DIY Herbal Perfume Recipe

Herbal Perfume Recipe with Essential Oils

I’ve been fascinated by perfume since I was young. Scent is intimately tied to memory and I realized that my earliest memories were tied to particular scent: my great aunt’s hand lotion that I would smell when she sang me to sleep, the smell of medicine I had to take as a baby, tempera paint from crafts my mom used to do with us when I was two years old, and so many others.

When I was six, my friend and I decided we wanted to start our own perfume business and we proceeded to try and create perfumes from flowers, water and other things found in nature. We soon discovered that mixing live plants and water in a closed jar was a great way to create a smell… just not a good one!

Fast forward to high school, and I had to save and spend my own money to buy perfume and became acutely aware of the cost of smelling like a movie star. I had one bottle of perfume that lasted me six years because I hardly ever wore it.

Toxic Perfume?

Now, as a mom with babies and small children, I’m lucky if I have time to get a shower most days and I’m more concerned with making sure my beauty products are non-toxic than smelling like a particular perfume.

That being said, with the whole not-having-time-to-shower mom conundrum, there are days when a natural perfume would be nice. Many conventional perfumes contain over a dozen chemicals that do not have to be disclosed on the label.

Since I already make pretty much all of our beauty and personal care products, I felt sure I could make perfume too. I figured I’d make it with essential oils so it would not only smell good, but have aromatherapy benefits as well.

This led me into a rabbit hole of research on the perfume industry and how perfumes are created. The good news is that while the final product took a lot of patience on my part, it was well worth it and it is most definitely cheaper than store bought perfumes (especially because I seem to have a gift for liking the most expensive perfumes at any store without seeing the price tag).

How to Make Perfume

Most perfumes are a mixture of fragrance oils in an alcohol base. There are base fragrances, mid-tones and top notes. When you smell a perfume, the top notes are typically the first thing you smell, followed by mid and then base notes.

In making perfume, you select and add them in order from base to top.

Also, the alcohol changes the composition of the oils and as the flavors meld, they change drastically. I found that some mixtures I tried smelled amazing when I first mixed them but changed and I didn’t like them at all after two weeks. At the same time, some that I thought would be terrible reminded me of actual perfumes I loved after a few weeks.

I include my favorite recipe below, but the key is finding the oils and ratios that work for you. I recommend adding a few drops at a time of each one and keeping a journal of how many drops of each are added. Once you find your favorite blend and write it down, it is easy to duplicate.

These were the oils I used for each level of scent…

Base Oils:

  • Vanilla (I used 1 tsp of my homemade vanilla extract for this)
  • Cederwood (3 drops)
  • Vetiver (4 drops)
  • Ylang Ylang (3 drops)
  • Sandlewood (4 drops)
  • Frankincense (8 drops)

Middle Tones:

  • Rose (6 drops)
  • Lavender (10 drops)
  • Blue Chamomile (3 drops)
  • Geranium (8 drops)

Top Notes:

  • Bergamot ( 5 drops)
  • Wild Orange (3 drops)
  • Neroli (5 drops)

This is the fragrance I finally settled on that worked best for me. I got all of the oils here, but if you don’t already have them on hand, maybe consider asking a friend who is into essential oils if you could pay her a few dollars for a couple of drops of each of these oils….

NOTE: I photographed the perfume in the pretty glass bottle for Pinterest sake, but I recommend making and storing homemade perfume in a less-expensive dark colored bottle like this one to help preserve the pure scents of the oils. Also, my perfume looks blue green from the three drops of blue chamomile oil I added.. you can omit this if you prefer a more neutral color perfume, though this has not ever stained even white clothing.

IMPORTANT: While you can use the perfume right away, I really recommend letting the flavors meld for at least a month before using. It is worth the wait, I promise!

Herbal Perfume Ingredients:

  • Approximately 12-20 drops total of Base Essential Oils like: Cedarwood, Vanilla, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang, Sandlewood, etc
  • 1 tsp of [url:1]homemade vanilla extract (optional)
  • 25-30 drops of middle tone oils like Rose, Lavender, Chamomile or Geranium
  • 12-15 drops of top note oils like Bergamot, Wild Orange or Neroli
  • 4 ounces of alcohol to preserve and meld scents- I used non-GMO spiced rum

What to do:

  1. Mix all oils together in an opaque bottle to get a scent you like. Let this mixture stay in the bottle alone for a few days to let scents meld.
  2. Add the alcohol and cap tightly.
  3. Shake and put in a cool, dark place for at least a month (preferable). This is optional but helps the alcohol scent fade and the scents of the oils intensify.

