DIY Perfume: How To Make Your Signature Scent At Home + 3 Blends To Try
A signature scent is somewhat of a personal ideal: Find yours, and you'll make an entrance as soon as you step foot in a room or leave a lingering trail that's uniquely you. But if you don't have a favorite eau de toilette just yet, the journey toward a signature scent can be a little arduous; you can test practically every sample on the market, every scent strip in print magazines, and still be searching for the bottle that has that certain je ne sais quoi. If you do fall into this latter camp, may we suggest a DIY perfume? You'll be able to find a scent that's truly your own, plus, you'll be able to avoid harsh chemicals found in many store-bought options—a win-win in the art of fragrance. Here's exactly how to make your own perfume in the comfort of your kitchen.
First things first: Let's talk notes.
A little lesson in perfumery, shall we? With any good fragrance, there's always your top, middle, and base notes.
- Top notes are known as the first wave in a perfume. Given that they're your initial impression of the fragrance, they don't last very long. They're light, fresh, and fleeting. "All citrus fruits, spices, and most herbs are classified as top notes," says product formulator and founder of the natural beauty brand Captain Blankenship, Jana Blankenship. Think fruits like lemon, orange, or bergamot.
- Middle notes, as you may guess, last a little longer on the skin. According to Marisa Plescia, research scientist at clean beauty e-tailer NakedPoppy, middle notes (also called the "heart" of the fragrance, as they typically give it its character) develop within 10 to 15 minutes after the top notes and can remain on the skin for a couple of hours. As for common ingredients: "Usually florals (rose, jasmine, geranium), herbs (rosemary), or sometimes even spices (coriander)," she says.
- Lastly, the bottom or base notes: This is the fragrance’s foundation, lasting hours—sometimes days—on skin or on clothing. "They often boost the top and middle notes but ground the overall olfactory experience as well," Plescia says. They're rich, syrupy, and heavy—think vanilla, cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, musk, and amber.
How to make perfume.
Now that you've got the basics down, you're ready to assemble your own fragrance. Whether you prefer a parfum, eau de toilette (a lighter scent with a lower percentage of essential oils), or even cologne, the DIY method is the same.
What you'll need:
- Carrier oil (think jojoba oil, sunflower oil, or almond oil). Jojoba tends to be the best, as it's "light and closest to our own sebum," says Blankenship.
- 190-proof alcohol, if you so choose. Although it's not completely necessary (you really just need the carrier and essential oils), the alcohol can give the fragrance some longevity. "A traditional spray perfume usually involves essential oils in an oil carrier mixed with alcohol and often a little bit of water," says Plescia, but you can do without.
- Essential oils, for the signature scent.
- Watercolor or textured paper (trust us on this one).
- Spray bottle or perfume bottle.
Essentially, you just combine all the ingredients in a glass bottle and shake. Then you can transfer it to a spray bottle (or one with an atomizer bulb, if you're feeling fancy), setting to rest in a cool place for a few days to let the scents get to know each other.
That said, start with your carrier oil (and alcohol, if you so choose) and add in your notes, one by one. It's best to start from the ground up with perfume, Blankenship notes, so you'll want to add your base notes first, then your middles, then top it off.
In terms of measurements, it depends on how much fragrance you want to make or how big your container is. Just make sure the majority of the formula is the carrier oil and not the essential oils, as high levels can cause a potential for irritation. "A good ratio is 80% carrier oil to 20% essential oils. This can easily be measured by 80 drops of oil to 20 drops of essential oil," Plescia explains.
You may also want to start with fewer drops and work your way up. As with most DIY projects, you can always add more, but you can't exactly remove ingredients from the mixture. That's where your watercolor paper comes in: Blankenship recommends dipping strips of paper into the mixture to smell each time you add ingredients. "Take the time to really make sure it's going where you want it to go," she says.
A final note: This DIY recipe is for a spray perfume, but a solid version is just as simple, says Tina Hedges, product formulator and founder of LOLI Beauty. All you'll need to do is melt your carrier oil with some beeswax (or sunflower seed wax, for a vegan option) over a double boiler, then remove from the heat before adding in your essential oil blend one at a time. Pour the mixture into a container to set for several hours. Once fully cooled, you'll have a solid perfume to dab onto your pulse points.
3 perfume blends to try.
In traditional perfumery, there are common "fragrance accords" (aka blends) to create those familiar characters you may see lining the fragrance aisle. A person will typically gravitate toward a certain accord, usually citrus, floral, woodsy, or spice, says Plescia. While there's no correct way to formulate your own perfume (feel free to concoct whatever crazy blend you please; it's DIY!), here's how to recreate those common accords in the comfort of your own home:
If you love a citrusy spritz.
A citrus accord mostly includes—you guessed it—citrus oils. You'll want to rely on essential oils like lemon, orange, mandarin, or grapefruit to mimic the fresh notes of this airy accord.
But you may need to re-spritz throughout the day: "A true citrus accord does not have too many middle or base notes and thus does not last very long," says Plescia. "However, citrus blends very well with herbal, floral, or spicy notes. Try blending citrus with lavender or even clove to extend the olfactory experience and add some interest and complexity!"
If you're a stickler for floral scents.
Somewhat of a staple in perfumery, floral accords are a popular choice, and for good reason: Florals are beautiful on their own, says Plescia, and different florals can even offer their own unique notes.
"For example," she says, "ylang ylang is often very fragrant, with slightly fruity and heavy tonality. However, to enhance your floral accord, use top notes such as citrus or blend with woody notes to add additional depth." The key here (as with citrus) is to make sure your base notes add depth but not too much that they overpower the more delicate notes of the perfume.
If woodsy and earthy is your vibe.
Missing the outdoors? Here's how to smell like a forest, in the best possible way. Hedges recommends patchouli and sandalwood essential oils to give off that fireplace-chic scent, plus a bergamot essential oil to help brighten it up. You can also add some fennel and clary sage essential oils if your vibe is more spicy, less woodsy.
The bottom line.
Think of perfumery as an art: Each blend is complex and unique in its own right, and no two blends will end up exactly the same. So have some fun with it! Savor each ingredient; dab it on your pulse points to see how it wears on your skin; see if you love how the scent lingers on your clothes. "Treat it like an adventure, and don't be afraid to take risks and try new things," says Blankenship.
Of course, if you are using new essential oils, you'll always want to do a patch test before spritzing—an irritating reaction from your fragrance is not so glam. But otherwise, it's a pretty painless process: "You just need the ingredients, a vision, and plenty of time to experiment," says Blankenship. Trust your nose, and soon you'll have a scent that suits only you.
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Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.