• Nikki MacDonnell

What’s really in your candle fragrance...

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

(and do you need to know?)

A common misconception is that ‘natural’ is better for you than ‘synthetic’. While this is often true, when it comes to the subtle art of perfumery this is not necessarily the case.

When creating our original William & Emerson soy wax candles we have a vast array of natural essential oils and synthetic fragrance oils in our sensory palette. Each has its place in the world of perfumery. In fact, many fragrance combinations are often a blend of the two.

Candle fragrance can be made from either synthesized or natural chemicals or synthesized naturally sourced ingredients. Sound confusing? Let’s take a closer look.

Natural essential oils

Essential oils are derived from plants and flowers. They contain many beneficial therapeutic properties. However, the very nature of manufacturing natural oils makes them expensive. An enormous amount of plant material is required to produce a tiny amount of oil. For example, 30 roses will make about one drop of essential oil!

Most essential oils are also extremely volatile and don’t react well to heat. When used in candles they tend to fade quicker than synthetic fragrances. There are a few, like patchouli and lemongrass, that are known to perform well. But these are the exception.

Interestingly, the ‘natural’ fragrance industry is not as heavily regulated as synthetic fragrances. Yet many essential oils can be harmful to pets. People can also have an allergic response and/or adverse reactions to them. Without the extensive scrutiny that synthetics have received since the 1950s, there is less safety information available on essential oils to draw from.

Synthetic fragrance oils

In contrast, the Synthetic fragrance Industry has been conducting extensive research for almost 70 years. I have to say we find this extremely reassuring! The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RFIA) is a self-regulating industry that evaluates and analyses every synthetic perfumery ingredient developed. Then, there is the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), who interpret the data from the RFIA, approve aroma chemicals and set the standards for safety.

The technology around producing synthetic fragrances is now extremely sophisticated and refined. The vast array of perfume notes available truly boggles the mind.

Apart from being cheaper to produce, synthetics can outperform essential oils in various ways. Especially in the areas of aroma strength and longevity. They are actually kinder to the environment too. Synthetics don’t need the resources required to grow and process several pounds of Gardenia petals just to get a single drop of oil.

Like anything, there are pros and cons to both natural and synthetic oils. Here, at William & Emerson, we create our products by using the best of both and are reassured by the fact our materials are all RIFM and IFRA approved.

You can find out more information at RIFM and IFRA.