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The World of Fragrance

Fragrance oils vs Essential Oils vs Natural Fragrance:

Scents and Sustainability




Fragrance enjoyment is such a personal experience, creating moods, evoking feelings and memories, or just for the simple pleasure it brings.  Fragrances give joy, have an emotional component and contribute massively to the enjoyment of life.  The scent of fresh baked cookies can bring back childhood memories of cuddles at grandmas house, or the scent of roses contribute the perfume your first love may have worn.  The olfactory memory is a wonderous thing, evoking our emotional experiences (1).  The wonderful aroma found in our products can originate from either essential oils or fragrances oils, each having a different impact on home, health, and environment depending on production and usage.


When it comes to sustainability within the world of fragrance, it becomes a tough balancing act, taking into consideration several variables.  These variables determines whether we use essential oil, synthetic fragrance oil or natural fragrance in our products.  This relies on careful consideration of the implication of using the chosen fragrance with an understanding their origin, the harvesting and manufacturing process including toxins and emissions from harvest, extraction, and manufacture through to the strain on the environment from depletion of materials (the same ethos for all our ingredients used).


We use a combination of pure essential oils or plant-derived, natural fragrances and synthetic fragrances in our products.  We do our best to stay up to date so we can make better choices when it comes to the scents we use.  We utilize a variety of fragrance bases for a few different reasons: we can create better products with long-lasting scents, our products are better for your body and the planet, we reduce our impact on the planet with less intrusive practices, a greater variety of products, and while we love essential oils, they may not always be the best option, with some isolates causing skin reactions, and other to expensive and unsustainable to use.

 

Essential oils

Essential oils are volatile natural aromatic essences extracted from a variety of plant material - grasses, leaves, flowers, fruit peels, bark, etc.  Essential oils have highly complex structures; consisting of various chemical molecules which creates a unique scent.  This composition can vary dependent on climate, species, geographic location, and rainfall (2).  The oils are beneficial for their therapeutic aromas and to provide various remedies or healing properties, making some essential oils ideal for certain skincare applications and aerosols when utilised correctly.  Natural ingredients can also be dangerous, certain isolates such as Limonene oil in citrus peels is a known skin irritant even though it provides a wonderful uplifting scent.  Due to the volatility and different compositions of essential oil makeup, when heated certain isolates can burn off quicker, evaporate and breakdown, even becoming toxic in some instances (3).  Batches can also vary from season to season, making them inconsistent.  Therefore, we choose not to use them in some of our products such as our candles and reed diffusers.


Obtaining some essential oils requires a lot of plant material - For instance, extraction of sandalwood essential oil requires entire tree components, cutting down hundreds of trees for a small amount of essential oil.  Frequent consumption of these essential oils can be destructive to natural habitats (4).

 

Natural Fragrances

Natural fragrance oils are made up of natural isolates – an aromatic molecule, derived from a plant through many of the same processes that are used to obtain essential oils.  The difference is essential oils are extraction of an entire compound whereas a natural isolate is extraction of a single molecule.  Isolates are extremely useful for customisation of scents, creating highly specific scent profiles which tend to last longer and have a stronger scent than essential oils, however they do not retain the essence and therapeutic powers of the original plant.  Although, by utilising the natural isolates for creation of natural fragrances is an efficient way to mitigate the over consumption of some essential oils currently putting a strain on our natural resources.

 

Fragrance oil

The debate over the use of fragrance oils is never-ending. Synthetic fragrance oils are created in a laboratory especially for use in specific products.  For many years, fragrance oils were made with cheap ingredients, alcohols, and petroleum fractions. It is still a common belief that they are poisonous concoctions of petrochemicals even with so many technological advances in the world.  Over the years and through ongoing research, fragrances manufacturers have been able to delve deeper into finding and developing safer processes using alternative ingredients. 


While not all fragrances are created equal, determining which fragrances to use means delving into the manufacturing processes and ethos of a company and using only reputable quality suppliers.  This takes time and energy; it is easier to continue to criticise fragrances and spread the old notion that they are all unsafe, and petroleum based.  We use fragrances which are tested and created to adhere to the strict RIFM and IFRA standards for purity, quality, and safety requirements.  The fragrances are packaged in phthalate-free, recyclable, PET plastic bottles and are not tested on animals.  The use of fragrance oils allows for consistent recipes and products with the same outcome, beneficial for our customers.

 

Conclusion

Chemistry isn’t a bad word! Natural isn’t always safe! Synthetic isn’t necessarily bad! Often it is not what the compound is, but how much is present.  You may find there are more toxins when you step onto a busy street from pollution or that there are more toxins in some food and drink.  In a world full of choice, consumers have vast options available to choose products which confirm with personal ethos, so read the labels, look at the ingredients, do your own research, and talk to the maker.  Both essential oils and fragrance oils have positive and negative properties, with no right or wrong; it’s simply down to personal preference!

 

Biblography

  1. Mouly AM, Sullivan R. Memory and Plasticity in the Olfactory System: From Infancy to Adulthood. In: Menini A, editor. The Neurobiology of Olfaction. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2010. Chapter 15. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK55967/

  2. José-Luis Ríos. Chapter 1 - Essential Oils: What They Are and How the Terms Are Used and Defined.  Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety.  Academic Press, 2016, Available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124166417000018

  3. Poison Control - Essential Oils: Poisonous when Misused. Available from https://www.poison.org/articles/essential-oils

  4. Sharmeen JB, Mahomoodally FM, Zengin G, Maggi F. Essential Oils as Natural Sources of Fragrance Compounds for Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals. Molecules. 2021; 26(3):666. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26030666

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