Natural fragrances are created with essential oils extracted from plants, flowers or animals (musk). They can also be made from natural isolates that are odour molecules “isolated” from essential oils.
Synthetic fragrances are produced from man-made materials such as petrochemicals (petroleum-based chemicals).
When we inhale through the nose, airborne molecules interact with our olfactory organs which send a signal to the limbic system in our brain which is the centre of emotions. But these molecules are also carried to the lungs. Therefore, they can affect our whole body.
Petrochemicals and their byproducts, such as dioxin, are known to cause many serious health problems, including cancer and endocrine disruption (interference with hormones within your body). Endocrine disruptors interfere with growth, development, intelligence, and reproduction. The damage can be irreversible and be passed on to future generations.
Synthetic fragrances also contain allergens and neurotoxins that affect the immune system and nervous system respectively.
Other ingredients of concern in fragrances are parabens, phthalates and synthetic musks.
Natural fragrances on the other hand are safe to inhale but only if they are diluted (for example in candles and perfumes) or if undiluted, you shouldn’t inhale an essential oil for a long period of time.
When I create new blends and use new batches from essential oils, I always test the strength of each oil by smelling them but I always make sure that I don’t inhale the oils for too long.
Around 75% of scented candles are fragranced with artificial scents because they cost considerably less.
Also candles made with both paraffin wax and fragrance oils (synthetic fragrances) tend to be easier to produce when it comes to giving off a good hot scent throw. The hot scent throw is the strength of the aroma from the hot melted wax, while the cold scent throw is the strength of the aroma when the candle is unlit and the wax is cold.
The fragrance industry is protected with trade secrets and is permitted by ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency to withhold fragrance ingredients, so consumers can’t rely on labels to understand potential health hazards that my lurk inside their perfume bottle or scented candle.
But all is going to change soon with the new EU Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging where manufacturers of chemical mixtures will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category.
So next time you buy a candle, make sure that your candle is made with 100% natural wax and essential oils. And don’t get confused with the term “fragrance oil” which is not the same as “essential oil” and actually means “synthetic fragrance”.
Even when you’re buying a luxury candle, you are probably paying for expensive packaging and branding, and your favourite scent is potentially toxic or even carcinogenic.
I love the natural aromas of essential oils because natural scents are so much more “beautiful” than artificial fragrances. Once you’ve trained your nose to natural aromas, you’ll never want to get back to artificial fragrances/candles!
Which do you prefer? Natural or synthetic fragrances? May be you’ve never tried naturally scented candles before? I’d love to hear your thoughts.