Essential Oils and Aroma Oils: Key Differences You Should Know

Essential oils and aroma oils are not the same. Learn how they differ in extraction, purity, and uses to choose the right one for your needs.

Best Home Aroma
By Best Home Aroma

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The key differences between essential oils and aroma oils are important to understand. Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts, capturing the ‘essence’ of the plant’s fragrance and beneficial properties. Aroma oils, conversely, are synthetic fragrances designed to mimic the scents of plants and essential oils.

While aroma oils can be pleasant to smell, they lack the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Ensure you understand the difference between these two extracts before using these natural oils.

Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants’ roots, leaves, seeds, and flowers. They contain the true essence of the plant in a highly concentrated form. Essential oils are volatile, aromatic compounds obtained through distillation or mechanical pressing of plant materials.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for their therapeutic and aromatic benefits. They are commonly used today in aroma therapy and natural medicine. Some of the potential benefits of essential oils include:

    • Stress and anxiety relief: Lavender, bergamot, and chamomile essential oils have calming properties that can help reduce anxiety and stress
    • Improved sleep: Essential oils can have sedative effects that help induce sleep. Lavender oil, in particular, is known for its relaxing properties.
    • Pain relief: Peppermint, eucalyptus, and frankincense oils are natural pain relievers and can reduce inflammation.
    • Enhanced mood: Using citrus essential oils like lemon, grapefruit, and orange can boost your mood and ease depression symptoms.

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Essential oils should be properly diluted in carrier oil before applying to the skin. They can also be inhaled directly or diffused in an essential oil diffuser to scent your home. When used safely and properly, essential oils offer a natural solution to promote health and wellness.

What Are Aroma Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts, capturing their natural aroma compounds. Aroma oils, conversely, are synthetic fragrances designed to mimic the scents of essential oils and natural extracts. While essential oils are sourced from botanicals, aroma oils are created inorganic.

what are aroma oils
  • Aroma or fragrance oils are synthetic fragrances formulated in a lab to smell like essential oils and natural scents. They are made from synthetic aroma chemicals and do not contain the beneficial natural compounds found in essential oils. Aroma oils are used primarily for scenting products like candles, soaps, and cosmetics.
  • Avoid products labelled “fragrance” or “perfume”, as these likely contain synthetic aromas rather than essential oils. Look for phrases such as “100% pure essential oil” or “all-natural essential oil.”
  • You should choose a reputable brand and ensure the plant name (e.g., Lavandula angustifolia) is listed to ensure you get high-quality, uncontaminated essential oil. Aroma oils may be refined for scenting products, but essential oils provide natural wellness benefits.

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By understanding the differences between these types of oils, you can choose the right one for your needs and avoid misleading products. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer. Always ask the manufacturer if their scented oils are 100% natural essential oils or synthetic aroma oils.

The Main Differences Between Essential Oils and Aroma Oils​

Essential oils and aroma oils often need clarification, but there are key differences you should understand.

difference essential and aroma oils
Source and Processing

Essential oils are derived from plants’ roots, leaves, seeds, or peels through distillation or cold pressing. They contain the plant’s aroma compounds and natural chemicals. Aroma oils, conversely, are synthetic fragrances made from artificial ingredients to mimic the scent of essential oils and natural extracts. They do not offer the therapeutic benefits of essential oils.

Purity and Quality

Essential oils contain the essence of the plant in a concentrated form. High-quality essential oils are 100% pure plant extracts with no additives or synthetic ingredients.

They are carefully distilled to preserve the natural balance and potency of the plant’s constituents. Aroma oils, however, are artificially created using laboratory-formulated fragrances and chemicals. They do not have the purity or natural therapeutic properties of essential oils.


Essential oils have many uses, from aromatherapy to home cleaning to natural remedies. Aroma oils are primarily used for fragrances, such as candles, lotions, and perfumes. They lack the versatility and holistic benefits of essential oils.

Aroma and essential oils may seem interchangeable due to their fragrant nature, but there are significant differences in their source, purity, quality, and uses.

For essential oils’ wellness and therapeutic benefits, choose 100% pure essential oils over synthetic aroma oil alternatives. You can choose between these two popular oil types by understanding these key distinctions.

How Essential Oils Are Extracted

Essential oils are extracted from plants through various methods that preserve natural chemical compounds. The most common forms are steam distillation, cold pressing, and solvent extraction.

Steam Distillation

Steam distillation is the most popular method for extracting essential oils from plants. The plant material is placed in a still, and steam is passed through. The moisture causes the plant cells to rupture and release the essential oils.

