Make Your Own Fragrance With Essential Oils (And Tons Of Patience)

There’s a bit of potion-ing involved.
Publish date:
July 9, 2014
fragrance, perfume, beauty, DIY, essential oils

Read more from Sable at our sister site xoVain!

As far as beauty splurges go, I will throw down for truly hardworking formulas that I can rely on. (And pretty packaging. I’m a sucker for that.) I think the most I’ve spent on one item was $80, and it was skin-tone evening serum that didn’t work that well and boo-hoo for me.

Fragrance is something I’ve always kind of considered in that realm of “too expensive for what it does for me,” keeping a collection of samples around or buying rollerball versions of things I really liked. I mean, sure, sometimes artful perfume bottles just look so luxe on my dresser, but for real, I’ve been nursing the same bottle of Chanel Allure I got for Christmas like five years ago. That said, it’s been my signature for the past five years, out of default. I love it, but I’m kind of over it. I want something new, but I can’t find anything I want to drop a lot of money on.

When I realized how transparent lots of commercial perfumes can be, and that you can make your own fragrance using essential oils, I was like, “EAT IT, CHANEL!” (No, I wasn’t.) Not only is it easy to do, it feeds my creative mad scientist tendencies like no other.

I like my perfume on the less-flowery side -- more spicy/woodsy, so ideally some place in between men’s and women’s fragrances -- but haven’t found the perfect blend yet. Ideally I want to smell like some otherworldly high priestess rather than a fashion diva.

I spent some time idling in a Whole Foods with their ample essential oils section and sniffed just about everything to find what I liked.

A fragrance is generally built with three layers: base notes, middle notes, and top notes. Top notes are the ones you smell first and are usually citrusy and fresh -- they also fade the quickest. The middle notes are a bit more lasting and intense, and the base notes are the real heady stuff -- that’s what lingers longest and makes your perfume smell different when you’ve been wearing it all day. I found myself drawn to mostly the base and middle notes, so my fragrance is most likely going to smell like The Continental.

Generally, you want to mix scents that are in or close to the same scent family -- Woody, Floral, Oriental, Fresh (citrus, typically) -- otherwise things could get headache-inducing.

You can look up fragrance charts to see where an essential oil falls on the hierarchy of notes. I found one here that’s a good basic representation.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just pouring an essential oil cocktail in a spray bottle and spritzing away. That’d be gross. There’s a bit of potion-ing involved.

You’ll need:

• Essential oils

• Glycerin

• Perfumer’s alcohol or a 100-proof alcohol like grain or vodka

• Colored/dark bottle to mix in (the color protects the oils from breaking down in sunlight) with a spray top

• Dropper (if your essential oil vials don’t come with one)

You can find all this stuff on or You can even buy fancy perfume bottles!

Make sure the bottle you’re making your fragrance in is totally clean and sterilized. Get your “notes” all organized. I have mine grouped base to top, from left to right here. I’m trying my hand at a fragrance for my dude, partially because I am a nice girlfriend, partially because his Acqua Di Gio reminds me of all the obnoxious bros from high school and I want it to go. Honestly, if I were making for me it’d probably all sandalwood or neroli because I’m a one-note wonder in that regard.

My base notes: Vetiver, benzoin, frankincense, sandalwood

My middle notes: Tuberose, clary sage, neroli

My top notes: Bergamot, sweet orange

H’okay! Now for the fun part. Keep a log of how many drops of each oil you use--count them out. Starting with the base notes, drip about 10-25 drops of each in your bottle, depending on how strong you want these notes to be. Do the same for the middle notes and top notes, smelling along the way to see how you like it. Be sure to swirl it like a fine wine every now and then, and sniff away. I went a bit HAM with the neroli, sandalwood, and bergamot because these are a few of my favorite things.

Once you have an oily cocktail that smells to your liking, let it sit for at least 48 hours and up to a week. Generally, the oils need to “marry” and mingle. Don’t be surprised if it smells different when you revisit it. You can still tweak with oils, adding more stuff if you want. If you like the way it smells after two days, move along!

After your requisite 48 hours/a week, add the alcohol. I mixed everything in a two-ounce bottle, so I added about two tablespoons of alcohol and a teaspoon of glycerin. Glycerin helps preserve the fragrance.

This is going to smell super rubbing-alcohol-y for a longgggg time. Here's where the patience comes in. You have to hide this bottle away in a dark storage place for about 4-6 weeks. I know, I know--this is not a project for immediate gratification.

Every now and again, you can revisit and smell it to see how it’s “aging.” Eventually, after about a month, I removed my bottle from the closet and took a whiff; the alcohol smell was almost gone but still detectable, so I put it back in for two weeks (okay, so I forgot about it and then took it out after like three weeks), after which the alcohol smell was gone!

The result smells crisp and woodsy, a little sweet and very velvety -- success! I now have a bangin’ sexy man scent to gift to my beloved with the tag line: Wear this if you want your girlfriend to become wildly attracted to you.

Any of you dabble in fragrance oils? What are your favorites?

Reprinted with permission from xoVain. Want more?

How Not To Be Bug Food This Summer

$10 Fake Eyelashes That Look Like A Million Bucks

The Manic Panic Sisters: Everything We Know We Learned From Drag Queens