Fragrance Oils vs. Essential Oils

behind the scenes essential oils faq fragrance fragrance oils how it's made natural science

By: Lianne

Essential oils and flowers in beakers

Candle lovers are extremely choosy about the products they buy, and rightfully so!

The topic of fragrance comes up a lot at events as we start talking shop. They nod approvingly through "soy wax?" "yes!" "cotton wicks?" "yep!" and then we get to, "well, are they made with essential oils?" and that one is trickier than a yes or no answer!

Yes, many of our fragrances are made with essential oils, but no, they're not ONLY made with essential oils, and there are several reasons why! Fellow science lovers, read on...

What are fragrance oils?

Our candles use phthalate-free fragrance oils that include both natural and synthetic ingredients, which are lab tested for safety using the standards set by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials and the International Fragrance Association.

Who the hell are those guys and what do they do? Well, from the RIFM website:

Through extensive research, testing and constant monitoring of all scientific literature and technology available, RIFM maintains its Database as the largest and most comprehensive source, worldwide, of physical-chemical, toxicological and eco-toxicological data, literature and information on safety evaluations associated with known fragrance and flavor materials.

All that is to say that our fragrances are tested and held to very high standards for consumer safety. My suppliers guarantee their fragrances are cruelty free (Leaping Bunny compliant!) and phthalate-free. It's good shit.

What about essential oils?

If fragrances with synthetic components are safe, you may ask, why wouldn't you just be EXTRA safe by making candles with essential oils?

Good question, I would answer. There are several reasons!:

The first reason is the more superficial one. Most essential oils are just not strong enough for a decent hot throw in a candle at safe percentages. They smell good before you burn it, but once you light that wick, it can smell like a whole lot of nothing (or a whole lot of chemical nastiness, depending on the oil).

Each wax can only hold a certain amount of oil before its structural integrity is compromised. Adding enough essential oil for the candle to smell good at a distance can mean overloading the wax, thus creating a torch when the whole thing goes up in flames. We have insurance, but we're really not trying to test it.

The second big reason is that some essential oils are totally fine to vaporize, apply to skin, or even ingest, but can be toxic when burned in an open flame. Essential oils are highly variable in their volatility, and even slight changes in storage temperature can impact their chemical structure to the point that free radicals are released in the breakdown. If storage temps can make that big of an impact, exposing them to an open flame and temperatures of 120+ degrees can create unpredictable results.

Many essential oils have demonstrated their benefits in multiple capacities, but setting them on fire can destroy their beneficial compounds. Even if they still smell good, you're probably not reaping the antiseptic or analgesic properties you were promised when it's all going up in flames.

In Summary!

This is not to say that all essential oil candles are unsafe or don't smell like much, because that's not true. This is just the reason we prefer to stick with the tested and true fragrance oils that are specifically designed for candle use.

When you're buying handmade, talk to your chandler about the research behind their oils! If they're like me, they love to chat science and will happily expound on their process. I love to keep it natural, but I'm a researcher at heart and there's nothing like data for a good defense. <3 

Looking for some nature inspired scents to brighten up your home? Check out our herbal lavender bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep, honeysuckle jasmine Bless Your Heart, and foresty favorite Witchy Woman and safely sniff to your heart's content.


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