What should you use to fragrance your soaps?

Is fragrance necessary in your products?

Do essential oils last longer than fragrance oils or vice versa?

What even are essential oils and fragrance oils?

Why do we even use fragrance

This is an excellent question, but the answer is ultimately a matter of personal preference and, in many cases, our culture. We appreciate pleasant aromas hence why flowers attract us and not just bees. In many cases, we link scent with cleanliness or as a luxury product in other situations. Consider a luxury spa experience: in addition to the warm water and soothing music, they often include a scent that compliments the overall effect, whether it’s a highland mist (think pine or eucalyptus) or a tropical rainforest.

Of course, soap and candles do not have to be scented at all but generally we like to use something to enhance the overall effect or curb appeal, and fragrance may even provide therapeutic benefits. It is worth noting that unscented products have their own distinct charm, they’re simple and effective. We do recommend you give them a shot, especially if you’re just getting started as it simplifies the process and keeps costs down.

Assuming you would like to fragrance you really do only have a few options to choose from.

Let’s begin with essential oils

At first glance, essential oils, which are naturally derived, and plant based, would appear to be the ideal route to take if you are looking to keeping your handmade products as natural as possible.

Essential oils are extracted from plants and trees mainly through steam distillation. It takes a vast quantity of plant material to produce relatively small quantities of essential oils and therefore the process is extremely demanding of the raw materials needed. Therefore, they tend to be very expensive. Some, like sandalwood, are harvested from plants and trees on the endangered or threatened species list, so natural isn’t always the greatest option.

What about fragrance oils?

These are synthetic fragrances, created in a laboratory and may contain many different ingredients. They have, however, undergone extensive testing for usage in cosmetics and are thus certified safe to use.

They may contain a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients.

If you opt to use fragrance oils, be sure they are suitable for candles and/or body products. You can use safe synthetic fragrances by ensuring you’re your fragrance oils are phthalate free.

There are also certain fragrance materials must be created synthetically because they are no longer allowed to be extracted from nature, such as musk which was originally extracted from the reproductive organs of musk deer, beavers and whales.

Pros and Cons of Essential Oils

Pros.

  • Naturally derived
  • You can buy the same scent from multiple sources
  • Possible health or therapeutic benefits
  • You know what you are getting generally

Cons

  • Limited fragrance options
  • Expensive
  • Some are unsuitable for soap/skincare products
  • Some contain allergens
  • Scent may not be as long lasting 

Pros and Cons of Fragrance Oils

Pros

  • Wide range of scents available
  • Can be more reliable, longer lasting scent
  • Cheaper
  • May be less impactive on the environment in some cases

Cons

  • Can cause issues such as discolouration or seizing in soap making
  • Artificial aspect does not appeal to everyone

Is one option better than the other?

The answer is whichever you choose to use! Both have advantages and disadvantages, so consider what you want to achieve as well as any ideology that is important to you when making your decision. Cost will also be a factor. Using natural products was, and continues to be, extremely important to most people. However, a lot of makers now have a better understanding of the potential effects of essential oils on the plants from which they are harvested, as well as how some of them may become threatened or endangered as the Western world, in particular, continues to develop demand for ‘natural’ or ‘therapeutic’ products grows. Natural resources, particularly those like as sandalwood, which require mature trees, cannot always keep up with demand, therefore many makers have started utilising fragrance oils.

Ultimately, however the choice is a personal one and there is no right or wrong.

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