I was still open to using some fragrance oils, but not anymore. I've been making my own beauty and hygiene products at home for awhile now, but only recently started scenting them. I was never too concerned with them smelling like anything other than what I was using. Sure, I would throw in some of my standard essential oils, but that was more for its properties and benefits than smell.

Last year, when I began making products for my family, my interest in smell was piqued. So, I dived deeper into fragrancing. I quickly learned that it's not so easy to find out what makes up a "fragrance". After researching further, I figured out why.
According to the FDA, fragrances fall under the trade secret formula law. This means that manufacturers don't have to disclose the ingredients of their fragrances. In short, you and I will never know exactly what makes up a particular scent. Fragrances can have 100's of ingredients and because of the trade secret law, it's often used as a facade for harmful chemicals and preservatives.

The FDA has said that they regulate what exactly is allowed, but that is far from a guarantee of safety. Some of the ingredients allowed are harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, parabens and phthalates. Many of these ingredients are known to cause reproductive system toxicity, cancer, allergy/asthma flare ups, migraines and other negative health issues.

So, why in the world would anyone ever want to use synthetic fragrance or products with synthetic fragrance in them?
Firstly, fragrance oils are much cheaper. Just like with many things harmful to the Earth and its inhabitants, it boils down to money. Synthetic fragrances filled with phthalates that make them last longer, are much cheaper than organic essential oils. Given the choice, I think people would choose to pay a little more now, than pay even more in health bills, pain and suffering later.

Secondly, there are some scents that can't be mimicked naturally. For example, have you ever smelled a banana scent or eaten a banana flavored candy? It smells and tastes "good", but not truly like and actual banana. It's more of an exaggerated version of what a banana smells and tastes like. Unfortunately, people have gotten accustomed to these synthetic scents and flavors and strayed away from what nature has given us.

There are other alternatives to using synthetic fragrances to add wonderful aromatics to your products. Some of which are absolutes, attars, hydrosols, infusions, extracts and essential oils.

An essential oil is a liquid that is most frequently steam distilled, cold pressed or extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils contain the true essence of the botanical it was derived from and are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Essential Oils offer a myriad of therapeutic psychological and physical benefits and are great for use in aromatherapy and skin applications when diluted.

A few of my favorites are, chamomile, fennel, frankincense, lavender, lime peel, patchouli, sweet orange...
I will be highlighting these and others in follow up posts.


  1. Thank you!
    I'm really glad you are finding it useful. That's what it's here for! :)

  2. I use essential oils all the time in the hair dressings and other things I make for us. I also use them in laundry and cleaning. To me, they just smell better. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. No problem!
    I'm so thankful I discovered EO's. They are now a staple in my home, body and health care.

  4. I also really love essential oils and have had wonderful success with using pepperming oil as a natural medicine for my allergies.

    Thanks for the great post!

  5. Lance, Pepp EO has so many wonderful uses. I'm glad your finding success using it to help your allergies!

  6. Anybody know where I can find juniper essential oil in long beach? Imankimcorrick@yahoo

  7. Sprouts in Seal beach may have it.
    You can also call around to the different whole foods. Different locations have different offerings.
    If not there, you can get it for sure at Mountain Rose Herbs online!

  8. Kourtney LinebaughMay 3, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    Thanks for the post.You included a variety about information about synthetic fragrances. I have been reseaching synthetic fragrances myself and I think you did a great job of touching on everything.

    I especially think it was important that you meantioned how synthetic scents mimick real scents and that is why there is such a draw to them.

    It was an interesting post. I am looking forward to reading more from your blog.

  9. I'm glad it helped you Kourtney! I Once I started researching ingredients and synthetics, I could'nt go back to using them. It's quite amazing what's allowed to be put into commercial product.

  10. Kourtney LinebaughMay 3, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    The most amazing part to me is that the majority of people I talk to don't think that their products could be harmful to them.

    It is very hard for me to go back to "conventional" products as well.




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