As discussed in my upcoming book, Authentic Aromatherapy, the term aromatherapy can mean different things to different people. This also applies to the practice of aromatherapy and natural perfumery. Although there are overlaps between the two modalities, there are also differences. In this blog post, I attempt to summarize those differences and similarities.
Definition of Aromatherapy
For the clarification of this post, the practice of aromatherapy can be defined as the art and science of using essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Essential oils are natural extracts of plants and are not the same as fragrance oils (which are synthetically manufactured). The therapeutic properties of essential oils vary widely, depending upon the essential oil. Essential oils are usually applied in a base product to the body – or inhaled via a device such as an aromatherapy diffuser.
Definition of Perfumery
Natural perfumery is a growing business, although it is by no means a new “practice.” In the past, all perfumes were made with essential oils and other aromatic (plant) extracts. Today, most perfumes are manufactured in large quantities and with synthetically engineered ingredients. The art of natural perfumery goes “back to basics” and uses natural (plant) extracts to blend the “perfect” scent.
Although professional perfumers are trained for many years, it is possible to experiment with making your own natural perfume products at home, using a variety of base products.
Similarities Between Aromatherapy and Perfumery
Aromatherapy and natural perfumery are similar in various ways, including:
Both practices use natural scents – aromatherapy tends to focus on essential oils themselves, whereas natural perfumery includes a wider variety of plant absolutes and extracts too
Both practices use natural essences – some natural perfumers might use animal products in their perfumes (although be aware that certain products might be banned from use in some countries) but, in general, aromatherapy and natural perfumery use natural products
Top, middle and base notes – natural perfumery is very much focused on blending top, middle and base notes to make up a perfect accord. Some aromatherapists use this process in making therapeutic aromatherapy blends too, although the focus isn’t as intense as that of natural perfumery
Types of base products used – aromatherapy and natural perfumery use similar base products for blends. The overlap of base products used in both modalities include vegetable oils, solid butters, and also creams and lotions
Contra-indications – as natural perfumery uses natural essences, such as essential oils, you also need to be aware of similar contra-indications in making a blend: for example, photo-toxicity. It also depends on the amounts of each essential oil which you use in your blend.
Differences Between Aromatherapy and Perfumery
The main difference between aromatherapy and natural perfumery is that aromatherapy is focused on the therapeutic properties of a blend whereas natural perfumery is focused on the final scent of a blend. However, this does not mean that the two can’t overlap at times!
Aromatherapy or Natural Perfumery?
You don’t have to have had training as an aromatherapist in order to be a natural perfumer – and vice versa – but a background in aromatherapy can help you get a head start in making natural perfumery products. I like to think that the two modalities do overlap – and benefit each other as well – but it depends upon where your own passion, talent, and goals lie.
The Sedona Aromatherapie Home Study Aromatherapy Course Program includes courses in both therapeutic aromatherapy practice and a beginner’s course in natural perfumery (based on my own experiences as an aromatherapist).