E – Essential and Aroma ‘oils.’

What are they? How do they differ?

Let’s delve into this interesting ocean of liquid facts.

One important fact is that whether you are talking essentials or aromas, they are all made of chemicals. I hear this sentence a lot, ‘I won’t buy anything made with chemicals.’ I understand, the word chemical connotes fear in some hearts and minds but the world is made of chemicals and essentials are part of this equation.

Lets look at the wonderful orange as an example.
 Oranges contain diverse phytochemicals, including carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein and beta-cryptoxanthin), flavonoids (e.g. naringenin) and numerous volatile organic compounds producing orange aroma, including aldehydes, esters, terpenes, alcohols, and ketones.

I will get to specifics later, but for now, just let the scientific fact that the word chemical does not mean doom and gloom and that the overriding makeup of the world is chemically driven.

Oola uses both essentials and aromas and also some blends of the two. There are reasons to use either or both, depending on the product, the cost and  consumer desires.

With ALL body care products, made with aroma OR essentials, it is a good rule of thumb to test a small amount on your skin.

Essential oils:

FYI: Essential oils (called essentials from here on out) are not actually oils as they do not own lipids in their chemical make-up. Lipids are a varied group of molecules-most of which are insoluble in water. Olive oil, coconut oil etc. are true oils as they contain lipids.

Essentials are highly aromatic soluble liquids that are derived from plant based material. They can be pressed/distilled or extracted.  This material ranges greatly in price depending on how oily this material is. For example, Rose essential is one of the most costly essentials to produce as it requires a massive amount of material to generate an end product. Rose petals are not very oily. It takes approximately half a million rose petals to produce 15 ml of rose essential (approx. one-half ounce.)

It takes about three pounds of lavender flowers to make the same amount of lavender essential  (15ml/ approx. one-half ounce.)

On the other hand, lemon/orange/grapefruit  essentials are  less costly to produce  as the skins of citrus are essential heavy.

While essentials are plentiful, they only go so far, since one needs to rely on the plant material for the scent. In products like lotions,essentials will remain true and will be long lasting. If making soap however, most will fade ( especially any citrus essentials)  very quickly.

Many essentials are known to be healthful to mind, body and spirit with their aroma therapy benefits. Lavender for instance, is often used to instill a feeling of calm. Tea tree holds anti-septic and healing benefits (Note: tea tree oil is NOT a preservative. See my FAQ on preservatives.)  Chamomile is known for soothing the skin and Peppermint is commonly used to uplift, etc.

*Pesticides. It is important to note that if you are purchasing essentials, you may want to research where the company you are buying from sources their materials. Pesticides are extremely common in orange and lemon groves, for preserving roses, lavender etc. Crop growers want to acquire the highest yield from their crops. Just because it says essential oil it does not automatically make it pure and pesticide free.*

Aroma Oils

FYI: Aroma oils (called aromas from here on out) are not actually oils as they do not own lipids in their chemical make-up. Lipids are a varied group of molecules most of which are insoluble in water. Olive oil,coconut oil etc. are true oils as they contain lipids.

Aromas are assembled from a wide variety of highly aromatic chemicals in labs. These can be naturally occurring or synthesized versions of naturally occurring aroma chemicals. 

One strong suit of aromas is that they can literally smell like anything you can dream of. Apples, pears, mangos, grapes, butterscotch and whisky just  to name a few. They don’t require the massive amounts of plant matter that essentials do, so are also much less expensive to make, which keeps the cost of production down as well as end consumer cost down. Aromas can have the same chemicals that essentials have, but have additional synthesized chemicals to create the vast array of aroma choices.  One can also combine essentials and aromas to create unique personal blends, which Oola does frequently. Aromas will also be long lasting in your product.

*Criteria for Skin. There is a big difference between soap and other products when it comes to essentials vs aromas and the health criteria there-in. A lotion gets applied and is left on the skin to absorb.This is why an essential might be preferred to an aroma. On the other hand, with soap, it is administered to the skin and is washed off within a few seconds, which is why an aroma is more than fine. One can use aromas in lotions of course. It is done all the time, but it is just something to bear in mind.*

Aromas do not have the healing benefits of essentials. Though, I have found the smell of lavender, whether essential or aroma, gives me a peaceful feeling. Placebo effect for sure, but if it works psychologically then it too is doing its job on some level I think.


*Less than two percent of people have true fragrant allergies, in both/or either essentials and/or aromas. If you happen to fall in this category your best bet is to buy scentless everything. For those who don’t enjoy certain essentials or aromas, then seek products that are scent free or only lightly scented. One does not have to have an actual allergy to find scents disturbing. By all means buy products that cause pleasure and not annoyance.*

Essentials and aromas are both created from highly fragrant chemicals.

Neither are chemical free.

 You can download certificates of analysis from reputable companies to see this for yourself.(New Directions is great for this by the way.)

This analysis will break down all the chemicals/compounds in your essentials/aromas.

Here is a list of  26 highly fragrant chemicals that overlap in both essentials and aromas (as composed by the EU) that are most likely to cause allergies. I will make bold the ones that overlap in both essentials and aromas and occur naturally in essentials. 

Amyl cinnamal                                   Anise alcohol

Benzyl alcohol                                    Benzyl cinnamate

Cinnamyl alcohol                   Faresol

Citral                                       Butylphenyl

Eugenol                                  Methylpropional

Hydroxycitronellal                 Linalool

Isoeugenol                              Benzyl benzoate

Amyl cinnamyl alcohol           Citronellol Hexyl cinnamal

Benzyl salicylare                     Limonene (d-limonene)

Cinnamal                                Methyl 2-octnoate

Coumarin                               Alpha-Isomethyl ionene

Geraniol                                  Evernia prunastri

Hydoxyisohexy                        Evernia furfuracea

3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde

So if you are sensitive to say Citral, you will have a reaction whether you are using an essential or an aroma.

Once again, as in my other FAQ documents, know your sources. Trust your sources. I am not a chemist and unless you are one, charts and analysis will look like a foreign language …because they are.  One just has to stay as informed  and move forward from there.

You can also look up the IFRA , International Fragrance Association to read about every ingredient that might be used. They check of course for things like carcinogens. One must ask the question, ‘Can they be trusted to evaluate correctly with this science?’ I tend to think yes, in that they certainly don’t want lawsuits because of their approved products, but each person has to come their own conclusions.

I would say to think for yourself, do research and don’t assume anything just because you have read an opinion on the internet or have had a friend tell you their opinion. As with many things, there is a lot of hype on both sides of every equation.

You might feel aromas are just not for you. You might find essentials are not for you. You need to decide what makes you comfortable.  There are no blanket statements when it comes to essentials vs aromas. Be informed and rest easy with whatever decision you end up making.

“There are over 3500 materials (aroma chemicals and essential chemicals)   that are approved for use in the fragrance world. Each individual ingredient is tested for things such as irritation, solvency,absorption, to physical characteristics like flash points, specific gravity and flammability as well as more serious things such as carcinogenic indicators etc. Once an ingredient is fully tested, the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal. A group called RIFM (Research institute for Fragrance Materials) performs all the tests.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) is an international organization that represents fragrance manufacturers. IFRA takes the data and reports from RIFM, evaluates it and publishes guidelines for usage. IFRA will make recommendations for which raw materials are safe to use. Often, what is safe for potpourri may not be safe for skin.


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