The English Aromatherapist


10 Ways to Spot Fake Essential Oils


In our health-obsessed society, essential oils are more popular than ever before. With a global market value worth over $6 BILLION, it’s no wonder that businesses are keen to jump in and get a slice of the pie.


With so many essential oil brands available, the choice can be overwhelming. How can you tell which brand is the best, or which oils are the best quality? It’s often difficult to filter through all the marketing hype to find out the facts. A couple of well-known brands are notorious for promoting their oils as being “the ONLY pure essential oils” on the market. This is clearly nonsense – there are many companies all over the world that sell high-quality, pure, therapeutic essential oils.


However…there are also many companies selling cheap, fake, synthetic or adulterated essential oils that have no therapeutic value whatsoever.


The purity of essential oils can be tested in a chemical lab, but for the average home user this is not a viable option. So, let’s take a look at 10 simple ways to tell whether your essential oils are genuine or not:




Low price does not necessarily mean low quality. Some essential oil brands are hugely overpriced, often to cover several layers of sales commission as part of a multi-level marketing scheme. But if the oils are suspiciously cheap, this should raise alarm bells. Compare prices with other aromatherapy suppliers to gauge the average price of an oil – does it seem vastly cheaper? If so, it’s more likely to be synthetic or adulterated. Cheap rose or jasmine oil is usually a dead giveaway!




How long has the brand existed? Do they have a long history in the aromatherapy industry, with a professional reputation? Professional brands will often exhibit at trade shows, or supply colleges and other training providers. In the UK, most reputable brands will be registered with an organisation like the Aromatherapy Trade Council, which signifies compliance with a professional Code of Practice.




Undiluted pure essential oils should always be stored in dark-coloured glass bottles. Plastic is only acceptable where the essential oils have already been pre-diluted in a carrier oil (e.g. ‘Ready to use’ massage blends; shower gels etc.)




Does the label include the Latin name of the essential oil? Avoid any brands that just state the common name. The photo below shows a 25ml bottle labelled “Eucalyptus Oil”, with no mention of what type – Eucalyptus globulus? Eucalyptus radiata? Another type? Who knows!


How to spot fake essential oils



This is a simple test that anyone can do at home. Most true essential oils will not usually leave an oily residue when dropped on to paper (with the exception of some heavy base notes). Just add one drop to a sheet of white paper and leave to dry. After a few hours, there should be virtually no visible trace left on the paper. An oily shadow indicates that it might have been stretched with carrier oil, meaning it is not 100% pure essential oil.


It’s important to remember that this test is not scientific or conclusive on its own merit, but it can be helpful when taking all factors into consideration.




Essential oils should be labelled properly in accordance with legal requirements. A professional brand will usually include the country of origin, ingredients, batch number, expiry date, storage information, safety advice and details about the company. And watch out for spelling mistakes – never a good sign!




With experience, you can learn to smell the difference between pure and synthetic essential oils. Does it smell like alcohol, or have an artificial scent? If so, it’s unlikely to be pure essential oil.




Rub a drop of essential oil between your fingers – does it feel oily? If so, chances are it’s been stretched with carrier oil. Apart from a few exceptions, most pure essential oils should not feel thick or greasy.




The internet is full of bogus sellers of essential oils. Try to avoid buying from anonymous sellers on eBay – look for a company with a professional website, including full contact details of their address and phone number.




To widen your experience, it’s a good idea to try out different brands of essential oils. If you’re not sure whether your essential oils are genuine or fake, sample a few bottles from other brands so you have something to compare it to – you might be surprised by the difference!

What to read next: Is This Brand OK?


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18 Responses to 10 Ways to Spot Fake Essential Oils

  1. All good advice. I would also advise avoiding, “perfume” oils sometimes sold for burning, if it is an essential oil it will say so.

    As it is, the only time I don’t buy from one of a number of trusted suppliers is if I am away from home and want a particular oil that I haven’t put in my emergency pack.


    • Good point, Dave. It’s always best to avoid anything labelled “perfume oil” or “fragrance oil” (or even just “lavender oil”, which is unlikely to be pure essential oil)

  2. My aromatherapy teacher only advised me about the “oily test” I LOVE all your other suggestions! I know I’ve been had before. This will make the whole process of buying pure much easier. So happy I crossed you on Twitter! ADORE your blog! Pinning half of it now LOL 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind comments, Angie! I’m glad you found the article useful. This is a fairly new blog, so any shares are greatly appreciated! Many thanks! 🙂

  3. Hey, thanks for the post.Much thanks again. Cool.

  4. Very informative article. I’ll add that if you see different species of essential oils marked for the same price, e.g. Rose and lemon essential oils priced exactly the same, then they’re likely synthetic substitutes.

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  8. Can you explain what an oily shadow is better? “After a few hours, there should be virtually no visible trace left on the paper. An oily shadow indicates that it might have been stretched with carrier oil, meaning it is not 100% pure essential oil.”
    I tested 2 oils. They left a drop in the center but then had almost like an oily ring around them. Less than 12 hours later the paper was completely dry with no oil residue. Would this mean they’re not pure, or are they okay?
    I also did a third test with lemon, there’s no oily residue but the paper is slightly yellowed. This one dried in only a couple of hours. Is this just normal discoloration because of the oil it is?

    • The paper test is not scientific or particularly reliable, it’s just one thing you can do at home, taking into account all the other factors too. Some essential oils will always leave an oily residue even if they’re 100% pure (e.g. base notes like patchouli, ylang ylang, etc.) and some naturally coloured oils will leave a stain (e.g. sweet orange).

      So it really depends on the oil, because some will evaporate more quickly than others. In your case, if it dried completely in the end, that’s a good sign. But, as I said, it’s not conclusive on its own. The only way to accurately test an oil is with GC/MS testing. What brand was it?

      • The two that took longer to dry were Woolzies and Welby essential oils. I’m not completely sure these brands are reliable so I’ve been trying to find out but haven’t gotten far.
        The one that left a discolored ring was lemon essential oil, so that would make sense. The lemon was a brand called Nature’s Truth. I did find your info that Nature’s Truth isn’t a trustworthy brand. I haven’t found any documents saying their lemon oil is necessarily bad but I do realize that the brand as a whole isn’t reputable.
        Have you had any experience with either of the first two brands or do you know a good source where I can find information, as I’m just starting out?

  9. Is plant therapy a good quality brand?

  10. Okay, thank you!

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