Understanding “fragrance” on a label

This is a quick guide to what these words mean on an ingredient list.  A basic rule of thumb is if you are sensitive to any fragrances, meaning you cannot wear perfume or smell it on others, you should stick with an unscented product without essential oils. 

perfume bottles


A scent is a note, a fragrance is a combination of notes combining to make a completely new smell. You can combine several all-natural notes to make an all-natural fragrance, or several synthetic notes to make a synthetic fragrance or any combination of those two directions.

This is what UNSCENTED is supposed to mean:

Essential Oils, Aromatics, Flavors, and/or Fragrances are NOT added to the formula. But be warned, sometimes essential oils are added as an ingredient and not as a scent so it can be labeled as unscented although it really isn't. 

Scents from the raw ingredients may still be present in the formula, even if the product is classified as ‘unscented’.


This is what is meant by ESSENTIAL OILS and AROMATICS:

Harvested straight from the plant and classified with the plant’s name (ex: Lavender Essential Oil)

Scent intensity of Essential Oils will fade more rapidly than other aromatics.

Essential Oils cause irritation to most skin types, especially over long-term use.

Aromatics are similar to essential oils, but are not distilled. Orange oil, Lemon oil, etc are pressed into oils, therefore are classified as aromatics and not essential oils. 



Derived from all natural resources, but are not Essential Oils, because they are not distilled. Essential oils are not the only way to naturally scent something.

Scent intensity may fade overtime, but not as quickly or drastically as Essential Oils which are volatile oils. 

Listed simply as ‘Natural Fragrance’ in the Ingredient List because it is usually a trade secret (part of what makes the product special and non-reproducible.)


Scent intensity is stable and does not fade over time.

Listed simply as ‘Fragrance’ in the Ingredient List.

Use mostly for high end perfumes, not skincare.


So how do you know what is in the product if you don’t get told the exact notes of the fragrance? You really don’t.  But really, what are you going to do with that knowledge anyway? Unless you know molecular chemistry, knowing each of the notes that make up the total scent in a fragrance is really just information without knowledge. 


If you really need to know what makes up the fragrance of a product maybe the manufacturer/brand/company will tell you if you ask them. However its probably best you learn how to read a label, and stick to the unscented creams if you are that concerned.  There are so many great products out there, and it’s still just trial and error for all of us.

xo, Jacci

Jacci Delaneau

Adventuress, animal activist and recovering cheese addict. Dreamer and doer. A patent holding serial entrepreneur, our founder Jacci, has traveled the world in search of bizarre beauty rituals, the planet’s most beautiful beaches, and the perfect pizza. She combines her background in Marine Biology and Organic Cosmetic Science to develop clean, high performance skin care using sustainable ocean based ingredients. Read more about Jacci.