Making Perfumes with Essential Oils

There are three good reasons why you might want to consider making your own perfumes from essential oils. First of all, you can save money; commercial perfume products are expensive, but most of the cost comes from overhead – packaging, advertising, profit, and the like – and these are costs that you can keep to a minimum at home. Also, if you prefer natural ingredients, perhaps because you’re chemically sensitive, “homemade” scents are a good choice; most commercial products contain synthetic ingredients. And finally, you can customize the scent to your liking – or to the liking of the person you’re making it for. You don’t have to settle for what’s available in the stores.

It’s really not that hard to make perfumes this way, either. There are only three basic ingredients – alcohol, water, and essential oils – and the process is not complicated, nor does it require special tools or equipment. The hardest part will probably be deciding on a formula – the combinations of essential oils to give the exact aroma you want. You may find yourself doing a lot of “research and development” before settling on a final ratio of ingredients.

Probably the first decision you’ll need to make is the strength of the formula. Perfume is of course the strongest, progressing down through eau de perfume and eau de toilette to the weakest, eau de cologne. You could also make a simple “splash” with just a few drops of essential oil and water; this can be quite refreshing, but the scent will fade quickly. Basically, the strength of your perfume will depend on the ratio of ingredients. Perfume itself has the greatest amount of essential oil (the highest number of drops) and alcohol, and the least amount of water. If you want something weaker, use fewer drops of oil, less alcohol, and more water.

Unlike other aromatherapy uses, perfume-making requires that you use essential oils full strength, straight from the bottle (although still by the drop). Your oil blend will be diluted later anyway, so you shouldn’t add anything else at this stage. The alcohol you use should preferably be pharmaceutical grade, but if you can’t get it, use vodka (with as high a proof as possible) instead. Stay away from other forms of alcohol; most have a taste that will interfere with the aroma of your perfume. The water you use should be either distilled or pure spring water. If you really need to add color, use vegetable dyes, but be very careful of how much you put in; you don’t want the dye to stain your skin (even if it will wash out later).

When you are blending your oils there are a few things to keep in mind. Different oils have different “notes.” Base note oils have strong aromas and are the slowest to evaporate. Top note oils have much lighter aromas and are the quickest to evaporate. And middle note oils fall in the middle of these two extremes. When you’re mixing oils for perfumes you’ll need to keep the notes of your oils in mind, because aromas change over time as the top notes and then the middle notes evaporate. For example, you may come up with what you think is the perfect blend, only to discover at the end of the day that all you can smell is that one little drop of patchouli.

There are too many essential oils to list them all here, but in terms of notes, here are a few of the most common:
– base notes – benzoin, cedarwood, cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla, vetiver
– middle notes – clary sage, clove, coriander, geranium, ginger, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, neroli, palmarosa, peppermint, rose, rosewood, sage, thyme, ylang ylang
– top notes – angelica, anise, basil, bergamot, chamomile roman, juniper, lemon, mandarin, spearmint

It is possible for some oils to straddle between middle and top notes or middle and bottom notes, due partly to what they’re blended with and partly to your own individual sense of smell.

It may take you a while to get the blend exactly the way you want it, but once you do, make sure you have a detailed record of the “recipe” so that you can duplicate it later. Then, add your essential oil blend to the alcohol and water mixture, swirl it gently to mix it, and cover it. Put the covered mixture aside, out of direct sunlight, for anywhere from several days to several weeks – the longer, the better. When you think it’s ready, pour it through a coffee filter into a sterilized bottle (you can sterilize bottles by boiling them in water) – preferably a dark one to keep out the light – stopper it, and enjoy! You’ve just made your own personalized perfume blend.

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