Fragrance vs Essential oil

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When choosing the right kind of fragrance to wear, for a real fragrance lover, there are a lot of things to be considered. Before choosing if it is perfume or body mist or essential oil that you would stick with, you have to consider what makes them different and unique. That is when you can now choose which one would be perfect for you.

Fragrance and essential oils, they can have their similarities but they are also different in some aspect. The main difference lies in the state or form that they are produced and their concentration. Fragrance is a general term for anything that makes you smell fantastic and beautiful, natural or artificial. Essential oil is just a form of fragrance in a natural and oily form.

What is Fragrance?

fragrance empty bottle

Fragrances are materials obtained from plant or animal or artificial chemical compounds that elicit a scent that is welcoming and attractive. Fragrances can be from plant materials or a mixture of flowers or a blend of different chemical compounds to give a pleasant scent.

What is Essential oil?

essential oil empty bottle

Essential oils are the liquid extract from plant or animal origin which contains a concentrated amount of fragrance in it. Essential oils can be extracted from different part of a plant, the seed, the leaves, the flowers, the fruits, the bark or even the roots. Essential oils are usually obtained from plant materials using different procedures. These procedures are; 

Solvent extraction
  • Distillation: This method can be steam or dry distillation and water distillation can be used for more delicate materials. Dry distillation involves the heating of the materials while water distillation involves putting the material in boiling water. This releases the essential oils and they are then cooled and liquefied.
  • Maceration: This method is largely used for commercial purpose. The plant materials are soaked in carrier oils which dissolves and traps the plant essential oil in large quantities.
  • Solvent extraction: This is a more complex and time consuming method. The plant materials are soaked in solvent like ethanol acid to form an aromatic and dense mixture which is then mixed with alcohol to separate the essential oils.
  • Expression: This method is mostly used for fruits and delicate plant parts. Expression is the method in which the material is crushed or squeezed to get the juice or essential oil directly from the materials. This does not yield a large amount of essential oil and therefore is not normally used for commercial purposes.

Difference between Fragrance and Essential oil

The main difference between fragrance and essential oil is their concentration and form. Fragrance can be gotten from natural plant or animal extracts or from synthetic or chemical compounds. Essential oil, on the other hand, are basically gotten from natural, plant or animal, sources.

Apart from being mostly natural, essential oils have the desired scent in a very concentrated form. Essential oil has the highest concentration of fragrance even more than a pure parfum. Essential oil is mostly oily as they are not mixed together with alcohol, rather they have an oily base.

Essential oils are gotten by extracting the basic fragrance essence from plant materials using different methods of extraction. These are then purified and processed to make the fragrance mature and develop well. Then the fragrance are incorporated in an oil base in order to stabilize and fix the fragrance.

The fragrance gotten from natural sources can be also used in making essential oil but mostly, they are diluted and mixed with alcohol to form a perfume or cologne or incorporated in wax or soap base. Essential oil does not have alcohol in its composition.

Fragrance are mostly seen in form of perfumes, colognes, and Eau de Toilettes as these forms are more widely used and popular than essential oils. They are promoted using models and celebrities, therefore increasing their popularity and of course prices. Essential oils are more cheaper than pure perfumes.

Essential oils have an amazing longevity and intensity and adhere to clothes for a long time, sometimes more than a day. The projection, however is poor as they do not project more than a few feet away from the wearer. The scent clings to the wearer and only if you are in the personal space of the wearer, maybe you hugged the wearer, would you perceive the scent.

Essential oils are perfect for working in a closed office space as they do not choke others with their intensity. They stay within the personal space of the wearer and therefore does not cause any irritation or trigger any allergy in other people. Essential oils are also favorable to sensitive skin and therefore can be applied directly to the skin.

Essential oils are packaged in small containers and usually with a roller ball for easy application. A little amount of essential oil can be applied to the wrist, neck, chest and other pulse points or areas where you are warm. The body heat activates the fragrance and enhance proper projection.

Difference between Fragrance and Essential oil (Table)

The distinction between fragrance and essential oil is significant and they should not be mixed up. Their differences are highlighted in the table below.


Essential oil

1. Fragrances are plant extracts or organic chemicals that give a pleasant smell.

Essential oils are oils extracted from plant materials.

2. Fragrance can be in liquid or solid or gaseous form.

Essential oils are in liquid form as they are in an oil base.

3. Fragrances are used in different concentrations in different products.

Essential oils contain about 15% to 30% fragrance in their composition.

4. Fragrance can be fixed on different bases such as alcohol, oil or water.

The essential oil has fragrances fixed in a base of oil.

5. Fragrances can come in large or small quantities depending on the product they are used in.

Essential oils generally come in small quantities as they are difficult to get.

6. Fragrances can have a long or short-lived scent depending on their concentration.

Essential oils have a long-lasting scent that can last for more than a day.

7. Fragrances can be applied internally and externally depending on the product it is incorporated in.

Essential oils are applied on pulse points like wrists and neck.

8. They come in different packaging and prices for different products.

They come in more classic packaging and they are not cheap.

9. Fragrances can be natural or synthetic in nature.

Essential oils are usually gotten from natural plant or animal origin.

10. Fragrances have diverse intensity, sillage and projection that makes it suitable or unsuitable for some occasions.

Essential oils are more personal and therefore can be worn in any space,  closed or open as the scent does not project to other people.


Fragrance and essential oil are like a parent and their biological child. Fragrance is the parent of all scent giving cosmetics. Essential oil is their child in the most basic or natural form. Other fragrances such as cologne, perfumes and aftershave can be related as their adopted child. Having known the differences between the two terminologies, it would be easier to make an informed decision on what fragrance to wear and how to wear it.


Are essential oil a form of fragrance?

Essential oils are a form of fragrance gotten in its natural form and not diluted with alcohol. Essential oils are gotten directly from plant or animal origin but fragrances can also be formulated using aromatic chemical compounds. Other foms of fragrance are body cream, body sprays, perfumes and candles.

Do essential oils have different fragrance notes?

Essential oils do not have different fragrance notes. The top, middle and vase notes of an essential oils is the same from the moment of application till it totally fades away. Essential oils usually have a singular scent such as rose essential oil, lemon oil, vanilla essential oil and cinnamon essential oil. When applied, you get that same scent from top to bottom and is constant throughout the day, though its intensity might lessen as time goes on.

What season is more suitable for essential oils?

Colder season is more suitable for wearing essential oils rather than colognes or body spray. Since essential oils are activated by body heat, they work fabulously in cold weathers. They do not depend on atmospheric heat to start dispensing their scent to their wearer.

Can I apply essential oils directly on my skin?

Essential oils can be applied directly in the skin as they are more sympathetic to sensitive skin. Essential oils have a more natural composition and therefore do not contain a lot of harmful materials. Its oily base also makes sure that the skin does not lose moisture quickly. It does not contain alcohol or synthetic chemicals that can be harmful to sensitive skin.

Why is perfume more expensive than essential oil?

Perfume is more expensive than essential oils because of its packaging and marketing. Perfumes are advertised and marketed as a luxury personal care commodity with models and popular celebrities as the face of the advertisement campaign. This increases the awareness of perfumes and since they come in sophisticated bottles and have a great deal of sillage and projection, they are more preferred to essential oil which is a much more subtle albeit intense fragrance.

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