Fragrance Oils vs. Essential Oils: Which is Better for Candles?

Choosing candles is tough enough when you're faced with so many options, from multi-wick candles to the different waxes they are made of. Now, the newest option to consider: What kind of oil should you be looking for? With multiple ways to give a candle scent, we’ll help you sort out which option is best for you based on your personal preferences.

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What Are Fragrance Oils?

Fragrance oils are highly concentrated compounds blended into carrier oils. They are chemically designed to be super aromatic as well as break down into lightweight molecules that quickly and easily diffuse and dissipate into the air.

Fragrance oils can be either “natural” or synthetic. Both are produced chemically but with different foundational bases.

Natural Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are considered to be natural when they are recreated by scents that already exist in nature. They are derived from a single molecule of aromatic material sourced naturally and combined with other chemicals to make aromas that are more ranging and complex.

Synthetic Fragrance Oils

On the other hand, synthetic fragrance oils are created entirely in the laboratory using petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are cheap and extremely versatile, so they can create very unique, overarching scents that don’t exist in the natural world. But petrochemicals contain ingredients that can be toxic when used at unsafe levels. Some of these toxins include phthalates, aldehydes, and toluene.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are extracted from plants, sourced from their roots, leaves, bark, or flowers. The oil is created through extraction or steam distillation. The word we use is “essential” because the oils extracted are quite literally the “essence” of the plant.

Although laboratories are required to extract and distill the oils from the plants, they are 100% all-natural from mother nature. Considered to be natural healers for multiple ailments when applied - but since we’re talking candles, there are many aromatherapeutic qualities to speak of. Aromatics are known across cultures to revitalize the body and mind.

Our Favorite Essential Oils for Candles

Not only are essential oils natural, but there is something so divine about reveling in smells from the earth. Not to mention essential oils can help alleviate anxiety, and their potential uses range as far as energizing to inducing calmness and sleep.

  • Sweet Orange: Bright and citrusy, sweet orange can help wake you up and improve focus.
  • Eucalyptus: Offering a sweet, woodsy, natural smell that is both soothing and clarifying. The minty aroma awakens and invigorates your senses and creates a calming sensation.
  • Lavender: Floral, sweet, herby, but subtle, soothing, and calming.
  • Jasmine: Exotic, rich, and sensual, yet delightfully sweet.
  • Grapefruit: Bright and citrus, helps to improve mood.
  • Sandalwood: If you prefer a more musky scent, sandalwood is sweet with notes of cedar and earth.

Some Things To Consider

When shopping for scented candles, you’ll want to consider some factors when deciding whether to go with fragrance oil scented or essential oil scented candles.

Scent Throw

The “scent throw” is a term used to describe the way the scent of something, in our case a candle, circulates throughout a space. Most people shop for a candle with a great scent, but what good is that scent for if it is not potent enough to fill a room?

When it comes to scent throw, fragrance oil scented candles are the winner if you are looking for a candle that you want your guests to smell right when they enter your home. They have a much stronger scent because they are chemically engineered to have expansive scents - that is their purpose.

If you’re after a more subtle, relaxed, barely-there aroma, essential oil fragranced candles are a good bet for you. They won’t be too overpowering or put you at risk of catching one of those “perfume headaches.”

Scent Variety

Since fragrance oils are made in a lab - they have an endless source of variety and infinite aroma combinations that can be put together. From fruity to herbal to spicy to earthy, these chemical formulas have no limit in how they can come across.

Although there is indeed a wide range to choose from, like sweet or musk or mint or citrus, the possibilities are somewhat limited when it comes to essential oils. But -- you must also consider the opportunity candle makers have to combine essential oil scents like sandalwood, which is more earthy and woody, and lavender, which is soothing and floral.

Another factor to consider that makes it unique is that since essential oils are made from nature’s materials, they are not always consistent. As opposed to a synthetic fragrance oil where the same process is carried out to create the same aroma, essential oil fragrances can change based on their environments -- since they are naturally grown, they are subject to changes in climate. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  • Essential Oil Combinations

Wicksly, a monthly candle subscription, curates candles to your unique personal preference. We have the best seasonally sourced essential oils that showcases our ability to combine essential oils and make just as creative scents as lab-created synthetics.

  • Aromatic Notes

These varieties can even offer you aroma notes to decipher and enjoy. Similar to the way you appreciate each subtle flavoring in your class of Chardonnay, from grilled pear to buttery cedar, you can analyze the varying layers of your carefully curated essential oil candle.

The Language of Fragrance

When sitting back and appreciating the depth of aromas emitting from your favorite lit candle, follow this guide to enhance your experience:

  • What Do You Smell First? The top notes of the scent are the initial smells that draw you in, recognizing there is a new scent in the air. These top notes are usually lighter and often tend to be either citrusy or floral. But, just because you smell them first doesn’t mean they will stick around long -- they are just what is hitting your nose first.
  • What is the Most Prominent Smell? The middle notes, aka the “heart,” are the balance between the top notes and the base notes. This is the smell that will linger as long as the candle’s scent does. These are usually bright fruits or florals or lighter earthy and woody tones.
  • What is the Lingering, Lasting Smell? The base notes are the anchor. They provide the most depth and longevity. Often being vanilla, spice, or musky, these aromas will linger in the room after the candle has been put out.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Whether you decide on a fragrance oil or essential oil candle, it very much depends on your preference and what you are searching for in a candle. So keep these tips on the top of your mind next time you go shopping for your next candle to set the mood you’re pining for.


What's the difference between all-natural and chemical-based fragrances? | How Stuff Works

Fragrance Oil Blending 101 | Tips, Ideas, and Recipes | Candle Science

15 Best Essential Oils - What Essential Oils Are, What They Work For | Women’s Health Mag

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