 Ever made your own scents? How did it go?

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Reader Comments

  1. I’ve made vanilla rose essential oil perfume before and it smelled amazing! Store bought perfumes are so dangerous and overpriced I don’t know why anyone would purchase them!

    • That sounds amazing. How did you make that if you dont mind me asking

  2. Hi Katie
    I was wondering would you ever be willing to sell your creations online.? I would love to be able to purchase everything you make by hand especially baby products. It is a hassle for me to make it myself just because I do work 60 hours a week and take care of my six month old. Please let me know if you ever plan on doing that in the future. I’m sure it would make everyone’s life so much more simple. I love your posts and always try to find time in my day to read them.

  3. Perfume gives me a major headache. I can’t stand it! I love natural scents. However when a natural scent matches too closely to common perfumes my mind still associates the smell with the toxic version. Most unpleasant!

    • Me to. But once you get the right perfume, your head won’t hurt. My personal favorite is musty leaves. Speaking of which does anyone know how to make musty leaves?

      • For “musty leaves”, I’d start with vetiver. Vetiver also used as a ‘bottom note’ and has preservative qualities–it’s musty for sure

        • Hello,
          You could also try Myrrh EO, which in IMO smell extremely musty. You could also add a small amount of Frankincense EO, Oakmoss EO, or any of the Middle Eastern resinous Oud oils–which can be hard to find and extremely expensive unfortunately. As has been said previously, using a carrier oil base vs. an alcohol base is entirely up to you and what you are trying to achieve. For us, our research has shown that distilled water, denatured alcohol, and the essential/fragrance oils paired with a drop or two of Vitamin E and vegetable glycerin does very well for a natural Perfume Spray. There’s no need for dangerous chemical preservatives since the vitamin E oil acts as a natural preservative. This is what most retail perfumes are comprised of known as Eau de Toilette. Although they do not last as long as a perfume oil, their use in atomizers and lower manufacturing costs make them a convenient choice.

          Perfumes made with an oil base only tend to last much longer and have an enhanced sillage (scent throw). If you intend to “spray” these oil-based perfumes, watch for the viscosity (thickness) of the final liquid as it may clog the spray mechanism. For example, Myrrh essential oil is notorious for thickening to a dense syrup when exposed to air for extended periods. Oil-based perfumes are excellent in roller-ball applications.

          Wishing you great success in your fragrance endeavors! Cheers 🙂

          • Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  4. Is there a substitute for the alcohol?

    • Instead of alcohol, you can just use oil, like almond oil, jojoba, or as another commenter suggested, coconut oil & share buyer, or anything else without a strong scent (don’t want the oil overpowering the scents you add).

      I’m not sure if the scent would be stronger or weaker than it would be in alcohol, but it’s always easier to add more eos than to take away.

      Then like Katie said about different alcohols affecting the smell, no doubt using an oil base would affect the perfume’s resulting smell. Just something to be aware of. Good luck!

      • You can also use distilled water or witch hazel.

  5. I make my own scents but with shea butter and coconut oil as a base. They also work well as a deodorant. I agree Ylang Ylang MUST be used as it is incredible. Patchouli is another favourite as is Jasmine and Clary Sage is a bit of an aphrodisiac. Orange seems to go with everything and Frankincense is beautiful but very expensive.

    I have been stopped in the street to ask about my perfumes and have turned many people on to ‘Wellness Mama’.

    • Do you have ratio’s? That sounds amazing.

  6. Hello, can I use vodka? Thx

    • As long as it is high proof and food grade, yes.

      • I’ve heard 100 proof and up is considered “high-proof”, but do you think 80 proof vodka would not work? Thanks!

  7. Wow. Can I use just one kind of oil for each of the three notes? May I know the brand of the rum you use? Thanks!

      • How do you know if the alcohol is GMO free?

        • Currently the only way to avoid GMOs is to buy certified organic. Look for the certified organic symbol on the bottle, at my local ABC liquor store they have an organic vodka brand- Purus, they might have organic options in your area as well.

      • Katie, Where do you purchase your Appleton Estates Spiced Rum? I am having difficulty finding it. Your site is such a blessing to me! Thanks for all your wisdom! Deb

          • Hey Katie wondering if there is any recommendations for making a mens cologne? Im guessing a more strong base like vodka

  8. Do you know of a company who sells ready made natural perfumes free of nasty chemicals?

    • i like to use Yakshi Naturals Botanical Fragrances Roll-On. its an coconut oil base perfume. don’t know if its organic but there ingredients list is very simple, looks to contain no nasty chemicals like most perfumes. my favorite is Cleopatra’s secret, the ingredients are coconut oil, lemon oil, jasmine oil, rose oil. i buy it at my local health store where they have testers so I’m able to try on the scents.

