True Essential Oils and Fake Ones

Published on October 16th, 2013 - Updated February 24, 2016 1 Comment

Although the USDA Certified Organic seal brings some assurance to consumers in terms of skincare products, our USDA NOP does not regulate the cosmetic industry in any form or way; their scope as of now is just to verify the ingredients the cosmetics contain, the claims made in relationship to the organic ingredients in the formula and the source of these organic ingredients, is correct and in compliance with their regulations. Good cosmetic manufacturing practices and knowledge on cosmetic chemistry are not a requirement for a skincare product to qualify for the USDA Organic seal.

Recently I stumbled on quite a few just born and mature, natural skincare companies I didn’t know about. Many of them claim to be natural while others even have the USDA Certified Organic seal on almost all of their products.

The statements some of these companies make and the valuable information some of them share on ingredients and natural skin care, would excite anyone who’s looking to clean their cosmetic cabinet and live healthier more natural lives.

Some are really, but really good! and I have incorporated many of their products in my beauty routine; others although bearing the USDA certified organic seal on most of their products, leave much to desire.

But a few of these newly found companies, caught my attention in not a positive way and it caused me to raise my eyebrows way up high. Some of these companies are brutally greenwashing. Many of the ingredients these companies use especially essential oils, are just not natural at all! So how to know what is and what isn’t in an ocean of misleading claims?!

Easy! Let’s list them all!

I’m planning, with you help of course, to keep this list of real and fake essential oils updated to make it easier for consumers to spot the greenwasher. I believe you have the right to know what WE cosmetic companies put in your bodyTM

But first some terms you must be familiar with:

“Essential Oil” also known as Otto or Attar, is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. The extraction method is through vapor and the final product contains all the beneficial ingredients from the plant itself. Essential oils can be certified organic or not.

“Enfleurage” also known as “Maceration Oil” or “Enfleurage Pomade” is a process that uses odorless fats that are solid at room temperature to capture the fragrant compounds exuded by plants. This was the first process known to be used in France to extract the aromatic compounds of flowers and plants. The process can be “cold” enfleurage or “hot” enfleurage. The oils extracted through this method can be certified organic, if both the fat and the plant material are grown organically.

“Extract” also considered solvent extraction or tinctures, these are prepared with Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol) instead. If the alcohol is certified organic along with the plant material the end result can be USDA Certified Organic. A common extract that’s manufactured with this method and that can be organic is vanilla extract also known as vanilla absolute oil. Usually extracts are used as flavoring agents, although they can also be used for their scent in cosmetic formulations.

“Absolute Oil” is the essential oil extracted from the petals of various types of very delicate flowers like roses, jasmin and others, through solvent extraction or supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. Although with this extraction method there is more product in the end, due to the solvents used contamination is a concern. The oils extracted through this method are never certified organic.

“Infusions” Considered extracts as well, these aren’t prepared to extract the scent, but the properties of the plant, like with teas.

“Flavoring Oils” Most flavoring oils are prepared by the enfleurage method. Fruits are macerated in a carrier oil until the oil is fully saturated with the flavoring and scent of the fruit. The scent on flavoring oils, isn’t that strong especially on delicate fruits or fruits with extremely low scented material, like strawberries, pineapple, and berries.

Names like “Natural Fragrance”, “Natural Fragrance Oil”, “Nature Identical” and similar made-up phrases are deceptive and intended to confuse consumers into believing these are natural compounds when in reality they’re artificially or synthetically made.

NOTE: Some botanicals may require more than 1 method of extraction due to the delicate properties of the plant. For example Gardenia can be extracted via solvent extraction, enfleurage or a combination of both.

The table below shows what a botanical can and cannot be. Many botanical scents can be natural or artificial. In the case of artificial fragrances manufacturers disclose these as fragrances on the list of ingredients without much information. Natural formulators, or the majority of them, disclose each and every essential oil used for transparency purposes. The scent of an artificial fragrance usually last for days and even weeks on the skin or fabric while essential oils dissipate within hours the most volatile ones.

