10+ Dirty Essential Oil Secrets You Need To Know

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Do you ever wonder about all the different articles and social media posts you see online bragging about which essential oil brand is the best, or maybe saying all essential oil brands are the same? What about how a blogger doesn't recommend essential oil MLM companies because they're overpriced and not getting paid for their recommendations? Essential oils have no shortage of their own controversial topics… but have you ever wondered about all the dirty little essential oil secrets no one wants you to know that few people know about?

There are several dirty little essential oil secrets you should know about!

Some of these are a bit controversial, so I may ruffle a few feathers, but it is all 100% true and verifiable.

  1. There is no set regulation or standard in the essential oil education industry
  2. There is no set regulation or standard in the essential oil manufacturing process
  3. The FDA and FTC do not have a definition of what an essential oil is
  4. Few brands know where their essential oils come from
  5. Most essential oil companies resell oils purchased from brokers
  6. Manufacturers, brokers, and resellers often dilute their essential oils with odorless solvents to maximize profits
  7. Many essential oil brands are 100% manufactured in a lab from fragrance chemicals
  8. There is no way to tell by the bottle label what the full ingredient list is
  9. “Grades” of essential oils, “100% Pure,” and are all marketing terms and LEGALLY may not be truthful
  10. Organic labels aren't always good enough when it comes to essential oils
  11. Amazon is the absolute WORST place to purchase essential oils from
  12. Bloggers get paid by the oil companies they promote
  13. MLM oils are not always more expensive just because of how they pay their marketers

As a blogger, essential oil enthusiast, and healthy home consultant, this is a topic near and dear to my heart… and today, I'm bearing it all. All our blogging and essential oil industry secrets that you may not know about but should definitely be aware of.

Why? Because you deserve the truth… and I'm a firm believer that the only useless information is information not shared.

There is no set regulation or standard in the essential oil manufacturing or education industry

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy states on its website:

“Aromatherapy is currently an unregulated and unlicensed field both for the practice of aromatherapy as well as the manufacture of aromatherapy products…”

“… aromatherapy is an unlicensed profession in the United States.”


What does this mean? There is no regulatory body that establishes consistency between essential oil manufacturers. There is no regulatory body that establishes consistency between essential oil educational and certifying schools.

Basically, this proves why I find inconsistent advice among certified aromatherapists who studied at different certifying programs.

What is crazy is that anyone can create their own certifying course for less than $1,000 investment. So, if you're studying essential oils with the intent of getting certified or considering it, be sure that you pay attention to the reviews and ensure it is a reputable place offering the cert.

The FDA and FTC do not have a definition of what an essential oil is

According to the FDA:

“There is no regulatory definition for “essential oils,” although people commonly use the term to refer to certain oils extracted from plants. The law treats Ingredients from plants the same as those from any other source. “


What does this mean? In the eyes of the law, essential oils can be made from plants or synthetically created in a lab. So yes, quality DOES matter. And no, you won't be able to figure it out based on a label (more on labeling requirements in a moment).

But the FDA approves and certifies essential oils, right? No. Essential oils are considered to be supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA, or any other governing bodies.

In fact, the only real regulation (aside from bottle label requirements) that the FDA and FTC require is marketing. No entity is legally permitted to discuss detailed health benefits of essential oils if they could potentially earn an income from the sale of an essential oil. Doing so puts yourself at risk, even bloggers who may receive commissions from the links they place on their websites.

Few brands actually know where their essential oils come from

This may sound like a bit of a shock because what is the point of selling essential oils – or anything marketed for health – that you don't know where they come from or how they're crafted.

Unfortunately, many essential oil companies are more concerned with their marketing plans and profit margins than with what they sell. And now that the essential oil industry has grown to over $1BILLION, there are many companies out there who just want to make an easy profit.

Most companies purchase from brokers

Most companies take the easy way to acquire essential oils… through a broker, or aggregator. This aggregator (think wholesaler) sources oils from distillers who source their plant matter from farms, collecting everything to resell to a company that will place their label on the bottles and handle all the marketing and selling.

