Incense and oils, what’s the difference?

Have you ever wondered into our store and thought to yourself “What’s the difference between oils and incense?”, “Why do they sell cones AND sticks?”, “Why is there fragrance oils AND essential oils?” then you’ve come to the right place!

In this blog I’ll not only answer these questions, but I’ll also give you a run-down of the pros and cons of each as well as give you some personal favourites of each variation so you can have a lovely smelling house while you stay at home!

Incense Sticks

To begin with, we have incense sticks, these are an absolute staple of all good smelling homes, they are extremely popular due to their ease of lighting, greater scent dispersion and their longevity while burning.

The main downside of having incense sticks however is the mess, as they’re a long stick they create a lot of ash and unless you have a proper holder, you might find yourself having to get your hoover out once or twice… This is where I recommend the “long wood incense box”, not only does it have a lovely display, it can also house cones as well as sticks, can be closed to lessen the potency of smell and smoke, and on top of all of that, it includes a secret compartment to store your sticks!

Some personal favourites to recommend for all budding incense stick enthusiasts:

Nag Champa: Blue Sticks
A perfect blend of soapy and fresh, a little on the strong side but easily the most popular and sought after incense stick out there, if you’re looking for “That incense smell”, nine times out of ten this is the one.

Satya: Midnight

My personal favourite, so I might be a little biased, but if you want the perfect “Evening relaxation” incense, this will be your best friend.

A great blend of musky and earthy notes topped off with a hint of tobacco to give you a really unique and strong scent that will last for hours. 

Satya: White Sage

A newer addition that has been flying off shelves along with Nag Champa Blue Sticks, this is another fantastic fresh and sweet fragrance that will fill your room the minute you light it, strong and great for its healing properties, Satya White Sage is a great incense for cleanliness and purity.

Incense cones

Moving on, we now have incense cones, these are a lot easier to contain, as mentioned with the sticks, there will be significantly less ash scattered around when lighting them.

The biggest difference to note with these cones is how the scent is distributed, when lighting an incense cone the top will burn similar to a stick, but unlike the stick, the cone will burn downwards to a larger surface area, meaning as it burns towards the middle and end of the cone, the scents potency will be significantly stronger than that of a stick which will remain consistent throughout its burning.

To me, cones are a love hate relationship, they’re cleaner and overall stronger, but can have a tendency for the scent to stick in the back of your throat if you pick the wrong flavour and they can leave a stronger smoky smell around your room after you’ve finished with them.

It’s also worth mentioning we sell backflow cones as well as regular ones, these work exactly the same as normal cones, but have a hollowed circle at the bottom to elongate the smoke that is produced when burning, this then creates a beautiful build-up of smoke that when used in the right backflow burner can look wonderful.

Round barrel incense cone burner

Personal favourites for a regular cone holder include the “Round Barrel Incense Cone Burner”, similar to the “long wood incense box”, you have the option to close the box to mute the smoke and smell of your cones, perfect for any occasion:

Backflow Burner Hand & Lotus

And for the backflow burner fans, the “Backflow Burner Hand & Lotus” is a great choice for anyone who wants to really see what backflow smoke can offer.

The hand is a perfect shape to let the smoke slide down gracefully into the pool at the bottom to let it sit and naturally disperse over time:

Pick n’ Mix cones

Instead of recommending a specific cone flavour, I thought it would be best to let you know that we offer a pick and mix service! Simply add fifteen cones to your basket to experiment with, only 7p per cone, flavours range from Amber, Coconut, Nag Champa and many more! This is a perfect way to get started on your incense journey, even today staff at Happy Buddha are experimenting with new incense flavours!


Now that we’ve discussed incense ranges, you’re probably thinking “That’s all well and good but what if I can’t burn incense where I live?” or “What if I don’t like the smell of ash and smoke after I’ve finished with my incense”, once again fear not! For there is an alternative, enter our oil range.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are made from 100% natural substances, they are commonly extracted from different parts of plants (Flowers, herbs, roots etc.). and then processed through steam distillation or solve extractions.

These essential oils vary on price based on the rarity of each ingredient, so it’s always good to check before you buy.

Essential oils are fantastic for their potency, you can use them in an oil burner or reed diffuser, however we do recommend using significantly less drops than fragrance oil (3 maximum) and mixing the oil with some water to dilute it as the smell can be very strong!

Essential oils can also be used in the bath or during a massage but once again, we very strongly recommend diluting the oils beforehand as the concentration is extremely strong, we also recommend checking with your doctor beforehand and seeing if you have any potential allergies to the ingredients as it can cause burning sensations and strong allergic reactions.

Lavender Essential Oil

My all-time favourite essential oil is lavender, it’s a nostalgic smell that is perfect for relaxation and helps with sleep tremendously.

It can also help open up your breathing pathways if you’re suffering from a cold or blocked nose, I recommend a few drops on your pillow or chest before you go to sleep!

Fragrance oils

Fragrance oils on the other hand are much more straight forward.

As the name implies, fragrance oils are the best for oil burners or reed diffusers, they create a beautiful scent that doesn’t leave any residual ash smell and they come in wonderful little glass bottles.

We absolutely do not recommend using fragrance oils anywhere on skin as these oils are synthetically made as opposed to their essential oil counterparts.

There are lots of different burners you can use for your oils, it’s all down to personal preference! But I thought I’d include some favourites along with some fragrance oils you might want to add to your collections.

Soapstone Elephant Oil Burner – Rounded

This oil burner is the best combination of style and durability, the soapstone will ensure that your burner will see many uses and will still retain it’s beautiful stone finish, couple that with the gorgeous hand carved elephant cut outs and you have an ideal oil burner.

Sea Breeze Fragrance Oil

Sea breeze is about as fresh as you can get, it’s a calming and natural smell that is perfect for summer nights when you’re sitting in your garden or in your living room.

Honourable mention

We couldn’t end this blog without having an honourable mention as well, for those who don’t like burning at all, there is the Nag Champa Aroma Mist, an absolute must have for students living in halls or where there is strict rules against lighting candles or incense, a few sprays in each room and you’ll be filled with the wonderful soapy scent of Nag Champa.

Written by James Cowan, Happy Buddha Bournemouth