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What Makes Essential Oil Soaps Different?

In the handmade soap world, the variety of scents is limited only by the soap maker's imagination. So what makes soaps made with essential oils different from the rest? Read on to find out!

What are essential oils?

Within the stems, leaves, seeds, roots, flowers, fruit, and bark of many plants are highly concentrated natural compounds known as essential oils or aromatherapy oils. These powerful compounds protect the plant and give it a unique scent. Just as their scent is unique, so are their health benefits.

Essential oils come from all over the world and are extracted through steam or water distillation or mechanical methods such as cold pressing. Essential oils obtained through chemical processes are not considered "true" essential oils.

There are four main methods of using essential oils:

  1. Aromatically (inhaling)

  2. Topically (on the skin)

  3. Ingesting (drinking in water, for example)

  4. Personal care (in soaps, lotions, shampoo, etc.)

Essential oils are natural, but they are also very powerful and may cause skin sensitization in some individuals. If you are pregnant, nursing, or under a doctors care, consult your physician. It is also advisable to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as almond or coconut.

Essential oils vs Fragrance oils

Whereas essential oils are natural and made from plants,"fragrance oils," "fragrance blends," or "aroma oils" are synthetic products made in a lab. They can be made of diluted pure essential oils, but are often cut with various synthetic materials. Many soap makers choose to use fragrance oils instead of essential oils because:

  1. their scent is stronger, and it lasts longer.

  2. they are far cheaper.

  3. the fragrance possibilities are endless.

Generally speaking, much of the public does not know the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils. So if there is no perceived difference, people tend to gravitate towards and purchase soaps made with fragrance oils because of the same reasons listed above. However, for those who choose to purchase handmade soaps because they prefer an all-natural product, they need to be careful because no soap made with synthetic fragrance oils is all-natural.

The lack of knowledge about fragrance is largely due to the fact that the manufacturers legally do not have to list their ingredients because they are considered proprietary. According to the Environment Working Group's website:

"When you see "fragrance" on a personal care product's label, read it as "hidden chemicals." A major loophole in FDA's federal law lets manufacturers of products like shampoo, lotion, and body wash include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name "fragrance" without actually listing the chemical."

Sadly, much of the time, a toxic cocktail of chemicals that are linked to allergies, asthma, cancer, disrupting hormones, neurotoxicity, and more are hiding under the word "fragrance."

Why use essential oils in soap?

Scenting handmade soaps with pure essential oils rather than synthetic fragrance oils has a variety of benefits:

  1. they enhance the aroma of soap naturally.

  2. they promote healthy skin.

  3. the aroma of essential oils has therapeutic properties.

  4. they contain natural preservatives.

  5. reduce toxins and allergen chemicals from the body and home.

Benefits of specific essential oils

There are at least 90 different essential oils available on the market today. Below is a list commonly used in soap making. Each has healing and therapeutic properties. Here are just a few ways essential oils can help the mind and body:

Bergamot -

  • aids digestion

  • diminishes scars

  • helps acne, eczema, psoriasis & skin blemishes

  • promotes hair growth

  • uplifts the mood

Cedarwood -

  • fights infection

  • fosters focus

  • helps acne, eczema & dry, red, itchy skin

  • helps hair loss & dry scalp

  • promotes sleep

Cinnamon Leaf -

  • enhances mood

  • helps acne, eczema & psoriasis

  • moisturizes

  • promotes anti-aging

  • tightens & tones the skin

Clove -

  • helps acne & diminishes scars

  • anti-aging & anti-fungal

  • fights infections

  • reduces excess oil on the skin

  • tightens large pores

Coffee -

  • energizing

  • fights acne & signs of aging

  • protects the skin

  • reduces fine lines, redness & sunspots

  • stimulates relaxation

Eucalyptus -

  • boosts mental clarity

  • helps respiratory conditions & allergies

  • nourishes skin

  • pain-relieving

  • provides moisture to itchy skin rashes

Fir Needle -

  • destroys sweat & dirt odors

  • improves respiratory function

  • increases energy

  • relaxes the body

  • stimulates & uplifts the mind

Geranium -

  • helps acne, eczema, & psoriasis

  • balances out skin moisture & oil levels

  • diminishes dark spots

  • softens wrinkles

  • uplifts the mood

Grapefruit -

  • helps acne & reduces the appearance of blemishes

  • balances & uplifts the mood

  • heals & tones skin

  • lowers stress

  • refreshes the mind & body

Lavender -

  • helps acne, eczema, & psoriasis

  • balances the skins moisture levels

  • diminishes dark spots

  • improves mood & reduces stress

  • soften wrinkles & signs of anti-aging

Lemon -

  • anti-acne & anti-aging

  • helps cleanse toxins from the body

  • reduces large pores

  • restores luster to dull, dry skin

  • uplifts mood & reduces stress

Litsea Cubeba -

  • fights infections

  • protects & heals damaged skin

  • induces relaxation & promotes sleep

  • reduces stress & uplifts the mood

  • treats digestive-related issues

Orange -

  • fights acne & blemishes

  • helps reduce pain

  • improves appearance of skin

  • promotes weight loss

  • reduces anxiety, enhances mood, improves sleep

Patchouli -

  • helps acne, eczema, & psoriasis

  • improves anxiety, stress, & mental clarity

  • regenerates the skin

  • fights the signs of aging

  • reduces pain & inflammation

Peppermint -

  • aids digestive conditions

  • boosts energy

  • eases pain from headaches & migraines

  • helps acne & eczema

  • relieves stress

Roman Chamomile -

  • brightens the skin & fades dark spots

  • eases anxiety & nervous system issues

  • helps acne, eczema & signs of aging

  • promotes youthful-looking skin

  • reduces stress & elicits calm

Spearmint -

  • eases acne, dermatitis & itchy skin

  • minimizes skin flaws

  • speeds wound healing

  • soothes digestive upset

  • uplifts mood

Tea Tree (also known as melaleuca) -

  • helps acne

  • Athlete's Foot

  • diminishes dark spots

  • soothes skin rashes

  • speeds healing


Not all soaps, handmade or commercial, are equal. What you put on your body matters, and you only have one so take good care of it. The next time you are shopping for soap, take a look at the ingredients, and please consider trying handmade soaps made with pure essential oils. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Made with love in Redmond, Oregon


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