This is smart business because the company doesn't have to invest in farms or invest their time in finding quality farms to partner with, significantly reducing their risk in assets that may or may not yield the same each year. Using a broker streamlines the process so they can be much faster by just focusing on their warehouse functions, marketing, and sales.

This is also a horrible business practice as more and more people are waking up to find shady things happening within this business plan. For example…

  • Farmers aren't always farming sustainably, allowing some chemicals (organic or not) to seep through the distillation process
  • Distillers don't always distill their oils for long enough, not unlocking some of the best therapeutic benefits of essential oils… instead, they opt for high heat for shorter periods of time to speed up production and turn out an inferior product
  • Some distillers cut their oils with cheap, odorless solvents that increase their profits
  • Many brokers cut their oils again with more cheap, odorless solvents that increase their profits.
  • Some brokers purchase their essential oils directly from a synthetic perfume lab, labeling them as essential oils to maximize their profits
  • Many reselling companies again cut the oils with cheap, odorless solvents, increasing their profits and stretching their supply.

I remember when I started heavily investing in essential oils on my personal health journey I experienced the effects of these habits personally using several popular brands. Many bottles just didn't last long, smelled weak, gave me migraines, and caused dizziness as soon as I opened the cap. As someone who is chemically sensitive, I can't always smell synthetic chemicals, but I can absolutely feel them when they are present. This right here proved to me that not all oils are created equally.

There is no way to tell the actual ingredients list by the bottle labels

This one really shocked me when I first researched essential oil legal requirements.

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (enforced by the FTC) covers “household” products (including oils that are labeled just for diffusing) only have to list:

  • a generic description of what is in the bottle (like ___ essential oil)
  • the amount in the bottle
  • and where the company's headquarters is located

This means anything else on the bottle is 100% marketing.

Yes, it is often good practice to ensure the Latin name of the plant is listed, but any company can argue “generic description” as legally written.

Transparency is what you need. Complete company transparency, right down to letting you in on their entire farming, distilling, and bottling processes. Any company not willing to let you in on their processes likely doesn't know what they are because they buy from a wholesaler.

“100% Pure” and different “grades” are 100% marketing

The FTC and FDA do NOT have any legal definitions as to what an essential oil is. “Essential Oil” is in an of itself a generic description. This could encompass natural true essential oils in terms of what we think it should be… but it can also encompass completely synthetic or diluted variations too, and still be a 100% legal claim.

Common marketing terms used in regard to selling essential oils:
  1. Aromatherapy Grade Essential Oils
  2. Best Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
  3. Best Quality Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
  4. Candle Grade Essential Oils
  5. Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, or CPTG
    (CPTG is actually just a trademark, not an actual certification, so it can only legally be used by one brand)
  6. Clinical Grade Essential Oils
  7. Commercial Grade Essential Oils
  8. Cosmetic Grade Essential Oils
  9. Culinary Grade Essential Oils
  10. Dietary Grade
  11. Food Grade Essential Oils
  12. Grade A Essential Oils
  13. High-Grade Essential Oils
  14. Highest Grade Essential Oils
  15. Highest Quality Essential Oils
  16. Medical Grade Essential Oils
  17. Medical Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
  18. Natural or 100% Natural Essential Oils
  19. Perfume or Cologne Grade Essential Oils
  20. Pure or 100% Pure Essential Oils
  21. Pharmaceutical Grade Essential Oils
  22. Professional Grade Essential Oils
  23. Quality Essential Oils
  24. Skin Grade Essential Oils
  25. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
  26. Therapy Grade Essential Oils
  27. A, B, C, D, E… etc… Grade Essential Oils

Side note… I'm in a bit of awe while writing this because I didn't even realize how many “essential oil grades” are being thrown around the internet at the time of writing this. Originally, I had thought maybe 8 different grades… but I was corrected during my research to 27! WOW!!!