The essential oil vapour and steam are then condensed back into a liquid, which separates from the water. This method works well for extracting essential oils from leaves, flowers, and stems. Popular essential oils extracted through steam distillation include lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, and tea tree.

Cold Pressing

Cold pressing, or expression, extracts essential oils from citrus peels. The peels are punctured and then squeezed to release the essential oils.

No heat is applied, so the essential oils retain their natural chemical composition. Cold pressing produces essential oils such as lemon, orange, grapefruit, and lime.

Solvent Extraction

Solvent extraction uses chemicals to dissolve the essential oils from plant materials. The plant matter is mixed with a solvent, such as hexane or ethanol. The essential oils dissolve into the solvent; then, the plant matter is filtered out.

The solvent is evaporated, leaving behind the concentrated essential oil. Solvent extraction is used for plants that do not produce essential oils in high enough quantities for steam distillation or cold pressing. Solvent-extracted essential oils include rose, jasmine, tuberose, and neroli.

The extraction method significantly impacts an essential oil’s chemical composition, aroma, colour, and price. Essential oils extracted through natural processes like steam distillation or cold pressing are considered more desirable and cost more than those extracted using chemical solvents.

When choosing essential oils, check the extraction method to ensure you purchase a high-quality, natural product.


How Aroma Oils Are Produced

Unlike essential oils, aroma oils are not extracted from plants through distillation or cold pressing. Instead, aroma oils are synthetically produced using chemical compounds that mimic the scents of natural essential oils. They are made from synthetic aroma chemicals and aromatic compounds in a laboratory.

Production Process

The production of aroma oils involves combining various synthetic aromatic chemicals to recreate the scent of natural essential oil.

Manufacturers first analyze the chemical composition of an essential oil to determine which compounds are responsible for its characteristic fragrance.

They then source or synthesize these compounds and blend them in precise concentrations to develop an aroma oil with a similar scent.

Common methods for producing aroma oil compounds include:

    • Synthesis of aromatic hydrocarbons from petroleum derivatives. For example, limonene can be synthesized to produce citrus-scented aroma oils.
    • Esterification of alcohols and acids. For example, linalyl acetate can be synthesized through esterification to produce lavender-scented aroma oils.
    • Aldehyde synthesis. For example, citral can be synthesized to produce lemongrass-scented aroma oils.
    • Ketone synthesis. For example, methyl ionone can be synthesized to produce violet-scented aroma oils.

While aroma oils may smell similar to essential oils, they lack the beneficial therapeutic compounds in essential oils, such as terpenes and terpenoids.

Consumer goods companies primarily use aroma oils as inexpensive fragrance additives in scented candles, perfumes, air fresheners, and cleaning products. Essential oils are considered superior for therapeutic uses due to their natural chemical complexity.

The key difference between essential and aroma oils is their production process and chemical composition. Essential oils are natural aromatic extracts, while aroma oils are synthetically produced imitations. For health and wellness purposes, essential oils are generally a better choice. But aroma oils serve as a more affordable alternative for commercial fragrancing needs.

Uses and Benefits of Essential Oils

Essential oils have a variety of uses and benefits when properly and carefully used. Some of the primary uses and benefits of essential oils include:

benefits of using essential oils

Essential oils can be used in aromatherapy through methods like diffusion, inhalation, and application to the skin. Diffusing essential oils or inhaling their aroma can improve mood, relieve stress, and promote relaxation.

Certain essential oils are thought to have uplifting properties, while others are more calming. Essential oils may reduce pain, improve skin health, and ease congestion when applied to the skin. However, essential oils should always be properly diluted in carrier oil before applying to the skin.

Natural Remedies

Essential oils have been used as natural remedies for various conditions. For example, peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils may help relieve congestion and make breathing easier. Lavender essential oil is thought to have calming and anxiety-reducing effects and may help improve sleep.

Tea tree oil is valued for its antifungal and antibacterial properties and can naturally treat conditions like athlete’s foot or acne. However, essential oils should not be used to replace medical treatment. It would be best to talk to your doctor before using essential oils to treat any health condition.

Household Uses

Essential oils can be used as natural alternatives for many common household products. For example, lemon or citrus essential oils can be added to water for a natural cleaning solution.

The lavender essential oil can be added to laundry to naturally scent clothes and linens. Using essential oils instead of commercial fragrances and cleaning products is a great way to avoid harsh chemicals in the home.

Essential oils have many potential benefits and uses but must always be used properly and carefully. Essential oils can be a great natural alternative for health, home, and beauty when used responsibly.

