Synthetics Fragrances Vs. Essential Oils: The Pros, Cons, and Other Important Things To Know
Within the clean beauty space, a question that comes up frequently is how to approach fragrance. For even the most diligent label readers and ingredient researchers, loose labeling regulations can make this aspect of conscious consumerism especially challenging to navigate.
There’s a lot of confusion around what it means to choose synthetically-created scents, as opposed to essential oil blends, and how to tell the difference when shopping for products. So to shed some light on the subject and provide a little clarity, here’s a rundown on their distinguishing characteristics and benefits.
Key differences between essential oils and synthetic scents
Fragrance is an important aspect to many cosmetics and skincare, but how your favorite products end up with their familiar scent varies widely from brand to brand and even formula to formula. Some products rely on synthetic scents - often listed as “parfum” or “fragrance” - whereas others get their aroma from essential oils - typically listed as individual ingredients - and some products even utilize a mixture of both.
The most noteworthy aspect that makes them different is their original source. As the name suggests, synthetic scents are lab-created and can be designed to mimic just about any scent, or a combination of scents. Meanwhile, essential oil fragrances are concentrated oils derived from plants, flowers, and other botanical sources.
So why use one rather than the other? In general, we find that essential oils have some unique aspects that make them a compelling choice. Here’s why:
A Few Reasons We Love Essential Oils for Fragrance
Reason #1: Complex scent profiles - A common misconception people tend to have about essential oils is that they have a more basic overall effect on the fragrance of a formula. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When added to a product in proper ratios, essential oils feature the same top, middle, and base notes as a perfume, and similarly have scent families for cultivating a particular mood or vibe. Essential oils can be floral, fruity, spicy, citrusy, herbaceous, minty, or musky.
Reason #2: Clean beauty benefits - Something many people don’t realize is that beyond their pleasant effect on the senses, essential oils are additionally utilized in cosmetics for more practical purposes. Because they have antimicrobial properties, they can act as antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial agents, preventing formulas from succumbing to breakdown, and in some cases, minimizing the need for synthetic preservatives.
Reason #3: Aromatherapy enhancement - Of course, one of the most popular reasons to use an essential oil is for their aromatherapy benefits. They’re known for their ability to promote overall wellness by influencing your mood and improving one’s mental state. For example, frankincense and myrrh are believed to be calming and grounding, jasmine is considered balancing and comforting, or you could opt for bergamot or tangerine, which are said to have uplifting and refreshing effects.
Final verdict? If your favorite product or perfume just happens to be synthetically scented, we’re not here to tell you that you have to make the switch. However, if you’re looking for a clean beauty alternative that’s plenty effective and flavored by Mother Nature, essential oils have a lot to offer and can be an amazing option for fragrance lovers.
Essential Oils as Natural Sources of Fragrance Compounds for Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals By Jugreet B. Sharmeen, Fawzi M. Mahomoodally, Gokhan Zengin, and Filippo Maggi