Typically, these Grades are used to describe the intended use of essential oils. For example:

  • Cosmetic, skin, commercial, pharmaceutical, and candle-grade essential oils are often synthetically made.
  • Culinary, dietary, and food-grade oils are typically intended for ingestion but don't always mean much about their quality or purity.
  • Therapeutic grade was originally coined to indicate purity, but it is very much overused now (as is medical and clinical) and doesn't have much meaning, especially with the lack of ability to enforce actual standards.
    UPDATE: The FDA has asked many companies to remove “therapeutic grade” from their labels and marketing because of potentially misleading health claims.
  • Medical grade is used by companies who want to appear better than their competitors, and quietly persuade potential customers away from “therapeutic grade” claims.

Basically, there is no such thing as a grade of essential oil. Any “grade” mentioned is 100% marketing descriptive terms or tag lines (sometimes even referencing the company's own registered trademarks) to help that brand feel like they're standing out from its competitors.

I harp on this all the time on this website, but really, the only way to know for sure whether your oils are, in fact, a high-quality essential oil that isn't diluted is to develop a relationship with that company and see their practices first hand. Which isn't feasible for most people wanting to purchase essential oils. You could also put your trust in bloggers who write about their detailed experiences touring through the company's facilities, which is often the next best thing, and hope they're fully honest and not being sponsored.

Once you open your eyes to marketing tactics, it becomes easier to see what marketing is vs. what transparency is.

“Our oils come from all over the world with exceeding the highest purity and quality standards.” This is an example of marketing that literally every essential oil company claims, even those who purchase oils from a broker and have no actual clue where their oils come from.

Walking you through their distilling facilities, farms, and bottling facilities (especially if you're able to at least receive an offer to participate in person) is transparency.

Many essential oil brands are 100% manufactured in a lab from fragrance chemicals

Listening to a talk by Dr Eric Z in his Essential Oil Revolution Online Summit, an authority on essential oils, it is presumed over 75% of essential oils on the market are synthetic or adulterated.

I also listened to a talk from an aromatherapist in France who discussed how France exports more than 500% MORE lavender essential oil than it is capable of producing.

In reading Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, we learned that it's common practice for real essential oils to be diluted by 95% by the time they're sold. Some brands may not even know that their oils are diluted because they don't have strict logistical control over the entire creation process.

Those facts, mixed with the FDA and FTC's stance on what essential oils are and treating the natural version the same as synthetic versions, tell me that not every oil is created equally.

What about testing reports?

In addition to loose regulations in both the manufacturing and the educational realms of essential oils, there is also no standard in testing, manufacturing, marketing, or certifying essential oils. As we know, based on other markets, even the organic certifications aren't always trustworthy to be completely void of harmful chemicals.

With consumers demanding GC/MS reports, many companies are now using that extra pressure to chemically alter their oils to comply with what they feel *should* be in the normal range… not always accounting for variations in the impacts that weather and soil fluctuations may cause.

The biggest problem with all this…

Most essential oils are purchased for their health benefits. When you provide a substandard or synthetic essential oil to someone using them for health reasons, that oil will either not work as well as it should, not working at all, or that oil could end up causing more problems depending on the buyer's body.

Buyer Beware… do your research before buying essential oils

With there being no regulation in the industry (which may or may not be a good thing), it begs for a huge BUYER BEWARE warning and advocacy for consumers to know their farmers.

Know the company you're purchasing essential oils from.

  • Know their practices, their heart, and how their operations work.
  • Know where they get their oils from.
  • Visit their farms and distilling locations, if you're able… or look to where you can read about other people's experiences online.
  • See for yourself what to expect from them.

Don't just fall for their marketing lines or empty words.

Remember… According to the FDA, the law treats Ingredients from plants the same as those from any other source.

Organic labels on essential oils aren't always good enough

This one was a bit of a surprise to me at first. I mean… we buy organic foods because they are healthier, right? Well, there is a lot of speculation on the safety (or lack of safety studies) of the chemical sprays that qualify for organic certifications. So, while they seem to be better than Monsanto's Ready Roundup Herbicides and Pesticides, we don't 100% know whether they are completely safe.

That aside… organic only pertains to the farming process. Many companies choose to distill their oils at higher temperatures for shorter lengths of time to speed up production, save costs, and maximize profits.

