How to Make Perfume With Essential Oils

This project started a few years ago – in 2008 to be exact. And before we go any further, I have a confession to make. I'm not a perfume kind of gal. I tend to crinkle my nose up at most commercially made perfumes.

Obviously, the logical thing to do with an attitude like that is to try and create a non-nose-crinkling perfume.

I succeeded. More than once.

It's Entirely Possible 

And here's the good news. Making your own perfume is easy as pie.

Nope. That's not true.

It's actually much easier than pie. All it takes is a small bottle, pure alcohol, and essential oils.

Despite the picture gracing the top of this post, it's recommended to use dark glass bottles (I couldn't find any cool looking dark glass bottle pics, and my own bottles are so far from sexy-looking that you wouldn't be even the slightest bit inspired to give this a try if I showed them to you.

Oh all right, they look like this. (See? not sexy).

These are the bottle sizes my supplier has in stock. They're actually quite functional for the inital phase and you can order them right here, but let's face it; there's no wow factor in the looks department.

Making Perfume: the Process is Easy Peasy

Here are the proportions for 8 ml (0,27 fluid oz) of perfume
4 ml (0,13 fluid oz) pure alcohol
4 ml essential oils (about 80-95 drops)

Put the alcohol into the bottle. Mix the essential oils in a small glass bowl and let them sit for approximately a minute and 'get to know each other'. Then transfer the mixture to the bottle through a small funnel and close the bottle. That's it!

OK, not quite. Now the perfume needs time to mature. Keep the bottle out of the sun and away from direct heat for approximately 2-6 months, giving it a turn once in a while to mix the ingredients. Be sure to do the occasional nose test to follow how it is maturing. To your surpise (and hopefully delight), the scent becomes richer, deeper and more complex as your blend matures. The scent will change quite a bit along the way, and it is fun to follow the process. I've had some scents that started out as one thing, changed radically, then come back almost full circle by the time they had matured. Others changed so far from the initial mix that I would have sworn someone had switched labels on me. Working with plant-based ingredients like essential oils will do that. They really do have a life of their own.

Composing The Scent: The Part That Takes Practice

Kind of like a musical chord, a perfume is a mix of base notes, middle notes and top notes. Every essential oil is categorized as either a top, middle or base note. The top notes are what first 'greets your nose' – the first scent impression. Middle notes 'come through' afterwards and get their staying power from the base notes, which become evident after having been on the skin over a period of time. Some essential oils are borderline and function as both base and/or middle notes or middle/top notes. The possiblities of pairing and mixing them are endless, why composing the scent is the part that takes the most practice. You can use as few as three components, but most perfumes are built up of many many parts. I am still a novice in this area, so my most complex scent has only 8 different oils.

Therefore: start with a few bottles (and making very small amounts) – so you can experiment with several things simultaneously.

Tip: Keep notes of all of your endeavors (even the failures) and label every bottle with the date and name of your mix. When you do create your very own perfect scent, it will be a snap to go back to your notes and see exactly how many drops of each essential oil you used and how long it took until the perfume was fully matured. I still have my very first attempt standing around (from 2008) and it actually took a full year to mature, but the scent has remained steady ever since.

Have fun!


Anonymous said…
Thanks for sharing this. I might have to try adding this to my list of things to try this year. :) JNC
Boony said…
that's really cool. Next time I stop by, it would be really cool if you'd let me smell the results. :) (why don't they have a 'dufte' verb in English)
LisaLise said…
@JNC- Good luck with it! I hope you make perfume magic!
@Boony- you shall indeed have a chance to sniff the perfumes when you come by next time. :)
Frannie said…
Wow, how cool. Who knew it was so easy to make your own perfume!!!
LisaLise said…
Hi Frannie - the hardest part is waiting for it to mature. ;)
Hillary said…
Any tips on how to extract the oil from, say, a patchouli plant?
LisaLise said…
Hi Hillary,

Extracting oils from many plants is done by distilling and requires a fair bit of equipment ad know-how. Please read this post for a quick introduction to the distillation process.