Botanical Name essentialoil enfleurage extract extract absolute fragrance fragrance
Almond Bitter (Prunus amygdalus var. amara) x x x x x
Blueberry (any of its varieties) x x x x
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum/Cassia) x x x x x
Cherry (Prunus avium) x x x x
Chamomile Blue – German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) x x x x x
Chamomile Moroccan (Ormenis mixta) x x x x x
Chamomile Roman (Anthemis Nobilis) x x x x x
Cloves (Eugenia Aromaticum) x x x x x
Cocoa (Theobroma Cacao) x x x x x x
Coconut (Cocos Nucifera)* x x
Coffee (Coffea Arabica) x x x x x x
Cypress (Cupressus Sempervirens) x x x
Frankincense (Boswellia Carterii) x x x x
Gardenia (Gardenia Augusta) x x   x x  
Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) x x x
Grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi) x x x   x x
Honey (Apis Mellifera) x  
Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica) x x   x(2) x
Jasmine (Jasminum Officinale) x     x x
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) x x   x
Lavandin (Lavandula Intermedia) x x   x
Lemon (Citrus Limon) x x x   x x
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Flexuosus) x   x
Lime (Citrus Aurantifolioa) x x x   x x
Mandarin (Citrus Reticulata) x x x   x x
Melon (any of its varieties or cultivars)   x x
Orange, Sweet (Citrus Sinensus) x x x   x x
Patchouli (Pogostemon Cablin) x   x
Peony (Paeonia Lactiflora) x     x x
Pineapple (Ananas Comosus)       x(4)   x x
Pomegranate (Punica Granatum) x x x
Poppy (Papaver Somniferum) x
Rose (Rosa Damascena/Centifolia) x x x   x x
Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) x x x   x x
Sandalwood Red (Pterocarpus Santalinus) x   x
Spearmint (Mentha Spicata) x x x   x x
Strawberry (Fragaria × Ananassa) x(3) x(3) x x
Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia)   x x   x x
Watermelon (Citrullus Lanatus) x x
Botanical Name essentialoil enfleurage extract extract absolute fragrance fragrance

*Coconut oil does not produce essential oil, absolute or enfleurage. Coconut oil in its virgin form poses the natural scent of the coconut, but as of today, it cannot be extracted as an essential oil, enfleurage, extract or absolute. Depending on the manufacturing process for a product containing virgin coconut oil, the scent can remain or completely dissipate from the final product.

(2) Although many claim the oil of this flower hasn’t been produced as an absolute since the 1930’s, there are reputable companies extracting the oils through a combination of enfleurage and solvent extraction with alcohol. The true enfleurage, extract or absolute of this plant is very expensive. Most of what’s available in large quantities is artificially made.

(3) A Strawberry Flavor Extract does exist, with not a stable scent but a distinctive flavor, which can be certified organic.

To keep this list updated, please post below your botanical and we will include it on the list.



A brand with a conscience, always formulating safe products for you, your family and mother earth.




Wednesday, October 16th, 2013  |   permalink  |   1 Comment  |  
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1 Comment... add yours

  • Johanna says:

    “Although the USDA Certified Organic seal brings some assurance to consumers in terms of skincare products, our USDA NOP does not regulate the cosmetic industry in any form or way; their scope as of now is just to verify the ingredients the cosmetics contain, the claims made in relationship to the organic ingredients in the formula and the source of these organic ingredients, is correct and in compliance with their regulations. Good cosmetic manufacturing practices and knowledge on cosmetic chemistry are not a requirement for a skincare product to qualify for the USDA Organic seal.”
    I find this statement so very true. I’ve used quite a number of certified organic beauty products that have the usda logo on them, and they didn’t meet my expectations at all. Definitely organic doesn’t mean much in terms of performance.

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