Scents entice us; they with the uncanny ability to affect us in such subtle ways that we don’t even notice our souls being lifted and our crowded minds pacified. My mother always said, “You can forget a face but never a scent… “And she is right, scents stay with you forever.
We all love smelling delightful and perhaps it is the recognition of how scent empowers us that makes the fragrance industry the thriving giants they are today.
Fragrance is the aromatic compound of plants and flowers, but because it takes so much of them to produce just one ounce of essential oil, fragrance producers found it more cost effective to use synthetic chemicals that mirror the original fragrances instead. Furthermore as not all plants and flowers naturally produce the oil, synthetic chemicals seem to be the promise of scent varieties that their natural counterparts cannot give.
It is important to know that these synthetic chemicals are often made up of petrochemicals, coal, and coal tars. In fact, the very first synthetic chemical used in perfume making was nitrobenzene, a compound of nitric acid and benzene that mimicked the scent of almond.
Needless to say where chemicals are used, health issues will arise. The heavy use and complexity of the synthetic chemical cocktails employed in fragrance making has done us no better by leaving trails of concern that range from cancer to allergies.
Manufactured perfumes and fragrances may come in exotic bottles, whose attractions can only be matched by the scent of their contents, but poison is poison and with that knowledge would you still want to put it on yourself or watch as a loved one slowly intoxicates himself to slow fragrant death?
Now before everyone goes swearing off perfumes and fragrances, lets pause for a moment to remember how fragrance was made in the first place and how it didn’t involve the use synthetic chemicals. Making your own natural fragrance is just a matter of manipulating natural essential oils to make it safely applicable on the skin.
To make your own natural fragrance or perfume, you need to understand the following:
- What are essential oils?
- How do you extract/make essential oils?
- What are fragrance notes?
What are essential oils?
Essential oils can best be described as the substance that give the plant or flower its unique fragrance. And although it is termed oil, it is neither greasy nor fatty in matter. Instead it is a potent smelling, volatile life-force-like substance that is extracted from the plant or flower.
How do you make essential oils?
Essential oils must be extracted from its source which is the flower or plant. But how exactly is it extracted? Well if you’ve ever watched or read Patrick Süskind’s, ‘Perfume, Story of a murderer’ you might have an idea.
There are many methods of extraction (expression/cold pressing, distillation, enfleurage, maceration, solvent extraction, super-critical fluid extraction, ethanol extraction, etc), but if you’re making it at home ,then one sure way to obtain essential oil is by investing in a still and performing the entire steam distilling process, because the other methods aren’t as economically feasible in comparison (that is if you can consider purchasing a still to be economical in the first place).
The method you find written in several articles about ‘making your own essential oil’ that involves the use of a base oil, muslin cloth, flowers and a crock pot is simply a modified version of the conventional hot enfleurage process.
However unlike the actual process of hot enfleurage, where the fragrance saturated fat known as enfleurage pomade is washed or soaked in ethyl alcohol; which absorbs the fragrant molecules from the fat and later allows for separation between the three components, the modified home version does not involve that last step.
Straining the mixture through a muslin cloth only serves to remove trace particles of the source herbs/flowers. It does not separate the base oil from the essential oil, thereby leaving you with INFUSED OIL and NOT essential oil.
So after such a lengthy explanation, how do we make our own natural perfume if isn’t economically feasible for us to make our own essential oil? Well firstly, infused oil is simply not as potent as essential oil, it does not mean that it doesn’t smell just as lovely and can’t be applied as perfume oil.
In fact, in order for an essential oil to be used as perfume oil, it needs to be mixed with a carrier oil / base oil to dilute the concentrated molecules and to help spread them over the surface of the skin; so you’ve really just gone one step ahead and made a single note perfumed oil!
But if you want to get a multi-note mixture or create a more potent unique scent of perfume, then you can always just drop by an organic aromatherapy shop and buy 2 -3 bottles of different essential oils of your preference to mix your own or simply add to the infused oil you’ve just made.
So now that we’re done with the technical details, and you know what you need to make natural perfume, let’s move on to the fun part – discovering the various combinations.
What are fragrance notes?
While perfume may be the result of a brilliant mix of different scents from different flowers and plants, it is important to know that scents come in notes and it is how you mix these notes that ultimately determine the lasting aroma you’ve created.
Essentially, scents are divided into 3 notes. There are the:
There are no fixed or hard rules to the composition of your perfume creation; it’s entirely up to you, made by you- which is exactly what makes it so wonderful to be able to make your own.
As a guidance, you can always try your selection of essential oils in the following proportion and move to vary it in your own time:
When mixing, always begin with the carrier oil, followed by the base note, middle note then finally ending with the top note. Once satisfied with the scent of your fragrance, make sure to screw the cap on tightly before setting it aside to infuse in a cool dark place. This process, allows for the scents to fully mix and mature to become your desired scent.
You can let the infusion process go on for as short as a few days to as long as 6 weeks. The longer the mixture of oils is left to mature, the stronger the scent of your perfume.
The use of essential oil doesn’t stop at perfume, you can use it for your home in reed diffusers or even room mists, it is entirely up to you.
Making your own natural organic eco-friendly fragrance is easy and fun; you just need the essential oils and your creativity to bring them together.
However, please be aware that you should always practice caution in everything you do, so the use of essential oils is no exception to the rule. You can always visit the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) for more information.
Image source: New Directions Australia