My first try at making essential oil perfume was kind of a flop. I followed Wellness Mama’s DIY Herbal Perfume recipe for my first foray into the wonderful world of homemade perfumery. I carefully selected a blend of patchouli, ylang ylang, lavender, basil, sweet orange, and lime essential oils. A liquor store visit resulted in my first ever purchase of Everclear, which I lovingly added to my special oil blend.
The problem with Wellness Mama’s perfume recipe is that it doesn’t result in a perfume.
You see, perfumes and perfume-like substances are classified by the concentration of fragrance in the blend. Wellness Mama’s perfume recipe calls for 65 drops of essential oils diluted in a whopping 4 ounces of alcohol. When you do the math, that’s an essential oil concentration of just under 3%.
But perfumes are classified as having between 20-40% of a fragrance concentration.
So that’s the reason my first try at DIY perfume was a flop; I just ended up with a really weak eau de cologne (the weakest type of fragrance you can make).
If you’re looking to make an essential oil room spray, go with the recipe I linked to above. This post will walk you through how to make a perfume at home, step-by-step.
Buying Your Supplies
First, you need to decide whether you’re going to make an oil- or alcohol-based perfume. The oil or alcohol is going to act as a carrier for your fragrance.
Alcohol is a great carrier because it evaporates and carries your scent with it, ensuring everybody will be able to catch a whiff of your beautiful handmade fragrance. However, it’s probably not the ideal choice if you work with people who are sensitive to fragrances. You might use perfumer’s alcohol, 190-proof Everclear, or a high-proof vodka.
My personal choice of carrier is a bottle of off-brand Everclear that I picked up from the liquor store down the street. This 375 mL bottle cost me about $9, and I’ve been able to make a ton of perfumes and sprays with it.
Oil-based perfumes tend to keep the fragrance closer to your body, so it’s an ideal carrier for perfume in office or close-quarter situations. I personally use jojoba oil, but you can also use fractionated coconut oil.
I recommend buying smaller bottles when you start making your own homemade perfume. Not knowing any better, I made my first perfume in a 2 ounce bottle. Making that big of a batch on your first try is pretty risky since you might not like your first blend.
If you’re planning on making alcohol-based perfumes, you can buy a large amount of half-ounce (15 mL) spray bottles on Amazon. Dark glass containers are the way to go, since you want to protect your essential oils from UV light.
Alternatively, if you’re more into oil-based perfumes, these 10 mL oil roller bottles have got you covered.
I’m absolutely bonkers about Eden’s Garden oils because they smell amazing and are a bargain compared to other companies out there. No MLM tricks involved. (Note: I’m not affiliated Eden’s Garden in any way. They’ve just been an absolute lifesaver in allowing me to put together a well-rounded collection of essential oils on a budget.)
Eden’s Garden’s Best of the Best includes twelve 10 mL bottles of essential oils, including grapefruit, lavender, patchouli, rosemary, sweet orange, and many more. You want to invest in a range of oils that include base notes, mid/heart notes, and top notes.
The set above has a good balance of each. If you want to get more bang for your buck, go to their site and put together a “Create Your Own” set of essential oils. This will let you put together your perfect beginning set of oils at a discounted price.
The classification of fragrances into notes has been developed by perfumers to provide guidance for mixing perfumes.
Top notes are the first scent to hit your nose, and they evaporate quickly; they are the first impression that your fragrance gives off. Middle notes form the main body of the fragrance and make their appearance just before the top notes dissipate. Base notes linger long after the other scents have gone and typically have a rich, deep character.
Your perfume should have a balance of each of these notes. Consult a fragrance note chart to identify essential oils with a range of notes.
Here are some of my favorite oils in each note category:
Some oils are so thick and resinous that it can be impossible to get them to flow through the dropper insert of the essential oil bottle.
These pipettes will allow you to measure out even the thickest of oils.
I can’t tell you how much Everclear I wasted due to pouring issues before I got my hands on some funnels. These stainless steel ones are easy to clean and fit most bottles.
Unfortunately for us, the Internet is the Wild West of information about essential oils. Most information floating around out there comes from people trying to shove oils down your throat to make a profit, or from those who are simply uneducated about the safety issues that are inherent to using concentrated chemicals.
Because, yes, essential oils are substances that contain the highly concentrated chemical compounds found in plants.
If you’ve ever rubbed your eyes after cutting up a hot pepper, you know from experience that “natural” does not equal safe.
Do yourself a favor and invest in this book. You’ll feel much better knowing that the products you’re making for yourself, friends, and family are as safe as possible.
Vanilla extract that you buy from the grocery store has water in it, so it won’t be completely miscible with your carrier. However, I find that it makes a great addition to alcohol-based perfumes. The scent of this particular vanilla extract, to me, is lighter than the vanilla absolutes you can purchase from essential oil suppliers, and it adds a sweet note to perfumes and sprays.
How to Make Your Essential Oil Perfume
Step 1: Figure out how many drops of essential oils to use
First you need to calculate the number of drops of essential oil required to make your perfume; this is based on the size of bottle you will be using. The following chart breaks down all the volume conversions for you:
For a 15 mL bottle, about 20% of your bottle volume should be essential oils. You can modify this fragrance concentration later based on your personal preferences, but I like a perfume that sticks around for a while. 20% is usually good starting point for me.
Here’s an example calculation for a 15 mL (1/2 oz) bottle of perfume:
15 mL × 20 drops/mL = 300 drops total volume
.20 × 300 drops total = 60 drops of essential oils
Step 2: Mixing essential oils for fragrance
When mixing your perfume start with the base notes, then heart notes, then top notes. The reason for this is that, if you start from the top-down, the higher notes will overpower the lower notes and make it difficult for you to balance your proportions.
Many people recommend a 3-2-1 ratio – that’s 3 parts base notes, 2 parts heart notes, and 1 part top note. For the 60-drop blend we’ve been using as an example, that would translate to:
- 30 drops of the base note(s)
- 20 drops of the mid note(s)
- 10 drops of the top note(s)
Based on those guidelines, I might formulate a recipe like:
- 30 drops patchouli
- 20 drops lavender
- 10 drops sweet orange
This is actually the basis for one of my favorite homemade perfumes. You don’t have to follow these guidelines though!
They’re good for when you’re starting out and don’t know what to do, but don’t be afraid to trust your nose (and safety guidelines, when they apply). For example, some base notes – like vetiver – can completely overwhelm a blend even at 5% concentration.
QUICK TIP: Check out my newer post on how to blend essential oils for a better method of finding fragrance ratios that are on-point.
Mix these in the perfume bottle, then let your blend sit for about a week to allow the oils to meld together and mature.
You can modify the recipe again at this point; if you add more oils, let it rest again before you move on to the next step.
Step 3: Mixing essential oils with the carrier
Now, add your carrier oil or alcohol to the bottle using a funnel. Put the lid on the perfume bottle and give it a shake.
As in the last step, you should wait at least a few days to allow the carrier to mix with your essential oil fragrance. This is important especially if you’re using Everclear – the scent of alcohol will be overpowering at first, but mellow out over time.
Step 4: Enjoy your new essential oil perfume
Your perfume should be ready to use now! Remember, you’ll have some hits and some misses along the way.
But don’t be discouraged! Keep experimenting – you’ll be sure to stumble upon a one-of-a-kind perfume blend that you’ll never want to be without.
I want to know – how did your first handmade essential oil perfume turn out?