Fragrance or Essential Oil - Can You Tell?

January 25, 2018 4 min read 2 Comments

Girl with lavender image

Fake Fragrances and Label Confusion?


I don't know image


If you see the words ‘fragrance’, ‘perfume’ or ‘parfum’ on a label, they are almost always going to contain synthetic chemical ingredients.  

Essential oils on the other hand are the true essence of a plant that gives herbs and spices their specific scent and flavor, flowers and fruit their perfume. 


Synthetic or Natural Oils


What Are The Real Differences Between Fragrance Oil and Essential Oil?

Fragrances will likely be formulated from the industry’s database of 3,999 stock chemicals derived from petrochemicals, and some natural essences, that are blended to make up more than 1,000 body fragrance blends currently on the market - including for colognes, perfumes and toilet waters.


Lady mixing synthetic fragrances

There are some fragrance oils that aren’t synthetic - if this is the case, and they only contain natural essential oils, they will more than likely be clearly labelled and listed as such.

Scents created from artificial fragrances also tend to smell 'flat', and lose their potency after a short while. 


Essential Oils are resin or liquid and either distilled, pressed or extracted from different parts of the plant such as leaves, flowers, berries, beans, cones, stems, seeds, needles, roots or bark. 


Essential Oil Bottles


They are highly concentrated, expensive oils that are used carefully and in small quantities.

Not only are these precious scents natural and safe for the environment, they have other qualities and therapeutic benefits, none of which are found in synthetic fragrance oils - they also retain their potency longer.


Surely The FDA Has Clarified Matters? 

You would hope so, but sadly not.  

Whilst specific ingredients must be listed under the 1973 labeling, the FDA considers fragrance to be a ‘trade secret’.

This means if fourteen chemicals (which is said to be the average) are used to formulate a fragrance blend, they don’t have to be listed separately on a product and can just be labelled as ‘fragrance’ or even ‘natural fragrance’.

This loophole clearly keeps the consumer in the dark about what is being put into a product and unable to make an informed decision about what they are potentially buying.

To confuse matters even further, there is no definition for ‘natural’, ‘pure’ or ‘green’ or even ‘essential oil’.  The FDA confirm that ‘the law treats ingredients from plants the same as those from any other source’.

Caution sign

This means that synthetic fragrances can also be marketed as ‘safe’ or ‘pure green’ and used in anything from tissues to diapers, to cleaning products and candles.

These extensive fragrance blends are also found in a whopping 95% of hair care products.

So, if you see an ingredient such as ‘orange oil’, it doesn’t automatically mean it is natural.

As a guide, if a product description is vague and doesn’t state whether it is an extract, tincture, essential oil or herb, then there is a good chance it’s a synthetic fragrance!


 Does All This Really Matter To Me?

We don’t yet know all the full long-term effects of all these chemicals saturating our environment, in our food, air, water, soil and bloodstreams.

A fragrance bottle

A laboratory study carried out by the ‘Campaign For Safe Cosmetics’ and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on a number of popular fragrances found they contained chemicals that are associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, along with many other substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that fragrance is the number one cause of cosmetic contact dermatitis.

Symptoms of ailments alleged to have been caused by synthetic fragrances

There are many side effects reported by consumers who have used or come into contact with fragrances including:

  • nausea
  • dizziness 
  • headaches 
  • allergy-like symptons 
  • asthma, 
  • skin and scalp inflammation
  • hormone disruption
  • brain fog leading to fatigue, anxiety and depression

These chemicals may be cheaper than natural essential oils but we don’t know the real dangers and long-term effects.

The FDA has not assessed the vast majority of these fragrance chemicals. 

According to the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) only 400, or 10% of the fragrances on the approved stock list have had a published safety assessment between 2003 - 2013.

Since 2014 the Research Institute of Fragrance Materials (RIFM) have introduced an enhanced safety evaluation process which has resulted in 76 fragrances being removed. 

Even unscented products can contain chemicals that neutralize other components, so they are often not strictly fragrance free either.


Essential Oils and Hair Care.

With over 95% of shampoos and conditioners, containing synthetic fragrances, The Solid Bar Company is committed to using only natural essential oils for scent in their products, safely and at low levels. None of our ingredients will be undisclosed behind the term ‘fragrance’.

We use a natural, six essential oil ‘Herbal’ blend for our shampoos and conditioners that is not only refreshing and therapeutic but also includes hair care benefits such as hair thickening and anti-dandruff qualities.

Lavender and Geranium flowers
Or try our Botanical blend now with Argan oil for softer, silkier hair and made using Lavender and Geranium essential oils which are said to increase blood circulation, promote hair growth, reduce inflammation and uplift your mood!

These oils combined with gentle cleaning surfactants for sensitive skin, vitamins and amino acids for soft, shiny, detangled hair.

We are also developing a natural hair care range for children which will be available on our website very soon!

Our other products also take advantage of the natural plant benefits found in nature such as using infused Juniper Berries steeped in coconut oil to create a soothing After-Bite Balm.  We also infuse Calendula flower oil as part of the natural creation of our super soothing, skin protecting and rash eliminating Baby Diaper Balm.

Juniper and Calendula flowers
You can also learn to easily make your own natural laundry detergent by watching our video here.

There is something special about using natural ingredients and having nature’s scents throughout your home that are not only good for you but also for the planet.

Best wishes - we hope that has clarified any 'fragrance confusion' you had.

The Solid Bar Company Team



2 Responses

Maddie K
Maddie K

October 15, 2018

Very interesting and informative and a little bit scary in places – a lot of things that I’ve just taken for granted – but will now be looking at the labels a lot closer from now on you bet!

Louise Flander
Louise Flander

June 15, 2018

Very informative post – keep doing more blogs!

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