Are you breathing in synthetic fragrances?

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

The candles that I make are scented with pure essential oils and nothing more - but why is that important and is that different to what others use?

Unless a company explicitly says they use only essential oils and have Latin names such as 'Lavandula Angustifolia on the label, the chances are they use fragrance oil instead of essential oils. They might say 'Natural' or 'Eco' on the label but this often refers to the wax they use rather than the fragrance.

Fragrance oils are made from synthetic fragrances, essential oils or a combination of both and have 'Parfum' on the labels.

It is easy to see why candle makers go for Synthetic or Fragrance oils - they are crazy cheaper as I discovered last night when I looked up the cost of 'fragrance oil' on a trade website for comparison. Chamomile synthetic fragrance costs £3.06 for 50ml and Chamomile Essential Oils (from the website I purchase my oils from) costs £90 for 50ml. I typically use 5% essential oils in my candles, meaning 12.5ml of oil in my standard candles, meaning £22.50 worth of oil per candle…. The equivalent cost for synthetic is 76p.

Of course, this is one example, and other essential oils range in price; creating the perfect blend that is also affordable is the goal.

So why not just use synthetic oil?

I asked myself this a lot last night while checking the prices, but there are two good reasons:

  1. You do not know what is in them! That is a deal-breaker for me; I want to know what I am using, selling and breathing in! If it is not natural and contains nasties, that some oils do, it has no place in my home.

  2. Essential Oils contain the healing properties of the plant. They have been used for years in aromatherapy and so when you light your candle and flood your home with that nurturing scent, you can experience the benefits.

Have you been misled by your favourite brand?

It makes me so cross when a company portrays itself as 'natural' when they actually use synthetic fragrances. I have been duped by this myself, but it turns out "Natural doesn't mean much and companies are free to use it.

I remember, over ten years ago, while making candles for my tiny shop in the Turner Dumbrell Workshops in Ditchling, I excitedly went as a fan-girl to the Jo Malone shop to see what she was making. I selected a candle, took in a huge whiff and got an instant migraine - a clear indicator of synthetic oils. It turned out she had sold to Estée Lauder some years before, and I guess the company changed recipes and hadn't shouted about it - or I wasn't quite so quick on google at the time!

Perfumes and candle makers are not required to specify the ingredients as it is a trade secret, and they don't want anyone replicating their signature scents.

There is a far wider selection of synthetic scents to choose from. If you see candles scents such as cassis, fig or amber, it is unlikely to be made of essential oils as there are no essential oils made from Black currant, Fig or Amber - I highly recommend googling to check if you have any doubts. Just search for 'amber essential oil' find the top product, and click through - usually, you will end up on a page for the fragrance oil, although amazon might come up with some dubious oils!

Also, sadly Rose, Neroli (Orange Blossom) and Jasmin are INSANELY expensive, like £20 for 2ml in the UK. I occasionally add a few drops of my precious Rose Otto I bought in Morroco but wouldn't make a pure rose candle, so candles with those scents are likely to be Fragrance Oil too.

Synthetic fragrance oils are often sweeter, too; if you get used to artificial candles, essential oils can not be as appealing at first. But I like to think of it in food terms: If you start eating healthy salads and raw foods, sweets can taste sickly and unnatural, whereas your healthy option feels vital, fresh and full of goodness.

That is how I feel when I light one of my candles, part of my wellbeing toolbox. A little ritual to reset, unwind or lift my mood - depending on the scent and intention I select.

I hope this explains things a little, and if nothing else, explains why you can buy a candle from the Poundshop, whereas myself and other Essential Oil Candle-Makers charge what we do! On the other side, maybe that 'luxury' candle might not be worth the high price; now you know what is in it.

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