You can make your perfume with essential oils and perfume alcohol. Each ingredient is added with a pipette and diluted in alcohol. Alternatively, perfume is made by weighing techniques replacing pipettes.
If you’re unsure of how to make perfume, you came to the right place. In this post, I discuss how to make perfume at home, the utensils you need, and what you may expect. When you make perfume from scratch, you’re going to be impressed by how different it smells from what you might be used to. This is because your DIY perfume is going to be made from natural ingredients, similar to aromatherapy oils, and not too many synthetic ingredients as those seen in commercial perfumes.
The short version of how to make perfume from scratch
- Understand notes
- Smell notes on cotton pads
- Start testing out notes together
- Add drops to the measuring beaker
- Add perfume alcohol to dilute
- Test the perfume on a testing strip
- Consider longevity testing (a period of up to 12 weeks)
- Bottle the perfume
How to make perfume – a detailed step-by-step guide
If you want to learn how to make perfume from essential oils, you need to understand what they’re made of. Perfumes are made from notes or scents which you buy individually. These notes are rarely pure as they are dilute in perfume alcohol which makes them a bit more bearable as they evaporate. Before you move on to make your first perfume, you need to understand notes breakdown.
Notes need to be properly understood in order to make the most out of the ingredients you put together. One of the methods I recommend when learning how each note smells is simply comparing them to perfumes you know are made with that certain note.
You can purchase a set of essential oils or a pack of notes and list your favorite perfume’s notes from the web. Then, you smell each listed note and try to distinguish it within your perfume. This is a fun way of learning.
As a word of warning, I’m sure that if you try this method you might be disappointed just to learn how synthetic these notes can be in commercial perfumes compare to your expensive individual notes from essential oils.
You can group all of these notes as follows.
- Base notes
The underlying scent of the base notes lingers on until the perfume completely evaporates from the skin. These notes offer longevity to perfume but they aren’t as noticeable as the top and the mid notes.
If you’re interested in learning how to make a perfume last all day, you can experiment with a higher concentration of base notes (learn more about the difference between cologne and perfume).
- Mid notes
Mid notes are the profile of a perfume. Also called heart notes, they should be easy to distinguish right after the light top notes start to fade away.
- Top notes
Top notes or headnotes are the ones you first smell in a perfume. Characterized by a light molecular structure, these notes don’t last but they can represent an interlude to draw you into a specific perfume.
Simpler note categories
If you’re a bit unsure of how these notes interact, you can simply group them by how they smell. You can consider the following on how to make perfumes essential oils fans love.
- Fruity smells – pomegranate, lichi, strawberry
- Floral smells – lavender, jasmine, orchid, geranium, rose
- Spicy smells – Cloves, ginger, neroli, nutmeg
- Sweet smells – vanilla, chocolate, amber, tonka bean
- Green smells – grass, wheatgrass,
- Woody smells – cedar
A typical perfume has a selection of various notes or smells. You can select these scents as you like but it’s generally wise to have an idea of what you’re going for especially since vanilla is so expensive, as are other ingredients.
Try to make your first perfume following these guidelines
While I’ll detail a standard perfume below, I also want you to test your own perfume. You can use little cotton pads to blend multiple ingredients together to see if you like the final result. This also impacts the longevity of the scent. If you’re interested in how to make a perfume last longer you’ll need to come back and smell the cotton pads with your own mix.
If you’re interested in how to make a perfume last you can start adding more than 1 drop of each essential oil. You’ll see that in the final project I present in this post there are up to 30 drops (diluted with perfume oil) added per ingredient, together with other tips on ingredient selection. For now, here’s where to get started.
The gear you (may) need to make perfume
- Glass beakers
- Plastic pipettes
- Testing strips
- Perfumer’s alcohol
- Essential oils
- Perfume alcohol
Follow these steps if you want to learn how to make perfume at home
Once you understand which notes you like the most and how they juxtapose to offer complex scents, you can start creating your own perfume. Alternatively, I found an interesting perfume you can recreate at home simply by mixing the ingredients in the picture below.
We’re going to call this perfume the Iso E Superstar as the ingredient has been quit alluring over the past few years.
You will need to purchase
- ISO E Super
- Parfum alcohol
Once you have these ingredients you can proceed to put them together. As a true perfumer, you will need to write down how adding another ingredient changes the scent.
You can start by adding 30 drops of ISO E Super.
