by Jen Reed on Feb 21, 2016
Fragrance oils go by a variety of names and come in a vast variety of forms. They are also known as aroma oils, aromatic oils, or flavor oils, and are made by combining either synthetic compounds that give off an aroma or natural essential oils with another oil carrier (for dilution). They may be used as perfume or scent for cosmetic products, but also as flavors for other products or additives to flavor food. There are a huge variety available, but common ones include vanilla, cinnamon, lemongrass, peppermint, and cedar wood.
There are two major sources from which a fragrance oil can be derived; either its active ingredients can be synthetic, or they can be natural. A natural fragrance oil will use an essential oil as its active ingredient. An essential oil is the concentrated form of an aroma compound that was originally produced by a plant; these oils are also called volatile or ethereal oils, or aetherolea. These oils usually have high volatility, meaning they readily vaporize, which is how they are able to create an aroma. In a concentrated form, they would vaporize too quickly and produce too strong an aroma, which is why they are combined with a carrier before being used as fragrance oils. Options for carriers include certain types of vegetable oils and mineral oils, which allow the entirety of the fragrance oil to be natural in origin.
Synthetic aroma compounds function the same way as natural essential oils do; in their purest forms they are just synthetically produced volatile compounds that are picked up by the olfactory system when they evaporate. While some are not commonly found in nature, many of the synthetic compounds used in fragrance oils have the same or a very similar chemical composition to their essential oil equivalents.
Synthetic and naturally based fragrance oils each have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. Fragrance oils based on essential oils can be more tolerable for those with allergies triggered by specific aromatic compounds, although synthetic versions of the same compound with a natural carrier oil are usually comparable in most regards. On the other side of the coin, some essential oils can be much more costly than their synthetic counterparts, especially in cases where it takes a large amount of plant to create even a small amount of essential oil.
“Essential Oils vs. Synthetic Fragrance.” Way Out Wax. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 July 2016. <http://www.wayoutwax.com/store/pc/viewcontent.asp?idpage=9>.
“Why Are Synthetic Fragrance Oils so Popular?” Soap & Salve. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 July 2016. <http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/idascorner/ingredients/ingredients-faqs/essential-oil-faqs/why-are-synthetic-fragrance-oils-so-popular>.