Are Fragrance Oils Safe For Skin? How, Why, Safety Tips


Everyone knows that essential oils when mixed with a carrier oil are perfectly safe to use on skin. 

However, you might be wondering if fragrance oils are safe for the skin! 

Fragrance oils don’t have therapeutic properties as essential oils. This can make it troublesome trying to decide if you can mix it with your DIY beauty creations. Is it safe to mix in soaps, creams, and massage oils? 

In this article, we will find out if fragrance oils are safe to use on your skin and if so how, where, and why! 

Let’s start with the mini answer first to get you started. 

Generally, any synthetic fragrance oil is not recommended to use on the skin as they aren’t safe. This is because they contain known toxic chemicals. Natural fragrance oils could be harmful to the skin but may contain some natural ingredients. Avoid fragrance oil on skin other than diluted essential oils.

With the short answer in mind, let’s now delve a little deeper. 

So we can understand if a fragrance oil is safe, we need to understand what a fragrance is and what it means. 

What does fragrance oil mean for your skin?

In a nutshell, the fragrance oil is an oil that smells nice! So although an oil might have a beautiful aroma, it doesn’t always mean it’s safe to use on skin. 

For that reason, it’s important to find out what ‘type’ of fragrance oil you have and whether it’s liable to damage delicate skin. 

Any fragrance oil you use on your skin must have certain qualities to be safe. 

Let’s start with some safety tips when using fragrance oils on the skin before we explore the topic a little deeper. 

Top tips for fragrance oil safety 

Here at Willowyard, I don’t recommend using synthetic fragrance oils on the skin. 

However, some natural fragrance oils and essential oils overall are safe to use. 

My top tips for making sure skin is your no.1 priority when using fragrance oils. 

  • Check the ingredients on any oil  thoroughly 
  • Do a patch test 24 hours before any major skin usage 
  • Be careful with fragrance oils around any sensitive skin areas ( only use essential oils or natural fragrance oils with a carrier oil) 
  • Do not use any type of fragrance oil, including essential oils all on your skin if you have a specific allergy. 
  • Never use any fragrance oil on your skin containing citronella as it’s not safe to do so 
  • When using any citrus essential oils on your skin always dilute with a carrier oil. This includes orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Good oils for this are hazelnut, jojoba, olive, and avocado oil. 
  • Avoid oils with unregulated terms such as ‘fragrance oil’ and ‘therapeutic grade.’ These oils will have extra ingredients which could be harmful to your skin 

“Here at Willowyard, I don’t recommend using synthetic fragrance oils on the skin.”

Why should fragrance oils be safe for the skin? 

It stands to reason any product such as essential oils and fragrance oils need to have certain properties if they are to be used safely on skin. 

Fragrance oils should be made from pure, natural, and organic ingredients that are safe for your skin and your overall health. 

The skin has an enormous capacity to absorb any kind of oils used on it, so for that reason, fragrance oils need to make sure they don’t contain any chemicals or other nasties. This could cause issues for your skin. 

  • Any type of fragrance oil should not cause any kind of skin irritation such as hives, itching, or blisters 
  • Fragrance oil for use on the skin should contain moisturizing properties. This is so the skin doesn’t become dried out or flaky 
  • Fragrance oils should be safe as around 60% is absorbed directly into the body through the skin. 
  • Fragrance oils should not contain synthetic components. These include petroleum-by- products 
  • Fragrance oils should be made from pure, natural, and organic ingredients that are safe for your skin and your overall health. 
fragrance for oils

Read on to find out more. 

Different types of fragrance oils 

It could be that one type of fragrance oil is safe to use on your skin, whereas another type might not be.

So let’s discover a little more about the different types. Then we can get a better understanding of their safety relating to your precious skin! 

Essential oils 

Although we usually refer to oils taken from plants as ‘essential oils’, they are sometimes referred to as ‘fragrance oils’. 

Essential oils have very different properties to fragrance oil but are generally used for the same purpose. 

Let’s take a quick overview of what they are so we can more easily work out if they are safe for skin. 

  • 100% plant extract In a nutshell an essential oil is a ‘plant extract’ which is made 100% from extracting the oils from the bark, root, flower, or stem of a plant. Some essential oils can be used directly on the skin and most are generally safe to use with a carrier oil. However, it’s not recommended to use peppermint or citrus oils directly into the skin. 
  • Free of animal or synthetic ingredients Essential oils are both free of animal-derived products and synthetic fragrance, unlike many other fragrance oils. Synthetic properties of other fragrance oils can cause allergic reactions or dermatology issues with skin. 
  • Complies with regulations Essential oils must comply with various regulations and safety standards. This means they are more likely to be safer for your skin 
  • No synthetic fragrance Essential oils have no synthetic fragrances added like some fragrance oils. This means they are less likely to cause allergic reactions. So another reason they are safer for skin than a fragrance oil. 
  • Therapeutic properties Essential oils have therapeutic and some skin healing properties which other fragrance oils generally don’t have. This makes them safer overall for skincare 
  • Safe to use on skin Essential oils are probably one of the safest oils to use on your skin, but in general, always dilute with a carrier oil. This is because the oils are very powerful and extremely concentrated 

Essential oils can sometimes be referred to as fragrance oils, which are safer for the skin than synthetically produced oils. 

However, some essential oils are safe to apply directly to your skin.

According to scientific research, both Neroli and lavender are particularly moisturizing and bring skin benefits. 

lavender for skin

Essential oils safe to apply directly to your skin

  • Neroli
  • Geranium 
  • Lavender
  • Frankincense 
  • Tea tree 
  • Rose  
  • Camphor
  • Cypress
  • Chamomile 
  • Sandalwood 

Many of the essential oils are not only safe to use with or without a carrier oil, but they also have a wealth of skin benefits. 