I have always purchased the essential oils I use, so I'm afraid i can't give you too terribly many tips about doing your own distilling..
Anonymous said…
If I wanted to make a "sample" can anyone break the amts down to possibly # of eye drops (5 or 6) of oils and how many drops of pure alcohol? I am doing this as a project for church.
LisaLise said…
Hi Anonymous.
A rule of thumb with essential oils (note: some are thinner than others) is 20-24 drops pr ml. Alcohol is about 24 drops pr ml. Does this help?
Anita Grant said…
Hi Lise
I'm thinking about certifying our perfumes for my business. I just noticed, though, that you mentioned the use of alcohol. Our cosmetic chemist has advised us to apply for a license before we sell any alcohol based perfumes to the public. Also, be sure to use either a perfumers alcohol (which is mainly synthetic) or 100& natural grain alcohol which is used in the CO2 distillation of volatile plants & flower buds.
You could also use 100 proof vodka but I wouldn't advise using ethanol as it does have a scent that may over power the precious top, middle & base notes of the essential oils and absolutes used in your blend.
Just thought I would add this, hope you don't mind.
All the best
LisaLise said…
Hi Anita, Thanks for this great input. You're right about the alcohol - I just noticed I wasn't very specific in the posting. My perfume attempts were made with straight up isopropyl alcohol. I have as yet to get serious enough about perfume-making to get down and dirty with proper perfumers alcohol...
Anonymous said…
hello! thanks for the nice post! I made an attempt to make a parfume today and it stincs! I used rose water, spices and essential oils of ylang ylang, mandarine and cinnamon...
Should I have a hope that the perfume will be nicer as it matures? Is it possible that it will change a lot? What can I do to correct it?
LisaLise said…
Hey there Anon - Thanks for your question! I'm a little concerned that you are using rosewater (or anything water-based). Your base should be perfumers alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Water will not act with the oils in the same way as alcohol (and will also go rancid without the addition of a broad-based preservative).

You can also try making an oil-based perfume. Choose neutral-smelling oils with a long shelf life (example: jojoba)

I would suggest you start over and use a pure alcohol or pure oil base.

If your first batch is a small amount, it shouldn't be too big of a loss to toss it. Chalk it up as a learning experience and do a new batch.

Do let me know how it goes :)
Tina Rasmussen, CPH said…
Hej Lise,
do you know of a company that sells perfumers alcohol in DK or a company that will ship to DK? All teh shops I have found do not ship it to DK.
KH Tina
LisaLise said…
Hi Tina,

Please send me an email and I will dig this up for you. I seem to remember running across one not too long ago and darned if I can remember offhand. I will find dig around and see if I can't find it for you.. (I seem to remember one in Sweden or the UK)... My info is on the sidebar :)
Wish said…
Hi Lise,
I have a lovely feeling you'll be seeing some of me on your blog; I'm quite in love with you and what you do :D
I have an intensely silly question and probably haven't gone forth with doing it because it is intensely silly!
I am all set to make a solid perfume with EOs but i don't have anything tiny and cute to put it in right now and i need to put it in something tiny and cute, hehe ;D
I have a small plastic thing lying around, do you think lining that with tin foil would work??
LisaLise said…
Hello Wish and thank yo kindly for your lovely words. I wouldn't advise using tin foil in direct contact with the product. Can you use a small lip balm pot?
Anonymous said…
Many thanks for responding :)
Yes i was certain it'll have to come down to that :D i had stopped using commercial lip balms ages ago so i don't have such containers but i'm finding that i need more and more of lip balm pots and tins as i'm making stuff. I'll just have to buy a bunch of empty containers finally :D My miser and excitement both are kicking in ;)
LisaLise said…
If you are using quality ingredients, your product deserves a quality container (my philosophy) :)
Have fun and make some fabulous things!
Gina said…
Hi Lise, I've been wanting to try this for the longest time but couldn't find a tutorial and didn't have the courage. So thank you so much for sharing your wonderful knowledge! I do have question though, would the proportions be the same when using jojoba oil and would the outcome be as successful as with alcohol? Can you blend jojoba, alcohol and the oils?
LisaLise said…
HI Gina- Using an oil base makes for different proportions. I recommend looking up Karen Gilbert who teaches perfuming online and has lots of tips to offer on her website. Best of luck with it!
swetha said…
Hi Lise,

How does the Essential oil dermal limits apply in terms of a perfume? If i were to use Sandalwood oil which is at 2% max dermal limit (reference is Essential oil safety by Tisserand) should it be at 2% or can it be more in a perfume given the amount sprayed on is so little? I am just using Sandalwood oil as an example.

LisaLise said…
Hello Swetha! Please forgive this tardy reply - your comment seems to have gotten temporarily buried.
It's a great question you have there because it does indeed take a bit of calculating. The unknown in the equation is how much perfume people apply at a time. Some are generous and others quite space in their use. A spritz of perfume is a very small amount (not even sure if that has even been measured by anyone). As nobody would be expected it apply an entire bottle of perfume in one application, it would probably be wise to not exceed 2% sandalwood in the entire portion of perfume you make. Here I am also using sandalwood as an example. I hope that made sense. :)