Since the FDA does not regulate essential oils, you should thoroughly research and consult your doctor before using them.

Uses and Benefits of Aroma Oils

Unlike essential oils, aroma oils are not extracted from plants but are synthetically produced to mimic natural scents. While they lack the therapeutic properties of essential oils, aroma oils still have useful applications and benefits.


The primary use of aroma oils is to create pleasant scents. They can be used in diffusers, candles, soaps, and lotions to fragrance a space or product. Popular aroma oil scents include lavender, citrus, floral, and woodsy. You can combine multiple aroma oils to create custom fragrances tailored to your preferences.

Relaxation and Stress Relief

Although aroma oils lack the plant compounds found in essential oils that provide physiological and psychological benefits, their pleasant fragrances can still have a relaxing and calming effect. You can reduce stress and improve your mood by diffusing aroma oils such as lavender, chamomile, or sandalwood in your home or workspace.

Therapeutic Benefits

Due to their natural plant compounds, many essential oils have therapeutic properties and health benefits. Aroma oils lack these therapeutic benefits and are mainly used for their fragrance.

Natural Alternative

For those who prefer more natural home fragrance options, high-quality aroma oils can be an excellent alternative to synthetic air fresheners and scented candles, which often contain artificial dyes and chemicals.

Reputable aroma oil brands use natural ingredients and essential oils as a base, then add synthetic aroma compounds to create different scents.
While aroma oils have their uses, they do not provide the same therapeutic benefits as essential oils.

Essential oils from plants contain volatile aromatic compounds with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. For health and wellness applications, essential oils are generally a better option. However, high-quality aroma oils can be a great natural alternative for simple home fragrance and relaxation.

Essential oils and aroma oils differ in their origins and properties, but both have practical uses and benefits in creating a pleasant environment, uplifting mood, and relieving stress. Determining which option suits your needs depends on whether you want fragrance alone or the additional therapeutic benefits of essential oils.

Safety Considerations for Essential Oils and Aroma Oils

Essential and aroma oils can provide various benefits when used properly and safely. To avoid potential hazards, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.

Always Dilute Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can irritate the skin if applied directly. Essential oils on the skin should be diluted in a carrier oil, such as jojoba or sweet almond oil. A general rule of thumb is to use three to five drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.

Do a Patch Test

Before applying an essential oil to a large area of skin, do a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any adverse reactions. Apply a small amount of the diluted essential oil to your inner forearm and wait 24 hours to see if any irritation occurs. This is especially important when using essential oils for the first time or if you have sensitive skin.

Avoid Phototoxic Oils Before Sun Exposure

Some essential oils like bergamot, lemon, and lime contain furocoumarins that can cause phototoxicity or sun sensitivity. Avoid applying these essential oils to skin exposed to sunlight or UV light within 12 to 24 hours of application.

Ingestion and Pregnancy Precautions

Essential oils should typically only be used aromatically or topically and not ingested unless under the guidance of a trained professional. Some essential oils can be toxic if swallowed. Pregnant women should not use essential oils without consulting their doctors. Some essential oils may not be recommended during pregnancy or may require dilution.

Proper Storage

Essential oils should be stored in dark glass bottles away from heat and sunlight. Citrus essential oils usually have a shelf life of 6 to 12 months, while most other essential oils have a shelf life of 2 to 5 years. Keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets.

By following these safety tips, you can enjoy the benefits of essential oils and aroma oils while avoiding potential hazards. Always follow the usage recommendations provided with your essential oils and consult a medical professional if you have any concerns.

Safety and Precautions

Essential oils may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals, especially when undiluted. Proper dilution and safety precautions are required. Aroma oils also require dilution and may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. However, essential oils are generally safer and more natural. Aroma oils contain synthetic chemicals that some may find irritating.

While essential oils and aroma oils can both be used to scent your home or as natural perfumes, there are significant differences in their source, potency, purity, and therapeutic benefits. Do your research and check labels to know what you’re getting. When in doubt, choose essential oils for a natural, holistic option.

Final Thoughts

As you have learned, essential oils and aroma oils are not interchangeable. While both can create pleasant scents, essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts with therapeutic benefits. On the other hand, aroma oils are synthetic fragrances designed primarily for cosmetic purposes.

Before using either essential oils or aroma oils, thoroughly research the specific oil and consult medical guidance if needed. When used properly and safely, essential oils and aroma oils can significantly improve your health, mood, and environment.

However, it is critical to understand the key differences between these two popular oil types to avoid potential risks. Educate yourself and use these powerful oils wisely.

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