How To Make Perfume

Woman smelling her perfume

The price of perfume for men and women these days can be pretty steep. For a bottle of a popular men's fragrance by Ralph Lauren or a women's perfume by Chanel, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100. This price is pretty high for a scent that is not even unique! For a whole lot less money and just a few ingredients, you can make your own customized perfume and decide what goes into it as well. Use these tips to make perfume.

  1. Understand the formula. Although there is no single correct formula for making perfume, the basic formula is 15% to 30% of the total amount coming from essential oil; 80% to 90% of the remainder is perfumer's alcohol, which you may be able to find at perfume ingredient wholesalers, or pure grain alcohol such as Everclear or 100-proof vodka. (Perfumer’s alcohol is ethanol with an added ingredient to make it bitter and undrinkable.) Distilled or bottled spring water makes up the last 5% to 10% of the remainder. (Keep in mind that it may be illegal to sell perfumes made from Everclear or vodka in some parts of the United States. Check local laws first if you plan to sell your perfume.)
  2. Decide on essential and fragrance oils. Essential oils contain the scent essences of plants and flowers. Fragrance oils contain scents that may by synthetic blended with a carrier oil. Essential oil can be replaced with fragrance oil to create a perfume for a cheaper price, but the quality of the scent will probably be lower. Essential and fragrance oils can easily be found in craft stores, health food stores, and perfume ingredient wholesalers. (Do a Web search on “perfume ingredient wholesale” for a current list of businesses that sell the ingredients you need.)

You can also make your own essential oil or distilled scent using fresh flowers. Gather the freshest flowers you can find, and crush or cut them into small pieces to release the volatile scent compounds. Then, soak the pieces in either distilled water or odorless carrier oil such as jojoba, almond or apricot kernel oil. If you are using water, use about 4 cups of flowers with about 2 cups of distilled water. If you are using oil, use about 4 cups of flowers with about 1 cup of oil. The water or oil must sit for at least 24 hours, and you may wish to repeat the process with the oil or water if the flowers you’ve chosen have a very light scent.

    Remember, however, that some oils can cause allergic reactions on the skin, so be sure to do a patch test on the inside of your arm once your perfume is complete. You should never apply essential oils directly to the skin.

  3. Decide on top, middle and bottom notes. When you are ready to start combining fragrance or essential oils to make a scent that is completely unique, understand that there are three different notes in perfumes: top, middle and bottom.
    • Top notes, or head notes, are the scents that you notice first, and they do not last as long as the other two notes. They do, however, add to the scent significantly, so when making perfume they should be chosen carefully. Top note fragrances include oils such as rose, lavender, jasmine, bergamot, and orchard.
    • Middle notes, or heart notes, add to the scent for a while once the top notes have dissipated, but do not last as long as the base notes. Fragrance oils that make good middle notes include lemongrass, geranium, neroli (orange blossom) and ylang-ylang.
    • Base notes stay longest on your skin. You will usually notice their scent about 30 minutes after you have applied the perfume. When making a perfume that includes all three notes, add the base note oil first. Follow the base note with the middle note oil, and finish with the top note. Base notes include oils such as vanilla, cinnamon, and sandalwood.
  4. Create a mood. Most perfumes fall under the description categories of citrus, woodsy, oriental, floral and spicy. However, you can also use certain scents to alter your mood; this is called aromatherapy. You may want to keep this in mind when you are creating your concoction. For example, vanilla, cinnamon and lavender can calm anxiety and be comforting, while orange and ylang ylang can ease anger and sandalwood and grapefruit can fight fear. For a refreshing kick of energy, use any citrus fruit, nutmeg or a mint such as peppermint or spearmint. Need a boost of confidence and mood? Try cypress or rosemary, sweet basil, bergamot or geranium. Frankincense, rose, and bergamot can help relieve depression and grief. To increase memory powers, try a combination of black pepper and peppermint. For a sensual, romantic treat, use jasmine, ylang ylang, neroli, patchouli or rose. (Don't forget to write down your formula so you can make the perfume again.)

    There are many recipes for perfume online. While playing with fragrances can be fun, it can also be frustrating if you cannot get the desired scent you want. You can perform a simple web search to find a previously created recipe, either with or without the use of alcohol, by typing “perfume recipes” into any search engine. Searching for a ready-made recipe can ensure that the formula you try will be successful. The website, Pioneer Thinking contains some great perfume recipes for beginners. The names are better than what the designers name their perfumes.

  5. Make your perfume. You will have to play around with the oils to make your own homemade perfume. To start, try mixing ¼ cup of straight vodka with 5 drops of an essential or fragrance oil of your choice. Depending on how strong you want the perfume, you can let the mixture stand for as few as 48 hours to as long as a month. The longer your mixture stands, the stronger it will be. After your perfume has sat for the preferred time, add 2 tablespoons of the distilled water. If it is too strong for you, you can add more water to get your desired scent strength. You may find that vodka-based perfumes require more water, and that the water may tend to separate; if this happens, simply shake the perfume each time you apply it. To stabilize the perfume and make the scent last longer, add a tablespoon of glycerin to your perfume mixture. Glycerin is a thick colorless liquid that is often used in soap making. It can be found anywhere soap-making supplies are found. When added to water and alcohol, glycerin remains in liquid form and helps the other ingredients dissolve faster and better.
  6. Store your perfume properly. The scent in perfumes can quickly break down in the presence of heat, light or oxygen, and homemade perfumes will not last as long or smell as strong as store-bought ones because they lack the many stabilizing ingredients used by professional perfumers. To keep your homemade perfume as fresh as possible, store it in a small UV resistant glass or plastic container. You can buy a container with a sprayer at almost any local craft store. You might also be able to find vintage perfume bottles at thrift stores or flea markets. Keep the bottle in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Storing it in the refrigerator isn’t necessary for the perfume to last.

From using oils to storage requirements, you can now start making perfume. Now that you know the basics, feel free to give your homemade perfume to men or women as birthday or Christmas gifts. Who wouldn't love to receive their own signature scent, especially if it is named after them?


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