Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homemade Perfume

I am very sensitive. I can stick my nose into a rose growing on a bush or bury my face in a lilac tree and revel is the scent, yet if someone sits across a table from me with a rose perfume, I tend to sneeze and, if I don’t leave their company quickly enough, a headache will follow. And it seems like the commercial perfumes are more aggressive to me than someone walking around with a bit of rose oil dabbed on their pulse points. Thusly, I’ve been making my own perfume for years. I think I bought my last bottle of commercial perfume in the late ‘80s. Over the years, I’ve honed my process. It’s very simple and the result has very controllable levels of scent.

I start with the atomizer.
This is a one-time investment. If your current perfume bottle has a removable top, that’s perfect. If not, find a nice one that makes you happy. I have two 4.25oz. bottles, one for each bathroom, and a small travel bottle I keep in my toiletries bag.

There are two main kinds of oils: essential oils and fragrance oils.
Essential oils are pressed from plants that are oily (roses, orange flowers, citrus rinds, vanilla beans, coconut, etc.). Fragrance oils are made of chemicals that happen to smell like the target scent. Strawberry oil will never be essential because the strawberry is made chiefly of water. There isn’t enough oil in a strawberry to press the essence into usable oil. Neither the flowers nor the leaves smell like the fruit, so strawberry oil is chemically created.

There are all kinds of places that carry essential oils or fragrance oils. The trick is to find the oils that smell right to you. I love the scent of vanilla, yet not all vanilla oils are created alike. The right one on me smells like cookies while others smell like off milk. We are all different, so it’s best to find a local shop where you can test the oils on different parts of your arm, walk away for a few hours and then return to buy bottles of the ones that smell best.

The base scent.
Once I figure out which oils I’d like to combine, I take a little glass bottle with an eyedropper lid and mix them together. I’m a fruity-nutty person, so I mix coconut oil, peach, a drop or two of lemon and a touch of vanilla. This bottle is just the scented oils. I don’t add a carrier oil; it’s all pure, intense oils. This bottle, once I’ve blended it to my satisfaction, will be the base scent that I use in the atomizers.

Much like great pasta sauce or soup tastes even better the next day once the oils and flavors have had time to set and blend, perfume oils need time to really mingle and develop. Once I think I’ve gotten the right proportions, I let the bottle sit overnight. The next day, I’ll rub a drop on my wrist and make sure it smells right a few hours later. By making a whole bottle of the base scent, you have a ready supply to refill your atomizers for months and months without having to repeat this step. Very handy.

Once you have the perfect scent, it’s time to make the perfume.
Run down to the liquor store and find yourself the highest proof bottle of alcohol they have. The alcohol will become the carrier of the scent. The oils blend into alcohol where they would separate in water. I have blended my base scent into a carrier oil like jojoba and used it in pulse points, yet I prefer the alcohol for most situations because the alcohol evaporates quickly and leaves just the scented oil on my skin without any greasy spots. The best alcohol I’ve found is Everclear. It doesn’t have a scent of its own, it’s 190 proof and it cures faster than even vodka. I’ll explain the curing in a minute.

I pour the alcohol into the atomizer bottle, usually 7/8ths full. I fill the eyedropper with base scent and squirt it into the alcohol. This is the part that requires the most patience. It took many days for me to learn exactly how much base scent is necessary for the perfect result, so track how many eyedropper squirts you add. For my 4.25oz. bottles, I add 10 squirts. This makes for a lighter perfume so I can spray multiple parts of my body without becoming so cloying that canaries fall off their perches as I pass. If you are conservative with your spray, then you might want more oil for a stronger perfume.

I mentioned curing and patience. Usually it takes two or more hours for the base scent to really suffuse the alcohol. When I first add the base scent and shake it together, even though I know my proportions are correct, the spray smells more like alcohol than fruity-nutty. If I allow it to sit for at least 2-3 hours (12 hours is better), then I immediately smell the scent without the alcohol. It might take a bit of experimenting to figure out your oil to alcohol ratio. Once I determined this, I taped the ratio onto my base scent oil bottle to avoid re-learning what I once knew. My atomizers are large, so it may be months before I have to make perfume, which is plenty of time for me to forget.

I’d love to hear your experiences and results.

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!


  1. MiLady Carol:
    Have you used essential oils? I create sprays with them and have amazing results.

    With love and honor,
    Jen U

  2. Essential oils are part of my perfume base. I also make a facial spritz of witch hazel and essential oils, and several other pampering aids. I even have a few edible ones that I incorporate into food and beverages. Very handy.