People often use the term fragrance oil (FO) and essential oil (EO) interchangeably when it comes to scenting soap, but they really are a very different thing.
Fragrance oils are synthetic or artificially manufactured scents that mimic real fragrances or provide a concept of a perceived fragrance, such as peach, lemon, chocolate, or certain flowers. Fragrance oils won’t have any other perceived or potential health benefits.
Essential oils have been long deemed as providing not only skin nourishing effects but also other benefits, such as invoking feelings of calm, assisting sleep, relaxing muscles or clearing sinuses. And whilst I don’t advocate for making uncertified health claims, I can definitely attest to my own personal responses to the use of some of these natural items like eucalyptus or lavender, in achieving the above.
Using fragrance oils or essentials oils is really up to not only the soapers personal preference, but what you wish to achieve. If you’re doing wedding favours soap bars and the theme is pink champagne, then it would make sense to scent a soap with a fragrance oil to achieve that requirement. Neither is wrong or right.
Most importantly to note is that essential oils are also added into soaps to satisfy a particular response. If making an activated charcoal face soap, you may be more inclined to use peppermint EO for its potential benefits, some of which include its effects on inflammation or itching, or mild antimicrobial properties toward bacteria and yeast. Though studies are mixed, there are positive attributes to using not only peppermint EO, but many other EOs in the formation of soaps and other handmade products.
But because the majority of our soaps are truly natural, we want to stick to using essential oils where possible. And this means sometimes we may have to whip up a blend to achieve a certain requirement.
As essential oils are extracts for the roots, stems, leaves, barks, flowers, wood and resin of actual plants, they can come with a variety of scent bases. These could range from herbal, woody, floral or spicy scents. What affects the final result of a blended scent is how a soaper chooses to use different EOs in the top, middle and base notes.
Let’s discuss this in more detail.
Ordinarily, essential oils that tend to evaporate faster are classified as top notes and form the first impression of the soap. This is the first smell you get. They will usually also have anti-viral traits in them and are generally very affordable.
Top notes are important because of their fresh and uplifting scents. However, they are quite volatile and their scents are fleeting. Such essential oils include eucalyptus, grapefruit, hyssop, lemon, orange, peppermint, lemongrass and basil.
Middle notes are subtle scents in a blend and tend to be warm and soft fragrances. They are great for a balancing effect on the blend and serve the purpose of giving body to a blend of scents. These include essential oils such as black pepper, cardamom, hyssop, geranium, marjoram, pine, rosemary, nutmeg, and yarrow.
Base oils make for great stabilizers in a blend due to their ‘heaviness’, as they help slow down the evaporation of other oils. They tend to be the most expensive essential oils because the intensity of their fragrance, which lingers for longer.
Some base note essential oils include but not limited to cedarwood, clove, frankincense, jasmine, myrrh, patchouli, rosewood, vanilla, and vetiver.
Some commonly used EOs
This is not an exhaustive list of EOs or their potential blends, but here are some of the more commonly available and used EOs in CP soap making:
- Rosemary oil
- Lemon oil
- Cedarwood oil
- Lavender oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Patchouli oil
- Clary sage oil
- Sweet orange oil
- Peppermint oil
- Bergamot oil
- Tea Tree oil
- Pine oil
Using essential oils when formulating CP soap has great health benefits that occur aromatically, as well as fostering healthier and smoother skin owing to the many natural ingredients possessed in the oil. We use AWO to source our essential oils, and our current favourites are Pine Scotch and Bush Balm. They have that fresh, forest aroma that reminds you of droplets of dew, ferns and being in the bush.
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