Alright, you’ve created the perfect skincare product. You’ve mastered the emulsion, you’ve gotten the right level of moisture, you’ve even figured out the exact ingredients make that your skin glow like it?s never glowed before.?You’re almost done! Now, for the perfect natural fragrance.
Most people prefer to use skincare that has a lovely fragrance. A bad scent can be a dealbreaker, even when you otherwise love the product! Fragrance is also a deeply subjective matter. A fragrance that one person loves can totally repel another person. I once made a skincare product for a client that I thought smelled fine, but when she tried it she had a different experience. She emailed me that she loved the product itself but asked (very kindly) if I could remake it for her so it didn’t smell like boiled hot dogs. Eeeewww! Of course, I obliged.
This is one of the things I love most about making your own skincare though?not only can you choose the best ingredients for your unique skin, you can truly create your own signature natural fragrance. Even if you’re not making your own skincare, you can still make an essential oil blend and wear it in place of perfume.
Why you should avoid ?fragrance’
When companies list ?fragrance? or ?parfum? as an ingredient in their product?whether it?s a perfume, a face wash, or a lotion ??they don’t have to tell you what’s actually in it. That’s because fragrance is considered proprietary information. That one ‘ingredient’ could contain dozens of different chemicals?but they don’t have to tell you what’s actually in it. Not all of those undisclosed ingredients are going to be harmful, but how will you know if they’re not listed??The truth is that a fragrance–even a natural fragrance–can be made of hundreds of undisclosed (often synthetic) individual ingredients.
In 2010, the Center for Safe Cosmetics set out to unveil the perfume industry’s mysterious fragrances. They did a chemical analysis of 17 different perfumes and found a total of 38 chemicals not listed on the ingredient labels. Some of these preservatives and other additives were considered generally safe… But others were skin irritants and worse, others were chemicals that have the potential to interfere with normal hormonal function. Yikes!
You can read more about that study here.
Even if you’re not worried about chemicals being a part of your daily scent routine, there are other reasons to opt for essential oils instead.
Essential oils are extracted from plants with a high quantity of volatile oils, which have special properties that benefit the plant (i.e., pest resistance) and often times benefit us when we use them as well. Many of these benefits?whether it?s lifting the mood, helping you be more energetic, or even acting as an aphrodisiac?can be enjoyed simply by smelling the essential oil. This, in essence, is aromatherapy.
Essential oils: where to start
So you want to create your own essential oil-based natural fragrance blend, and there are dozens upon dozens to choose from. Where do you start?
Here are what I see as the main ways to choose your essential oils:
- Start with one essential oil you love and build on it using scents that complement it.
- Decide on the aromatherapy you want to experience, such as calming, energizing, clarifying, or even the unleashing of your inner child, and let this guide you towards the right essential oils to use.
Once you have one or two oils in mind, you’ll want to build a cohesive, complementary blend.
How to create a well-rounded essential oil blend
Creating an essential oil blend follows the same basic principles as the creation of any perfume. You want top notes, middle notes, and base notes in order to create a well-rounded blend. Here?s what all of those things mean: One of my favorite natural perfumers, Mandy Aftel, recommends building your fragrance from the bottom up, starting with your base notes.
- Top Notes – This is what you’re likely to smell first, thus creating the initial impression of the scent. These scents evaporate in 5-30 minutes, typically come from flowers and leaves, and often have aromatherapy that’s energizing or uplifting. These should make up about 10-30% of the blend.
- Examples: basil, neroli, peppermint, and grapefruit.
- Middle Notes – Once the top notes evaporate, the middle notes surface, typically lasting for a few hours. These full-bodied notes represent the heart of the fragrance and should comprise about 30-60% of the blend.
- Examples: chamomile, rosemary, cardamom, and lavender.
- Base Notes – Base notes provide the final impression, evaporating slowly and lingering for a day or more. These scents tend to be grounding, helping to promote relaxation and counteract nervousness and anxiety. These scents should represent about 15-30% of the blend.
- Examples: Peru balsam, frankincense, sandalwood, and vetiver.
In her book, Essence and Alchemy, Mandy recommends building your fragrance from the bottom up, starting with your base notes.
Putting your natural fragrance blend together
How much essential oil you put in your product will obviously depend on the volume of your product to begin with. One important thing is to add little by little so you don’t end up with too much scent. No matter how good it smells, if there’s too much in there you will not want to be putting that stuff on your face?essential oils are extremely powerful, and can cause irritant skin reactions like sensitization and even burns when used overzealously! Go little by little in order to get it just right.
In my online course, Create Your Skincare, our aromatherapy instructor, Anna Doxie and I recommend no higher than 2% concentration of essential oils in most facial skincare products. We also advise against using essential oils in products intended for the eye area, since the skin there is more sensitive.
A few of my favorite natural fragrance blends
I have SO many favorite essential oils and blends, as I’ve been making my own products, blends, and perfumes for quite some time now. Some of my favorite go-to blends are:
- Bulgarian rose, frankincense, lavender, and carrot seed essential oils
- Rosemary and ylang ylang essential oil (one of the members of my Handmade Skincare Enthusiasts group on Facebook actually recommended this one?it seemed like an odd pairing but it really works! I especially like this one for natural deodorant. Get my recipe HERE).
- Benzoin, rose, jasmine, and lime (easy on the lime, though!)
I have many more?and of course when I select essential oils to use in skincare products, I consider the benefits of their chemical constituents as I consider their fragrances.
I’d love to know?what are your favorite natural fragrances?
Please share with me in the comments below.
Also?if you want to learn more about how to create and customize your own range of all natural boutique skincare products (naturally fragranced with essential oils only–nothing synthetic), check out my course, Create Your Skincare.
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**Image 1 credit Aqua Mechanical, images 3 and 4 from istockphoto.com