Essential Oils and Synthetic Fragrances: On the Scent
Through the experience they give us, the emotions they make us feel and the atmosphere they create, aromas allow us to connect with ourselves and with others. Conducive to well-being, they have this ability to take us on a journey, to bring back sweet memories, and even, to make us experience a real sensory escape.
These days, aromas are everywhere around us (and even on us). In household products, air fresheners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets, candles, home fragrances and, of course, personal care products. But do you know where these smells that punctuate your daily life are coming from?
We sometimes tend to forget it or simply ignore it, but despite scents that often recall nature, many products found in stores are scented using synthetic components created in laboratories, and not plant extracts in the form of essential oils.
And even if synthetic fragrances and essential oils share this property of releasing a pleasant smell, they are otherwise different in every way, from their production method to their composition and their therapeutic value. Let us explain…
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are powerful botanical compounds obtained by extracting the oils present in certain plants, whether in the roots, flowers or foliage, in order to bring out their aromas, their beneficial properties, and even their flavors. Processes like distillation – mainly – and cold pressing are used to perform the extraction.
The composition of essential oils is completely natural and free of ingredients derived from petrochemicals. They are also said to be pure, as they are not diluted, mixed or processed, and contain no additives.
Unlike synthetic fragrances, aromas from essential oils are “limited” to the smells found in nature. Also, they are only noticeable while being used, as they then slowly evaporate.
Beyond their pleasant smell, essential oils are true gifts of nature for our well-being! They have many emotional, mental and physical benefits and can be used aromatically, but also topically and internally.
At Oneka, we have made the conscious decision to create our aromas using plants in the form of essential oils. We believe that through their botanical origin and their therapeutic benefits, they can induce a connection to nature and to one’s true essence.
Just because essential oils are natural doesn’t mean their use should be taken lightly! Although derived from plants, essential oils are composed of (natural) chemical molecules and can also have negative effects. For example, cinnamon essential oil has antiseptic and astringent properties, but is very irritating to the epidermis and should be used with caution on the skin.
There are also many contraindications and warnings surrounding the use of essential oils, especially in children, babies and pregnant women.
Of course, at Oneka, the essential oils found in our various products have been dosed to avoid any inflammation or reactions, andour fragrance-free range is there for people who are very sensitive or reactive.
What are synthetic fragrances?
Synthetic fragrances are man-made in labs to reproduce the aroma of essential oils or create specific smells that do not exist in the botanical world (campfire, fresh linen, clean air, etc.).
These are made from ingredients derived from petrochemicals and contain solvents, preservatives and dyes. In order to make their smell last longer, parabens and phthalates are also added to them.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, nearly 3,000 chemical ingredients are used to create fragrances!
What impact on our planet’s health?
After reading the previous paragraph, one might think that only synthetic fragrances have consequences for the health of our planet. But as soon as there is transformation, there is a cost for the environment, even if when it comes to natural products.
Of course, the production of synthetic fragrances brings its share of negative effects for nature due, among other things, to their composition. Indeed, they contain non-renewable ingredients, including those derived from petrochemicals, as well as solvents that diffuse into the air and are toxic to the environment. In addition, synthetic musks, present in soaps or shower gels, for example, end up in our waterways, thus increasing the level of sediment.
As for essential oils, a resource-intensive extraction, the use of pesticides for the cultivation of plants and the intensive harvesting of sometimes endangered plant species also bring their share of harm to our planet.
At Oneka, for our products to be as gentle as possible on all living beings, we are constantly scouting for forward thinking essential oil suppliers with whom we share mutual environmental standards. We also work with essential oils that are not harmful for the water ecosystems intrinsically or in their dosage. We select plant varieties that are harvested sustainably, with respect to their capacity to renew themselves.
What impact on human health?
In terms of their impact on human health, synthetic fragrances and essential oils are very different.
Unnatural fragrances contain several ingredients that can be harmful to us when frequently exposed to them. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, synthetic fragrances can cause a range of adverse health effects, such as headaches, respiratory problems, asthma attacks and even loss of consciousness. Some sources also mention hormonal disturbances.
Indeed, synthetic fragrances release particles called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which pollute the air in our homes and affect its quality, in addition to penetrating our lungs. In addition, synthetic fragrances in skincare products and even laundry detergents dry out the skin and can irritate the epidermis, and even cause rashes.
By using several scented products daily, we end up constantly in contact with synthetic fragrances, which can increase the risk of reacting to them.
When it comes to essential oils, as mentioned, these can have many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits when choosing the right plant for our needs.
However, despite their plant origin, they are not harmless either! That’s why it is very important to know how to use them properly and to be aware of the contraindications associated with the oils you wish to use in order to do so safely.
Of course, commercial products scented with essential oils, including ours, are manufactured so that they are safe to use for adults*.
*As mentioned previously, there are contraindications surrounding the use of essential oils in pregnant women, children and babies. As they are present in our products, we recommend seeking the advice of your doctor before using them or opting for our unscented range.
In conclusion, we hope that this information will lead you to start thinking about the different fragrances and aromas that surround you. The purpose of this article is certainly not to make you fear scented products! But rather to bring awareness, and maybe, help you make more conscious decisions when choosing your shower gel, laundry detergent and dish soap!