Pouring out lavender essential oils in Cedar's  candle making studio in Ancoats, Manchester.

When I released Cedar’s Core Collection last year, I made the switch from fragrance oils to essential oils. This was a super steep learning curve for me as a candle maker that ultimately transformed Cedar products, and went on to shape my business.

It’s understandably easy to get confused between essential and fragrance oils or even work out which has been used in your candle. I mean, they’re oils. They smell amazing. What’s the difference? Well, quite a lot as it turns out! For this reason, I thought it might be interesting to unpack the differences between the two. I’ll look at the pros and cons of essential oils and fragrance oils in candles, and shed some light on why I personally enjoy working with essential oils so much.


Essential oils are natural compounds that have been extracted from different parts of a plant. It is the essential oils within plants that give them their unique smell and flavour. Essential oils have been used in aromatherapy for centuries. We obtain them through a process of distillation, or via cold pressing.


Fragrance oils are manmade and artificially created from chemical compounds in a lab. They are widely used by the majority of candle brands. Fragrance oils occasionally contain small amounts of essential oils. To confuse things further, you can also get fragrance oils that mimic the scent of essential oils.

The key thing to remember is:

  • Fragrance oils are made by us.
  • Essential oils are made by plants.


  • Essential oils offer a nice, light, clean aroma that’s always long-lasting. They fill a room gradually and steadily and will never overpower you as you sometimes find with certain fragrance oils.
  • Essential oils have aromatherapy benefits that can improve your emotional and psychological wellbeing. When, for example, you inhale a Selene candle, you’ll experience notes of lavender, frankincense and patchouli essential oils, all of which are known to have calming, soporific qualities.
  • Essential oils are made with completely natural ingredients. So you know exactly what’s in your candle and where it’s come from. They also work well with other natural ingredients. If you combine an essential oil with the right wax, such as coconut and rapeseed, it will really improve your scent throw.
  • Essential oils are incredibly versatile. As a maker you can get your creative juices flowing, blending and experimenting to create all kinds of interesting scent notes.
  • An essential oil blend is both bespoke and unique. You won’t get it elsewhere. To work with essential oils, is to create a truly original product. Every Cedar blend is developed and created by me. Not in a lab.


  • Fragrance oils are a lot better value for money. They don’t have to go through a steam distillation process like essential oils, they’re synthetic, which means you can buy greater quantities at a lower cost. As a maker you can therefore produce more for less, and as a buyer, this should be reflected in a lower price point. If it’s not…well, that’s not good.
  • Fragrance oils are man made, and man made products are all about economy and efficiency. You don’t need as much fragrance oil to scent a candle. In fact, a little goes a long way.
  • Fragrance oils can come in a wider variety of scents. Think sea salt, driftwood, leather, tobacco or even fruits such as apple or fig. Any slightly outlandish scent that isn’t derived from a plant will be from a fragrance oil.
  • Fragrance oils are intense. If used well they can give a super strong hot throw when burning. It can be a real sensory hit.


I’ll keep this brief because I don’t want to be too negative either way, and because I know lots of makers who make beautiful candles. Some that use fragrance oils. Some, like me, who enjoy working with essential oils. But Cedar is all about transparency and simplicity. So suffice to say that every essential oil benefit is the disadvantage of the fragrance oil, and vice versa.

Fragrance oils:

  • Do not have aromatherapy benefits.
  • Are synthetic, created with unknown ingredients
  • The scent can be overwhelming due to the potency of blends. Sometimes this can even make you feel a bit heady. 
  • Are pre-made and pre-mixed, will rarely be unique.

Essential oils:

  • Have a higher price point.
  • Essential oils take a lot of know-how. The process involves a great deal of trial and error to get a blend right and create the right hot scent throw.
  • More limited scent options

If you want to know more about blending oils I run candle making workshops all over the UK. To find out more, click here .