What is little known (or not as cared about) in the distillation process is that each and every plant type that is distilled needs a different length of time to unlock all the constituents available to that essential oil.

Additionally, few farmers care about the exact time to harvest their crops, especially if it is at inconvenient times. More constituents in some plants are present if harvested at the appropriate time, not early or an hour late. Knowing the science that goes into farming practices makes a HUGE difference to the essential oil quality and the benefits you see from them.

So, while you may feel good about the NONGMO and Organic labels (which I do believe NONGMO is important and Organic may be useful), it only tells you a small piece of the story about the actual quality of the essential oil you're receiving.

Amazon, Walmart online, and eBay (or any 3rd party selling website) are the absolute WORST places to purchase essential oils from!

Yup. I said it. This is crazy because so many bloggers link essential oils to purchases on websites like Amazon. Why? Most bloggers participate in Amazon's Affiliate program and receive 1-8% of the sale in commissions from any sales made within 24 hours (more on that in the next section). And really, I don't think many bloggers realize the risks involved in anyone purchasing on Amazon… they just see it as an easy way to monetize their website.

Any website that allows anyone to sell on, such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart… etc, is a terrible place to purchase essential oils. While you may get a “good deal,” knowing who you're purchasing from is difficult. Many counterfeit essential oils are being sold that are causing health ailments, major skin reactions, and a lot of misery. These are NOT high-quality essential oils. They are fakes being sold purely for profit.

In all reality, it is super easy (and surprisingly common) for any person to acquire or copy labels from a name-brand essential oil company, apply them to empty essential oil bottles, fill whatever they want, and top them with new caps… then sell as the real thing, even if its synthetic perfumes, diluted with whatever they can find, a different cheaper brand, or even flavored water. I've also seen people sell essential oils that are over 10 years old! The bottom line is, if you buy from Amazon, even if the “seller” looks legit, you cannot be 100% sure of what you're getting, and most companies aren't upholding their quality guarantees if purchased through Amazon… instead, you have to go through whoever sold it on Amazon, IF they're still there and actually responsive.

I do NOT recommend purchasing from grocery stores, Walmart, Target, department stores, or drug stores. Many of the brands found at those stores have been proven to not actually contain any essential oil (which, as mentioned earlier, is perfectly legal to do).

I STRONGLY suggest (again) that you know the company that makes your oils, how the plants are cared for, what they do for distilling, how and how many times each batch is tested (where and when), and their bottling processes.

How? Make some calls, do some research. Instead of saying “lavender grown in France,” are they willing to tell you where in France? Do they have a farm name? Can they tell you anything about the farming, distilling, or bottling processes?

Bloggers get paid by the oil companies they promote

Yup. I said it. I'm so tired of seeing bloggers bash different marketing techniques and take it out on the companies with an elitest approach because they aren't being paid for their recommendations or taking advantage of their readers. But if you know what you're looking for, you can see an “affiliate code” in their links. These links mean they're still getting paid for any essential oil that sells through the use of their links if purchased within a certain amount of time, including Amazon links.

As a blogger, it only makes sense to include links in our blogs that enable us to receive a commission for what products are sold. And essential oils are no different. Here on this blog, you'll see affiliate links to Amazon and to our favorite essential oil brand. The funds made through this blog go to cover the website expenses, help feed our family, and pay our mortgage, as is the case with all bloggers I've talked with. There is no shame in receiving a commission for recommending a product that helps someone. There is shame, however, in person A bashing other people for making money on recommendations while person A is doing the same thing to convince readers/followers to use their links.

In fact, nearly every single essential oil brand offers a referral or affiliate program, providing bloggers and affiliate marketers anywhere from 1% to 25% commission. This is in addition to other marketing efforts they use, which are often online advertisements through blogging ad networks, search engine ads, and social media ads.

Yes! Bloggers actually get paid for the oils they recommend! And this rings true whether or not they are part of an MLM company.

Are MLM Oils really more expensive because of how they pay their marketers?

The myth that MLM essential oils are more expensive because they have to pay commissions is sorely incorrect.