Since this is the main ingredient, you can’t really replace it but you can change the other ingredients.
The concentration of this woody ingredient is something you can adjust as you like.
You can now add 20 drops of ambroxan, a very potent ingredient.
You can then add 20 drops of vanillin, which adds sweetness to the scent.
At this point, you will feel the scent changing. Feel free to write down how adding the sweet ingredient changed the scent.
If you want to learn how to make vanilla perfume, vanillin is a good place to start.
Cedarwood is then added in 20 drops with mixed alcohol.
While some people add alcohol at the end, this guide recommends adding alcohol with each ingredient.
As seen in the graphic, cedarwood is added in equal 50% parts with the perfume alcohol which is the other half of the mix you add to the perfume.
Orange is added next with 20 drops.
You then proceed to add 20 drops of musk with 80% alcohol.
The final ingredient is citrus such as bergamot with 10 drops.
You can skip this ingredient altogether if you’re satisfied with your perfume and if you wouldn’t like it to smell extra citrusy.
If you want to sell your perfume, you need to know it’s a very complex process. You need to do safety assessments that are complex and the documentation also takes a long time. But if you want to use it on yourself only, the perfume can be ready to use after alcohol dilution.
Note: it can take up to 12 weeks for the perfume to mature when made using this method.
Words of caution
- Avoid putting raw materials on the skin before doing some research
- Start with drops and move on to scales once happy with the scent
- Don’t drop ingredients on the wooden surface as they can damage them beyond repair
- Since at this stage how to make perfume homemade is a question of hobbies, you can also formulate your own scent if you learn how to measure it. Scientific scales can be of help here and you can make the same perfume again a lot faster once you’re happy with the overall perfume.
- Perfume maturing period varies from minutes up to a few months. Perfume aging happens on the spot. But it can also take up to 2 months in other cases. During the perfume aging period, perfume alcohol bonds to essential oils. You can filter the final perfume before putting it in a bottle.
This section details how to make perfume from flowers
If you’re a bit too interested in perfumes as I am, you need to know that you can also learn to make perfume from flowers.
How to make perfume with violet flowers
Violet is a plant that is easily found across the US and the UK. It’s not very sensitive but it certainly looks interesting and it smells like no other.
If you want to make perfume from violet flowers, or if you want to learn how to make perfume from rose petals, this is where you start.
Harvest the flowers
You can harvest violet and rose at different times of the day. Some say it’s best to harvest in the morning. I’m not sure about this one, it’s best to smell the flowers through the day to see the difference for the perfect harvesting time.
Separate the petals
Once the flowers have been harvested, you can separate the petals from the rest of the flower.
Add water and perfume alcohol
You can then proceed to add 1/8 cup of alcohol and ½ cup water.
Mesh the petals
The petals need to be mashed to release their flavored juices. You then strain the moisture out using your hands.
Add rose essential oil
At this point, you can add extra rose essential oil for extra punchiness.
Separate the pulp
For the final step, you can separate the pulp from the liquid and you’re done, your violet or rose essential oil is ready. Now you know how to make perfume out of flowers.
This is how to distill flowers and make perfume at home
If you want to purchase a distiller, you can be closer to how real perfumers make perfume. Here’s how a process looks like
Separate the petals or berries
You can remove the petals or the berries you want to distill.
Add water to the bottom flask of the distiller
Reverse osmosis water can be added to the bottom container of the distiller. Filtered water and distilled water are known to be the best here.
Add water and flower petals to the distiller’s upper flask
You add your favorite flowers to the upper flask of the distiller. The boiling water should be right underneath it so that steam passes through the petals.
But how does steam turns into a liquid or a hydrosol?
A regular distiller has a connecting tube for cold water and an evacuation tube for the hot water.
As the steam starts to meet the cold water, it turns into a liquid, also known as condensation.
Add the jar for the hydrosol
You can use a regular jar or a cup to store the hydrosol once the water is turned into steam.
Let the distiller set
After you’ve turned off the distiller, you need to let it cool and drain it in the collecting jar completely.
Collect the essential oil
Once the hydrosol is cleared out of the way, you can proceed and collect the essential oil. This is how you make perfume oil.
How to make perfume with essential oils and vodka
If you’re interested in something a bit different, you can make perfume with essential oils and vodka. Here, vodka replaces the perfume alcohol and it has the role of diluting the essential oils.
