What do you think of when you see the words Essential Oils or Fragrance Oils? Other more generic terms you may see are scents or fragrances or even simply, oils. When those words are all together there appear to be some differences, but singularly it may not be as apparent. In many cases the term essential oil is used in very loose terms meaning anything that is scented. To me this is very far from the truth and can be used misleadingly.
An essential oil is derived from plant matter, generally via a distillation process (that all depends on the oil, the part of the plant used, and how volatile the substance is--and an entirely different topic). There are many grades of essential oils. When using them for bath/body/aromatherapy purposes I believe it is of utmost importance to use aromatherapy grade oils. These have not been diluted or thinned in any form. Of course there are some exception to this dilution, such as Jasmine and Rose, which as essential oils are extremely expensive. Essential oils are a splendid choice when looking to create or purchase natural. I use them extensively in my home for everything from household chores to natural beauty solutions. I also use them in my soap products for their wonderful naturally fragrant properties. Nothing synthetic compares to quality, natural Lavender Essential Oil.
Fragrance oils are chemically created in a lab to mimic pretty much anything. We all know there is no such thing as Bubble Gum essential oil, but many don't realize that scents like blueberry and strawberry (the fruity part) can only be created in a lab and will NEVER be an essential oil even though strawberries and blueberries are clearly from mother nature. However, the beauty of science can give us those scents to be used as flavorings and fragrances for home and body uses. I use these in products when I can't find a natural alternative. I mean, who can resist the scent of creme brulee or all those fabulous "fresh" and "rain" scents. My youngest son's absolute favorite is blueberry, so when I create things for him guess what Fragrance oil I use?! When used in moderation and from reliable sources they can become quick favorites. Fragrances will never be natural, but are often made using some natural oil blends in combination with other synthetic ingredients.
I hope this helps clarify the difference between fragrances and essential oils. Essential oils are fragrant, but fragrances are never essential oils. And of course this is a very, very abbreviated lesson in essential oils and is only meant to inform.
A few other things to note:
1). Essential oils and fragrance oils should be used care and caution by those who understand their properties and to what quantities they can be used safely.
2). Neither essential oils nor fragrance oils should be ingested.
3). Craft store oils for burners, potpourri, and incense are not intended for body use. Never use these in bath or body applications.
4). As always, keep such products out of the reach of children.