In the cosmetic and skin care industry, as in many other industries due to the lack of ethics and regulations, phony made-up words are regularly used as marketing tactics to describe synthetic products or ingredients in an attempt to make them "look" more natural than they really are. "Natural Fragrance Oil" is one of them.
To unaware consumers "Natural Fragrance Oil" sounds like a natural ingredient no one should worry about, safe to use. Nothing farther from the truth.
There is no such thing as "Natural Fragrance Oil". Due to the way Fragrance Oils are manufactured, in a lab with synthetic ingredients, mixed in some cases with essential oils, these oils can never be natural, therefore the denomination "Natural Fragrance Oil" is nothing but an oxymoron. "Fragrance Oil" also known as aroma oils, aromatic oils, and flavor oils, are blended synthetic aroma compounds that are diluted with a carrier like propylene glycol. These aromatic oils are derived from petroleum, tar, in very limited cases with low quality essential oils and many other secret ingredients, synthesized in a lab to mimic certain aromas or flavors. Many of these artificial aromatic and flavorful compounds contain a myriad of harmful ingredients, without mentioning some are considered Endocrine Disruptors. Because these qualify as "trade secret" by the FDA jurisdiction, there is no way to certainly know what all the thousands of available fragrance oils contain. The best is to stay away from them, since many are now known to have been damaging our ecosystem, the most recently discovered one being the "Artificial or Synthetic Musk".
There are however plant base aromas called "Essential Oils" also known as "Otto" or "Attar", "Absolute Oils" and "Enfleurage Pomace" also known as "Maceration Oil".
The first, "Essential Oils", 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. Make no mistakes, due to the concentrated nature of these aromatic compounds, essential oils can be harmful if taken internally or used undiluted.
"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 methods 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.
"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.
We've seen this new made-up word "Natural Fragrance Oil" on products designed for newborns, babies, expecting mothers and nursing mothers, and it's unacceptable. These synthetic compounds can produce skin, eyes and nasal irritation. Some are known to cause great damage to our ecosystem and provide no benefits whatsoever but a nice durable scent. A nice smell to disguise a very toxic concoction of harmful chemicals.