You can make perfume by first adding the drops of essential oils and then the drops of vodka. All of these drops are written down so you know can calculate the ratio of vodka per essential oil.
In general, you can leave the essential oils for 1-2 days to blend well.
Essential oils and vodka can take 1-2 months to mature so you’ll need to come back to the perfume to see how it develops in time.
How to make perfume without alcohol
If you need an alternative to alcohol perfume and vodka, you can make perfume without alcohol at home.
You can add dipropolene glycol in the amount of 3 tablespoons to a clear bowl.
Essential oils or synthetic oils are then added to the liquid in different quantities. If your perfume is only using a few ingredients, you can add 10 drops of base notes, 5 drops of heart notes, and 5 drops of top notes. If your perfume is more complex, you need to reduce the number of drops.
When the ingredients are added to the bowl, you mix them well and put them in a perfume bottle.
How to make solid perfume? Add beeswax!
A similar technique is used to make solid perfume. The main difference is given by the beeswax content.
You add beeswax in the amount of 3 tablespoons to a clear bowl.
Then, you proceed to add the perfume oils.
When all the ingredients are in the bowl, you add the bowl to the microwave to melt the wax.
Once the wax has melted (just a few seconds), you mix the ingredients.
The mixture is poured in a metal container with a lid to allow it to become a solid perfume.
How to make your perfume last longer?
If you’re interested in how to make perfume stay on longer, you need to know there are limits to what can be achieved, especially with top notes. Here are 2 valuable points to consider.
- Store perfume properly
Those who want to make a perfume last all day need to store it properly. In the maturing stages and even after the perfume is ready to use, it should be stored in cool dry places, away from direct sunlight.
Perfumes changes when in contact with high heat or when it’s directly exposed to the sun. Storing your perfume in the basement can be a good idea. You especially want to keep it away from windows or any source of heat.
- Consider the seasons
You can also make your perfume last all day by using season-appropriate notes. Some notes are best for winter use, such as spicy notes (sandalwood, cloves, a.o.) while other notes are best for the summer. Take seasonality into account when you want your perfume to last longer.
In cool weather, chemical reactions are slower and perfume is also slower to evaporate from the skin or from clothes. Heat boosts the evaporation process of perfume and you’ll need to understand which notes are best for different seasons.
Which perfume notes last the longest?
Perfumes come with a large concentration of essential oils and they stay on the longest. Eau de parfum has a smaller essential oil concentration while eau de toilette has the least amount of essential oils evaporating the quickest.
If you’re just starting out in perfumery, you can play around with different notes which are known for their lasting power throughout the day.
- Musk – white musk has a calming effect and it’s used widely in the perfume world and it lasts up to 5 hours on the skin
- Patchouli – comes with a calming effect at it lasts about 3 hours on the skin
- Sandalwood – aromatic and relaxing, sandalwood lasts 4 hours on the skin
- Tuberose – the scent is long-lasting and it’s known for helping with insomnia
- Freesia – you can add freesia in your top notes to improve longevity
Note: keep in mind these notes blend together and longevity changes as a result.
Count the pennies – How much does it cost to make perfume?
Making perfume is fun. It can even be an inspired activity for the whole family. Those who want to make perfume kids love can simply buy cheaper ingredients. But if you’re making perfume for yourself, you can spend more on quality ingredients.
A basic selection of essential oils – $30
Note: I use quality essential oils with high degree of purity (5 to 15ml bottles) – $26 each
A distiller (make your own essential oils) – $300
Perfume alcohol (ethanol + isopropyl myristate + monopropylene glycol) – $14 + $24 + $26 = $64
Plastic pipette dropper – $10
Glass perfume bottle – $12
Where to buy essential oils for perfume? You can check Young Living and similar brands.
Glossary of terms you’ll encounter when making perfume
Allergen-free (raw materials) – ingredients found in nature linelol, geraniol, citral, etc.
Allergenic (ingredient) – raw material which has the potential to irritate the skin or the eyes (eg. citruses)
Non-biological (ingredient) – raw material which doesn’t interact with the skin
Hydrosol – a sole with water liquid
Dipropolene glycol – a synthetic liquid that absorbs water
Essential oils – a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile or easy-to-evaporate plant compounds
Synthetic oils – a synthetic alternative to essential oils
Fragrance oils – ready-made oils
Distiller – an apparatus for distilling or condensing