  9. I’ve been making my own perfume for quite a while. I tend to keep them pretty simple, using just a few essential oils. My favorites are: patchouli and lavender – sometimes adding in a little vanilla, lavender and orange or bergamot, and sometimes I take a spray bottle of rose water and add in the drops of patchouli and lavender to that. This also makes a great room freshener or a quick spritzer for under the arms.

    • I was going to ask if anyone had used patchouli and you answered my question, I want to try something with patchouli and a citrus topnote. not sure what to use in the middle though, maybe ill try lavender.

      • I use patchouli in all of mine. Keep in mind it will get a little stronger as it ages. I like patchouli, lavender and Clary sage. And sometimes I add a couple drops of lemongrass to it. It comes off as a slightly woodsy sent with a little citrus note at the end.

  10. Thank you for this recipe! Can’t wait to try it!

  11. Does anyone have a natural perfume recipe for children?

  12. Katie, if you only have store-bought vanilla extract, is it better to omit it from the perfume?

    • If it is natural and real vanilla (just vanilla beans and alcohol) you can still use it.

  13. How do you determine which oils/scents are top notes, mid notes, and bases?

  14. Can u use Bacardi? Or will it irritate the skin?

    • I haven’t tried but it should be ok from an alcohol perspective. People drink it so it shouldn’t irritate the skin.

  15. Do you use one ingredient from each group for making perfume.

    • I used all of the oils above in my recipe, but you could use any mix or single oil.

  16. Hi Katie,

    Absolutely love your site!!!!!!

    I’m thinking of making a solid perfume (so you can keep it in a small jar like lip balm size, to rub onto wrists and neck etc)…and was thinking about using coconut oil as a base. I live in Sydney Australia though, and the temps here would mean that most of the year it would be a liquid oily puddle rather than a solid 🙂

    Do you have any ideas of what I could use to keep it solid?

    Thanks,
    Lea

    • cocobutter and beez waz should help

      • Great idea – thanks !

    • you could try Carnauba Wax, its a lot harder that beeswax, or maybe combine the two?
      Good luck!

    • You could also try making your perfume in a lotion bar consistency. Like Katie said cocoa butter and beeswax would be great. I love my lotion bars. Good luck to you.

  17. She mentioned ANY alcohol can be used, as log as it is high proof, and food grade. What are some examples? Or are most drinking alcohols acceptable?

    • Most drinking alcohols are fine. I like spiced rum, vodka or bourbon for their scents

      • What if someone does not want to use alcohol. What would an alternative be?

  18. Thanks for article and commenters, always enjoyed. I mess around with DIY potions and added benefit: you’re never happier than when immersed in such good stuff. A couple of my perfume (making “foo foo”) staples are angelica root which you can get in small cut up particles. Steep in heated Everclear (for potency as “base”..the booze store man may say honey, be careful with this). It’s a wonderful vibration, angelica. Another is if you have access to rose petals can steam ’em, put ice cubes in the reversed pot lid to condense the steam, then strain and keep chilled for a while to preserve the scent. Red rose is too fruity, mixed pink and yellow may work and some hybrids don’t have as much scent. White rose petals are divine–I made some DIY perfume with white rose, a friend dabbed it on and had a chore at the school and kids followed her down the hall like Pied Piper. Love you Katie and all; make it fun.

  19. Beeswax would work. It’s what I use to ‘solidify’ my salves. I use raw, unfiltered and organic from a local beekeeper. You can also get the pastilles from Amazon, but I like mine as natural and un-processed as possible

  20. Katie: just wondering if you could tell us what your recipe smells like? Something to give an idea of the final product if we use your recipe.
    Thanks!

    • Hard to describe the scent, but clean and floral, but not overpowering is close.

  21. Hello WM, I am currently a subscriber of yours and I am buying the essential oils kits from Mountain Rose its asking for my coupon code could you email me the code please now. Thank you I need the free shipping.

    S.

  22. Hello Katie, on your recipe, when you say 12-15 drops of top note oils like Bergamot, Wild Orange or Neroli do you mean 12-15 of each of those oils or pick whichever one you like?

    Thanks,

    Yoli

      • I’m so sorry but so I am clear about this it will it take 12-15 or each oil? Like 12 drop of bergamot and 12 drops of wild orange? On all the Top notes and middles notes?

