What is the difference between aromatherapy and natural perfume?
Aromatherapy and natural perfume have similarities but there are differences in purpose and in some of the ingredients. Aromatherapy is the therapeutic application of aromatic essences (essential oils) for health and healing. This holistic practice encompasses the whole body, mind and spirit. The use of essential oils goes back in history, long before current medical therapies were available.
Certified aroma therapists undergo extensive training to understand the therapeutic effects of essential oils and how to use them safely. They are trained on physiology and understand how our bodies absorb what is applied (topically or through inhalation). Aroma therapists carefully blend essential oils to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.
Natural perfumers use many of the same essential oils but the focus is on making something that smells great! Ingredients include essential oils as well as absolutes and CO2 extracts. Absolutes and CO2s are aromatic essences extracted using techniques different than those used to extract essential oils. Some of the oils used by natural perfumers have limited therapeutic value but add nuance to a fragrance. Natural fragrances are ‘aged’ to smooth and bring out their uniqueness. Because of the volatile (evaporative) nature of oils, creating a natural fragrance that lasts after application requires thoughtful formulation. The natural perfumer will often use oils that have fixative properties. These fixatives not only provide their own long-lasting fragrance, they also give the total blend more staying-power. The proportion of fragrance ‘notes’ in a formula are important so the final product is balanced and blossoms on the skin after application.
Though the intent of natural perfume is not therapeutic, a beautiful scent can certainly lift your spirits! Both practices are a wonder blend of art and science.
Many thanks to my friend and aroma therapist, Shelia Murray owner of Essential Care Aromatics, for insight and guidance during her aroma therapy workshops.