How do I know if an essential or fragrance oil contains a certain chemical compound?

All essential and fragrance oils are made up of complex blends of different chemical compounds—things like linalool, benzyl salicylate, geraniol, coumarin, and eugenol.

You may have seen some of these chemical compounds listed at the end of ingredient lists—that is because they are considered to be sensitizers by the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) and are required to be listed on ingredient lists if they are present in concentrations above 0.001% in leave-on products, and 0.01% in wash-off products. Each individual sensitizer also has a maximum allowable limit.

If you are a professional formulator you will need to be calculating the amounts of all sensitizers present in your products so you can declare them properly. If you’re allergic to a certain chemical compound you’ll want to be sure to avoid it! And, sometimes, a formula is sensitive to a certain chemical compound—my Christmas Tree Body Wash completely fails if any benzyl benzoate is added!

So—how do you determine if a certain chemical compound is present in the fragrance or essential oil you’re looking at? Look at the SDS (safety data sheet) or GCMS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry Analysis). Your supplier should have these documents. Essential oil composition varies from crop to crop, so while you can get a general idea of the composition of the oil from looking at a generic SDS for the essential oil, if you need exact levels to concentrate sensitizer levels you will want to be purchasing your essential oils from somewhere that can give you the precise breakdown of exactly what you are using.

Fragrance oils are much more predictable as they are manufactured, so if you are buying a Crafter’s Choice brand fragrance oil from a company that doesn’t supply the SDS you can easily fine it by googling the name of the fragrance and “SDS”.

I find Wholesale Supplies Plus is a great place to get SDS’ for fragrance oils. New Directions Aromatics provides fantastic documentation for everything they sell, and with their massive selection of essential oils it is a good source for SDS documentation for most essential oils.

These reports will not tell you everything that is in a fragrance or essential oils, but they will highlight sensitizers and list percentage ranges. GCMS reports will give even more information!


Posted in: Ingredients