It’s worth understanding that essential oils will never be referred to as ‘fragrance oil’ in a list of ingredients. 

“Essential oils which can sometimes be referred to as fragrance oils are safer for the skin than synthetically produced oils.”

Synthetic fragrance oils 

Let’s look at some key points of fragrance oils to help us better understand if they are skin-safe.

  • Man-made Synthetic fragrance oils are those which have been manufactured and man-made. They will usually contain fragrances that have been synthetically produced. For example, ‘wild cherry’ fragrance oil, will have the ‘cherry’ fragrance created artificially to smell like cherry. 

This could sound like a fragrance you would love to use on your skin, such as in your bath! 

  • May contain essential oils These types of synthetic oils may contain a certain amount of essential oils. 
  • Might have natural elements They may also contain other ‘natural’ elements such as resins and other extracts. For example ‘lemon cupcake’ fragrance oil might contain a certain amount of lemon essential oil. 

For those reasons, you might think it would seem safe to use that fragrance oil directly on your skin as you eat lemon cupcakes. Right? 

Fragrance oils may contain toxic chemicals 

However, most synthetic fragrance oils will be made entirely of man-made blends in a laboratory. 

They will often be completely produced by  by-products of petroleum such as: 

  • Toluene 
  • Aldehydes
  • Benzene derivatives 
  • Other toxic chemicals 

So when we look at how synthetic fragrance oils are made, it’s not surprising to find out they are most likely not safe for use on your skin! 

In the same way, you wouldn’t use petroleum oil as a hand cream! 

Any fragrance oil which has a clever marketing name such as ‘coastal breeze’ or orange bliss is likely to be synthetic oil. 

These types of fragrance oil are not safe for topical use on the skin. 

“When we look at how synthetic fragrance oils are made, it’s not surprising to find out they are most likely not safe for use on your skin! “

fragrance oils

Natural fragrance oils 

Let’s look at some important points to remember when investigating whether they are safe for your skin. 

  • Might be safe for skin A fragrance oil that is advertised as ‘natural’ could be safe for your skin. 
  • It may contain essential oil It will depend on the other ingredients and it could also be that there is a very small amount of ‘essential oil’ in the blend. 
  • Synthetic ingredients Fragrance oils claiming they are ‘nature identical’ should also be avoided for skin as they will most likely contain synthetic elements.
  • Avoid added ingredients Those fragrance oils which have other added ingredients should be avoided as they are most likely not safe to use on skin. 
  • Made using a single scent molecule Natural fragrance oils are usually made using a single scent molecule rather than essential oils. These are made using the entire scent compound of the plant. This could mean artificial scents will be added which might not be safe for the skin. 

How should fragrance oils be safe for the skin? 

So ok, we know why fragrance oils should be safe for the skin. So how do manufacturers make oils safe for the skin? and what kind of skin safety regulations should you look out for? 

Check the ingredients 

It’s worth noting that essential oils, which are naturally aromatic, will never be referred to as a ‘fragrance oil’ in a list of ingredients. 

It stands to reason a natural oil product will always be safer to use on your skin than any chemically made-up fragrance.

When deciding if a fragrance oil is safe for the skin, there are some dangerous ingredients to look out for. 

Any fragrance oil containing the following petrochemical products ( by-products of the petroleum industry), should be completely avoided for the skin.

  • Toluene 
  • Aldehydes
  • Benzene derivatives 
  • Other toxic chemicals 

Avoid using any fragrance oil with toxic ingredients if you are adding to a carrier oil or directly to your skin.  

Also, avoid synthetic fragrance oils in the following home DIY projects: 

  • Homemade soap
  • Massage oil
  • Hand or face cream
  • Bath oil blends and bath bombs 
  • Lip salves 
  • Any skin item designed for children’s use 
  • Skin Moisturizers
  • Skin toners 
fragrance oils in face creams

How are fragrance oils regulated? 

Many fragrance oils are not regulated by the FDA. 

This includes essential oils. Perfume, aftershave, and cologne are. 

The intended use of fragrance oil will determine its regulation and safety. 

It can be pretty mind-boggling to fully understand the regulations of fragrance oil and its safety for the skin! 

For instance, if a fragrance oil will be used mainly for ‘‘lubricating the skin, it will be classed as a ‘cosmetic’. If it has therapeutic claims also, then it will be a drug. It could be regulated as both. 

So the plot thickens! So the safety of most fragrance oils according to regulations will rely on: 

  • What the oil is used for
  • Whether it’s a cosmetic 
  • If it’s intended for use also as a drug ( therapeutic claims) such as essential oils 
  • If it’s going to be used for its therapeutic claims and also as a cosmetic 

What do I do if I get a synthetic fragrance oil on my skin? 

So you might be wondering what to do if you accidentally spill any fragrance oil on your skin. 

Treat as you would any other chemical spill by washing well under running water and if any unusual symptoms appear such as shortness of breath, rashes, hives or blisters occur, contact your health professional. 

And finally… 

So I hope this blog has set the story straight once and for all when it comes to whether fragrance oils are safe for skin! 

I avoid fragrance oils on my skin at all

times they can be toxic. 

I much prefer the therapeutic and organic nature of certified essential oils to bring a soft glow to my skin! 

One of my favorites is geranium oil, so don’t forget to check out my article Geranium Oil 30 Recipes and Blends with lots of lovely blends for skin and more! 

This content has been checked and verified by a medical professional or aromatherapist The article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication by our editorial policy.

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