Beard products are known not only for their conditioning and styling properties but also for the wonderful range of scents they come in. Many men choose one oil over another simply because it smells better. The wide selection of scents on the market is what truly makes the beard care industry so diverse and interesting.
However, not all scents are created equally. There is a divide in the bearded community that causes a large amount of debate on essential oils vs. fragrance oils and which has its place in beard care products.
In the world of fragrance, there are a lot of complex details that affect the outcome and health properties of your beard products, and today we’re hoping to break those down for you. To start out we’ll discuss fragrance oils. They’re a bit more complex so we’ll try to make it as simple as possible.
Fragrance oils are scents that are usually chemically derived and always come from a lab. There are some naturally derived fragrance oils as well, but we’ll get into those in a bit. First, let’s talk about synthetic fragrance oils.
There are truly two types of synthetic fragrance oils: standard synthetic fragrance oils and “nature identical” fragrance oils. Both are equally unnatural and formed with chemical compounds, but let’s talk specifics. \
Standard Fragrance Oils
Standard fragrance oils are made in a lab from synthetic compounds and are made almost entirely with petroleum by-products. These include benzene, aldehydes, toluene, and other known toxic chemicals. They are very cheap to use and contain scent binders and phthalates which means the scent will last a very long time. These scents can be produced through chemical reactions to make a scent that cannot be achieved in nature.
Nature Identical Fragrance Oils
This is a pretty deceiving way to name these because they are in fact entirely synthetic and also created in a lab. The main difference here is that these scents are created to be an exact replication of its essential oil counterpart. This means that while it is completely synthetic and unnatural, it’s an exact match of a molecule found in nature and so produces a natural smelling scent.
These are often listed as “fragrance”, “parfum”, or “nature identical” oils on ingredients lists. Some fragrance oils may also contain a small percentage of essential oils, however, this does not mean they are truly natural.
Natural Fragrance Oils
Now here is where things start to get a little hairy. Natural fragrance oils blur the line between natural and synthetic in that they are created in a lab, but they are made using natural ingredients. The main characteristic of natural fragrance oil is that it is created by isolating one of the natural aromatic components from a complex scent such as that of a flower or wood (called isolates).
Natural fragrance oils are simply a blend of these isolates that are actually extracted using the same process as essential oils. The main difference is that when you extract an essential oil you’re extracting the entire scent compound from that material, whereas with the isolate you are extracting a single scent molecule.
The main issue that I see with fragrance oils is that there is no government regulation or transparency on behalf of the fragrance manufacturers. Because these compounds are considered “proprietary information” or “trade secrets” they are not required to list or identify ingredients in their oils. This means they could contain synthetic surfactants, unhealthy isolates, or even some other ingredients that they are not required to list. So while they may say they are natural, there is no guarantee.
The essential oils within a plant are powerfully fragrant and concentrated and are the pure natural aromatic essences from these plants. They have unique chemical profiles and their scents can vary slightly depending on the time of harvesting, region, and other various factors. This means that your blend may have very subtle variations to give you a unique and fresh experience with every new product you purchase.
They are not only natural and smell amazing, but they also have therapeutic and healing properties, which cannot be said for their synthetic counterparts.
Pros and Cons
Now that we’ve given a brief run-down on each type of fragrance, let’s go over the pros and cons of using each.
- Completely natural
- Typically have more complex scent profiles than natural fragrance oils
- Healing and therapeutic properties
- Typically a bit more pricey than fragrance oils
- Allows for subtle variations in scent profiles
Natural Fragrance Oils:
- More consistency in blends
- Can have scent binders so they last longer
- Less expensive, but this may not reflect in the price of your products
- Contain no natural synergy (minimal therapeutic benefits)
- Lack of transparency in ingredients
- Lack of regulation
There is a lot of debate in the community regarding where your scents should come from. There are no right answers, but hopefully, we were able to clear the air for you on this subject so that you can make your own decision.
To keep things simple, JC Grooming has a commitment to transparency and a focus on our customers. This means that we only ever use pure therapeutic grade essential oils, and list the entire ingredient list on the bottle and on our site. We want our customers to be completely informed so they can rest assured that their products are exactly what they are expecting. This is a standard we set for ourselves, and by no means is this something you need to hold yourself to. We have just chosen this to eliminate any need for concern or confusion and we believe that we can still create some truly unique, incredible scents with the essential oils offered to us by nature.
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