Candle Fragrance vs Essential Oils

If you’re really into candles, you’ve probably heard a lot on the debate between fragrance oils and essential oils. Some say fragrance oils are toxic and only essential oils should be allowed in a green home, while others balk at the cost of essential oils and the lack of sustainability that can come with many of them. We go deep into the pros and cons of each in this article, as well as our personal opinion on which should be used in candles.

Let’s start with definitions.


What’s the difference between fragrance oils and essential oils?


Essential oils are derived directly from plants, whereas fragrance oils can be either entirely synthetically derived (e.g., made in a lab) or can be a combination of synthetically derived fragrance mixed with an essential oil base.


Tell Me More About Essential Oils


Essential oils (derived from plants) have been used for thousands of years and offer many aromatherapy benefits. These are used often in diffusers, lotions, and bath products. These are a sustainable resource that comes directly from plants, making essential oils a more natural option than fragrance oils. However, high quality essential oils are quite expensive. It can take hundreds of pounds of the plant just to make one pound of oil, depending on the essential oil, which is costly and some plants have sustainability concerns if they are over-harvested.


Tell Me More About Fragrance Oils


Fragrance oils (derived synthetically) were designed specifically to create scents and are commonly used in perfumes, soaps, and candles. Fragrance oils get a bad rap for being manufactured and unnatural. However, it is important to be aware that there are two different ways in which fragrance oils can be manufactured. The most common and cheapest form of manufacturing fragrance oils are with by-products of petroleum. These end up containing phthalates and carcinogens and are just plain bad for you. Don’t use these. The other type of fragrance oil is manufactured with an essential oil base combined with a synthetically manufactured (i.e., made in a lab) fragrance.


Regardless of how a fragrance oil is manufactured, it is regulated by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) and the International Fragrance Association (IFRA). The RIFM conducts the research, and the IFRA examines that research and publishes safety guidelines that fragrance manufacturers are required to follow. These regulation ensure the safety of any fragrance oil manufactured according the IFRA guidelines, when used appropriately.


Which One Should I Look for in a Candle?


Essential oils seem like the obvious choice, given their naturally occurring nature and health benefits. However, there are a few problems with using essential oils in candles:



  1. Remember how we mentioned that it can take a few hundred pounds of the plant to make one pound of essential oil? This makes candles made with only essential oils incredibly expensive. Rose essential oil, for example, is commonly over $500 for a half ounce of oil – which is around the amount of oil that goes into one candle. So, unless you want to spend $600-1,000 per candle, essential oils alone are not the way to go.


  1. Essential oils don’t have a good scent “throw” (how scent from a candle fills a room). Have you ever burned an essential oil candle? You can’t smell them unless you’re standing directly over them while they’re burning.


  1. Essential oils + heat = not a good mix. This is the reason for #2. Once lit, there’s a good chance the heat of the candle is just going to burn up the essential oil without turning it into a good scent that fills the room. This is what burning money looks like.


  1. They’re not very sustainable. The hundreds of pounds of plants used to produce that one pound of essential oil have to come from somewhere, right? This means either clear cutting forests to make space for thousands of acres of farmland or using a lot of existing farmlands to create essential oils.


  1. Candles made with essential oils only have a shelf life of around 1 year, compared to candles made with fragrance oils that can last up to two years (almost double).


Here at TR Candle Co Candles, we were drawn to the naturalness of essential oils but put off by the problems with using essential oils in candles listed above. We looked into fragrance oils and immediately knew we didn’t want to use anything petroleum derived, either.


So, we chose to use essential-oil based fragrances because they are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This type of fragrance uses less land, harvests less plants, is longer lasting, has a stronger scent throw, keeps our costs in line with consumer demand, and still allows us to use natural essential oils as the base of our product.


Once we chose to use essential-oil based fragrances, we looked into the regulations from RIFM and IFRA used to manufacture them. How tough are these safety guidelines? In our opinion, not tough enough. Here at TR Candle Co Candles, we go above and beyond the basic regulations so that we feel confident that each candle we produce is safe for ourselves and our loved ones (pets included).


We use only the highest-quality, cleanest essential oil-based fragrances you can find. Our standards are rigorous and result in candles that are 100% phthalate free and don’t contain carcinogens or toxins. These are the highest quality and most thoroughly tested essential oil-based fragrances in the candle industry. We look over each fragrance’s safety data sheet and IFRA certificate before including it in our lineup of products, and none of our products requires a Prop65 label (more on Prop65 labeling here). This has resulted in a line of candles that we are proud of: they smell great, they’re sustainable and eco-friendly, and the ingredients they’re made of have undergone the most rigorous testing available.


We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.


Photo credit: Photo by Nia Ramirez on Unsplash




Comments (1)

  • VINEVIDA on Aug 03, 2023

    Very informative, Christine. Your article provides a well-researched and comprehensive comparison between candle fragrances and essential oils. It’s a valuable resource for anyone interested in creating a pleasant ambiance at home.
    Thank you.

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