Making essential oil perfumes
The first perfumes in the world were basically essential oils. Two thousand years later, there is very little in our perfumes that is natural or even from an essential oil. Advances in chemistry over the last 100 years, have meant that the perfume industry relies largely on synthetics that mimic the best that nature has to offer. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to stop using the synthetic perfumes, colognes, after-shaves and eau-de-toilettes. Each time you apply perfumery, the chemicals in these products pass through your skin and in to your blood stream. And this applies to most of the personal care products we groom ourselves with. Don’t believe me, check out the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. I haven’t used after-shaves in a long time. I now use essential oils. So in this post, I’ll show you how you can make up a perfume (or after-shave) using a blend of essential oils.
There are 3 notes – top note, middle note and base note – that are used by the perfumeries, to indicate the volatility of a scent, i.e. the amount of time that a scent lingers.
Top note (also known as head note) essential oils are fresh, sharp and evaporate rapidly (very volatile). You will be aware of the top note scent immediately when inhaling an oil blend. Your initial impression of a perfume is formed by the top notes (hence why this is important in the marketing of a perfume). Typical top note oils are bergamot, lemon, lime, orange and tangerine.
The middle note (also known as the Heart note) supports the top note, provides the body of the fragrance and smooths out the edges of the blend. It will act to mask the unpleasant initial impression you get from the base note. The majority of middle notes are floral oils as well as some herbs. Typical middle note oils are cinnamon, clary sage, cypress, geranium, juniper, lavender, marjoram, myrtle, chamomile (Roman and German) and ylang ylang.
The base note (also known as the fixative of the perfume) is the last scent to be smelled and can take up to half an hour before you are aware of it. It provides depth and longevity to the oil blend, drawing it into your skin. The base note scent will last the longest and can linger for hours. Some base note oils include: Frankincense, Myrrh, Patchouli, Rose and Sandalwood.
When you are creating a perfume blend, the greatest portion will be the top note oils followed by the heart note oils. The base note oils should make up the smallest. So the proportions might be something like this: 50% top notes, 40% middle notes and 10% base notes. Or 55%, 50% and 5%.
Essential oil scent groups
Essential oils are also grouped by their scent. The perfume industry use a lot more scent groups than what I have here, but the most common for essential oils are :
Citrus, earthy, floral, spicy and woody.
When you are making a blend consider the following combinations of scent groups. The ones that go well together are :
* floral and citrus
* spicy and woody
* earthy and woody
* floral, woody and/or earthy
* spicy will go well with any of the other groups.
You will also notice from the table, that some essential oils fit into more than one scent group. Some people are drawn more to floral while others find those scents insipid and will go for the spicy. Other people will be drawn to the earthy and woody. I know I’m generalising, but I find that most men tend to be drawn to the earthy and woody scents (myself included). After making your blend, place it in a dark coloured glass bottle (preferably with a dropper) and shake it gently. Allow 3 days before you use the blend. You may wish to do a skin test in case you are sensitive to any of the oils. Do this by putting a drop on the inside of your forearm and leaving it for 24 hours. If you don’t get any itchiness or irritation, the blend should be fine to start using.
Hope you have fun with this one.
Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.
Gallagher, Jen et al. An Aromatic Life, 2010
Higley, Connie and Alan. Reference Guide to Essential Oils (12th edition), Spanish Fork, Utah: Abundant Health, 2010
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