In fact, on average, a business spends close to 50% of its profits on marketing (as per the marketing classes I took as a business strategy major in college). It is a smart business practice to take on because marketing is what generates more sales.

MLM, affiliate marketing, referral promotions, in-store sales… they are all a type of marketing campaigns which is significantly cheaper and more effective than TV and internet ads because the company is only paying the marketer a commission based on sales achieved instead of throwing money at internet and television ads regardless of whether sales are made. This often means spending approximately 40% total of their actual sales revenue instead of 50% to maybe attract a few sales.

Some MLM companies are cheaper than others. This largely depends on how much they spend on creating their oils (farming, distilling, testing, bottling, other logistics, etc…), or how much the oils cost purchasing from brokers, plus overhead needed for running their business (obviously a company with a larger customer service team is going to spend more on business expenses).

Network marketing companies' marketing side expense percentages are pretty much the same across the board as any other business. The only real difference is their method of marketing.

Closing thoughts about essential oil secrets

Many essential oil companies sell their oils in stores and online using several marketing strategies.

At the end of the day, which essential oil brand you should use depends on what works best with your body. All brands get their oils from different locations. Each location will produce slightly different constituents in their oils because of weather and soil variations. Some may be diluted, some may be synthetic, and some may actually be what we believe “pure” should be. Either way, I highly recommend you choose a company that is actually transparent in every aspect of their essential oil production process. Give them a try, try out a competitor that you feel is also transparent, and see what works best for your body.

If you need help, feel free to connect with me, and I'll gladly answer any questions, share my personal experiences, and help you discover what is right for you.

Have you taken a look at essential oil labels? Did you know those labels may not be telling you the truth... legally? Are all essential oil brands the same? Is there really something to the better quality essential oil claims? What is therapeutic grade? What about certified pure therapeutic grade? Or pharmaceutical or medical grade essential oils? Whats the difference? Is there a quality difference between MLM and regular essential oil brands? Do bloggers get paid to promote essential oils? The truth about essential oils may surprise you!
Be sure to pin this to your favorite essential oil Pinterest board to bookmark it for later

4 thoughts on “10+ Dirty Essential Oil Secrets You Need To Know”

  1. “Know their practices, their heart, and how their operations work.
    Know where they get their oils from.
    Visit their farms and distilling locations.”

    Wow totally reasonable thing to do meaning spending thousands of dollars on flights and hotels to visit farms and distilling location. How many companies and locations should I visit before I finally decide to purchase $30 bottle of lavender oil?

    1. Lina (sarcasm aside), if you’re serious about acquiring quality essential oils, a good rule of thumb is to determine whether or not they’d even allow it. If they don’t allow any visits of any kind, it’s a red flag. Few companies do. Then, search for people who have visited their farms or distillation centers. If there are none, it’s a red flag. If there are, decide how much you trust them. Look for companies that show transparency (how are their products farmed, distilled, bottled…etc), not just photos of their products and generic talking points. Talk to them on the phone; how is their customer service? Are they responsive, helpful, and transparent about answering your questions? Or do they give you scripted responses? Can they tell you exactly where they acquire their oils? Or just generic descriptions of “in their natural environment overseas” or “on a farm somewhere in France”?

      I 100% believe everyone is responsible for their own wellness, and using quality products is a huge part of that. Sometimes that takes time (and expense) to figure out what is right for you – if that is your priority (which I realize isn’t the case for everyone). Having endured chronic health issues for nearly a decade that cost me my career and everything I valued, this is something that is very important to me, and I’ve spent the past 9 years teaching about it to people who also are highly concerned about the products they use and want to ensure they’re staying away from harmful additives.

      Ultimately, if you’re finding it difficult to trust a company, making your own essential oils isn’t difficult, and is much cheaper than purchasing them at retail (or wholesale) prices.

    1. Hi Lea, unfortunately, that isn’t something I can do. New essential oil blends are popping up daily to cash in on the lucrative market. To be able to research and list out every essential oil company and differentiate which companies sell fake oils would be a full-time job by itself that I am not able to do, especially for free. This is why I give you the resources to know what to look for.

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