“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” according to Shakespeare, but was he right?
Fragrance is a powerful thing. Throughout history perfume has been used for, and associated with, many things. It can remind us of events and people in our lives, it can uplift us, motivate us and give us confidence. Many of us have our favourite signature scent, which may be floral, spicy, woody, citrusy, fruity, or musky. And we can switch fragrances according to our mood, the time of day, and the changing seasons. For most of us, our signature scent or favourite fragrance is likely to be a commercially made one from one of the well-known houses, or possibly from a more boutique or niche brand. But…
Did you know…?
There are over 500 potential chemicals that can be used under the single name “fragrance” found on the label of many products, not just perfumes and colognes? According to the Environmental Working Group, a loophole in US FDA's federal law lets manufacturers of personal care products like shampoo, lotion, body wash, and perfume include nearly any ingredient in their products under the name fragrance; without actually listing the chemical.
Companies that manufacture personal care products are required by law to list the ingredients they use, but fragrances and trade-secret formulas are exempt. Yet these fragrances often contain chemicals linked to negative health effects; such as phthalates (see also my blog on Diffusers vs. air fresheners), parabens and synthetic musks. Other chemicals can cause irritability, mental vagueness, muscle pain, asthma, bloating, joint aches, sinus pain, fatigue, sore throat, eye irritation, gastrointestinal problems, laryngitis, headaches, dizziness, swollen lymph nodes, spikes in blood pressure, coughing, and burning or itching skin irritations.
And it’s important to note that fragrance can impact other people too, not just the wearer – for example, have you ever sneezed after inhaling a friend’s perfume? The skin is our largest organ, absorbing 80% of what we put on it, whether that be perfume or personal care products. But you wouldn’t swallow toxic, synthetic formulations or chemicals, would you? So why put them on your skin and breathe them in?
What can I do if I still want to wear perfume?
Avoiding toxic fragrances doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a signature scent. Why not make your own instead, using organic essential oils?
As you may already know, these natural oils are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants and can be both beautifully and powerfully fragrant. The oils give plants their distinctive smells, protect plants, and play a role in plant pollination. And they’ve been used for fragrances and beauty practices throughout the centuries.
What makes up an essential oils perfume?
Essential oils can be separated into three categories or notes: base, middle, and top. Top notes are the first thing you smell, they last a relatively short amount of time, and make up between 5–20% of the perfume blend. Once these wear off, anywhere from 20–60 minutes after application, middle notes start to become more prominent. This body, bouquet, or heart of the fragrance makes up between 50–80% of the perfume blend. After an hour or two, the base notes that last the longest come through. These are usually floral or woody scents and make up between 5–20% of the perfume. There are also families of scent, or scent profiles to consider. Here are a few commons ones:
Oils like wild orange, lime, lemon, and bergamot, citrus aromas are usually easy to identify. They smell fruity and clean, with a bit of a sour bite. Citrus notes are most often top notes.
Spicy oils are often warm-smelling and some are a little balsamic (meaning the scent is somewhat resinous with a sweet or vanilla-like tone, somewhat like balsamic vinegar). They can be middle to base notes. Cinnamon bark, cassia, cardamom, and black pepper are some examples.
Have you ever smelled a herb garden or walked in a grassy field in spring? That’s precisely how many of the herbs and grass oils smell. Fresh and sharp, most oils here are usually middle notes. These include oils like thyme, rosemary, basil, patchouli, or marjoram.
Woody fragrances are middle to base notes. Their scent is grounding and stabilising, much like the roots of the trees they come from. Most wood oils can be described rich, woody, nutty, or sweet, like arborvitae, cedarwood, and sandalwood.
Floral oils are mostly middle notes. They are often powdery and soft smelling and very much like the flowers they come from. This includes oils like lavender, geranium, and ylang ylang.
Cool and fresh scents, such as peppermint or spearmint. (Top notes)
Oils with an almost smoky and earth-like scent, like vetiver. (Base notes)
I’d also recommend looking at doTERRA’s oil properties wheel, which will give you a pictorial overview of the different fragrance families.
How can I make my own essential oils perfume?
When you’re ready to create your own perfume blend, you need to determine what categories of scent you like based on your own preferences. Remember, oils from the same scent family usually blend well together. (A good bottle to use when perfume blending is doTERRA’s 10 ml amber bottle). Once you have all your selected oils in the bottle, cap it and shake to combine. Make sure the blend is what you were going for, then top it up with doTERRA Fractionated Coconut Oil which can help tone down overpowering oils and prolong the life of your personalised fragrance. Storage tip: store in a cool, dark, dry place so your unique essential oil perfume lasts longer.
Examples of scent families that go well together:
- Citrus with floral, mint, and spice
- Spice with floral, wood, and citrus
- Herb with wood and mint
- Tree/Wood with floral, herb, mint, spice, and citrus
- Floral with spice, wood, and citrus
And here are a couple of DIY doTERRA fragrances you could try, both of which use FCO as the top up carrier oil:
For Him—The Nomad
Top: 4 drops Spearmint, 4 drops Lime, 4 drops Grapefruit, 4 drops Eucalyptus
Middle: 5 drops Black Pepper, 5 drops Cypress
Base: 4 drops Patchouli
Optional: Substitute Peppermint for Spearmint for a spicier fragrance.
For Her—The Traveller
Top: 3 drops Wild Orange, 5 drops Lime
Middle: 3 drops Juniper Berry, 3 drops Cinnamon Bark
Base: 4 drops Frankincense
Or, if this DIY seems a bit much to start with, why not try doTERRA’s Jasmine Touch, Neroli Touch, or Rose Touch first? All three come in a rollerball applicator and can be used neat topically. And they’re not just lovely fragrances, they can help with any skin imperfections too – win, win!
Benefits of making your own essential oil perfume
Many of the benefits of essential oils are obtained through their aromas and what better way of really enjoying and experiencing them than making your own natural, vegetarian, organic, and cruelty-free signature scent? As with diffusers, when you use essential oils to make your own perfumes, you are in charge of what you blend, depending on the fragrance you want or benefit you’d like to enjoy.
The fun doesn’t stop here. Why not have a go at making some hair perfume, or perhaps a floral perfume spray? And one of these solid perfume lockets would make a lovely gift (if you can bear to give it away that is!) As with most skills, the only way to learn is to try it. You may be surprised by what you create as you experiment to find out how each blend works best for you – do let me know how you get on! If you’d like to learn more about how I use essential oils for our health and happiness, why not contact me for a free 20 min wellness consultation.
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