        Thanks,

        Yoli

  23. I have made a few scents/colognes of my own using note blending and it really does make a difference. More bass note oils should be used than middle and top and op notes to be used in the lowest amount. I organize all of my oils by their notes so it is easier for me. Two of my favorites are bergamot and also key lime since it has a sharp/ spicy aroma, but you got to be aware of the phototoxicity if those oils are cold pressed. Black pepper, bay, vertifer, sandalwood, and many more are great for men. I prefer to make my own scents instead of going for store bought because i rather impress someone with somthing that i actually made. I also got some cape chamomile oil in and plan on experimenting with it’s very sweet aroma with other oils.

  24. Hi Katie – When adding the vanilla extract…is this done with the oil portion at the beginning or with the alcohol a few days later since the base of the extract is alcohol? Thanks!

  25. I was very interested in making this herbal natural perfume but after looking into the cost of the essential oils I do not believe I could invest this much for a bottle of perfume. If I was planning on selling them, maybe I could. Do you ever make up orders and sell them? Like this recipe I would love to try! Thanks! Yolanda

    • I know this post was made a while ago, but maybe this will be helpful to others, too. I make my own roll-on perfume from a premixed essential oil blend. I use a carrier oil and add the essential oil to that, using a small bottle with a rollerball. This way I don’t have to buy all the individual oils, but find one vial of a blend I like. Using it straight can be very overpowering, so I like to dilute it with the carrier oil and apply a little here or there when I want to smell pretty.

      • Just as as safety comment-essential oils should ALWAYS be diluted with a carrier oil. A safe dilution rate for most people is 2%. Never, ever apply any essential oil undiluted to your skin.It is very potent and can cause sensitivity and even liver damage.
        Mountain Rose Herbs has a good blog post on how to properly dilute EO’s here:
        http://mountainroseblog.com/dilutions-conversions/

        Happy blending!

  26. I know some of your DYI recipes give a trustworthy alternative if purchasing the product instead of making it…do you have such a store/pproduct to recommend in regards to perfume? Thanks for your help!

  27. I did this recipe with the following alterations and it smells AH-Mazing!!
    I used 2 drops of grapefruit, 2 drops of cinnamon and replaced wild orange oil with Brazilian Mandarin. I also did 3 oz spiced rum and 1 oz grape seed oil. It has only been melding for a few days so I’m really hoping the scent stays as great as it is right now. For me without the cinnamon and grapefruit this was too floral.

    • Does this have a citrus scent? I am really looking for a citrus scented perfume. I used to buy a mandarin spray from Bath and Body Works that I loved!

  28. I was wondering how much of scent the spiced rum adds? Also, can I use maybe just a few each of the base oils, middle tones, and top notes? Or is it better to use them all?

  29. any ideas for a perfume that could be used during pregnancy? and how long does the scent of the perfume last? till thr end ofbthe day?

  30. Hello! Has anyone tried this recipe with success?? I am sooo tempted to try it as I love this site, but making a mistake would be costly for me! Any tips and suggestions?

    I am going to go by the recipe, including the alcohol and letting it sit for a month. What should I expect the final result to be?? An oil…or…? (I understand the alcohol will fade away, what am I left with?)

  31. Yikes, Bed bath and Body?? Yes the smells are pleasant but truly not good for you. They use Frag oils which are made up of many different chems. Some harmful, some not. not worth the risk at all. The perfumes they are making now are filled with frag oils 🙁 and no more real civet, or ambergris. The use synthetic fixatives, more chemicals!! Some Chems they use to make Fragrance oils are known to cause cancer, yet they use them anyway. so sad!!!

  32. What brand of essential oils do you recommend for perfume as well as therapeutic uses? Thank you. I want to get started but first need to build an inventory. Way too much information for me to absorb! LOL!

    • I just order all of them from here because they are organic and I can get ones we use a lot in bulk.

  33. I’m so glad I found this site. I am excited about starting to make my own fragrances and am both inspired and hopeful after reading this post and all the comments. I wonder if using ingest-able alcohol for the scent might include gin with the wonderful juniper berry scent?
    Also, does anyone have experience mixing a small amount of alcohol with witch hazel?
    And, finally, any thoughts about using beautiful perfume atomizers instead of brown glass bottles?
    Thanks all.

  34. So I’m relatively new to essential oils and have only used them in body butter and face creams – I would love to make a blood orange perfume or a deep mandarin scent. Do you recommend specific base, middle and top tones to accomplish this? I know I enjoy using frankincense in my face cream but am not sure if it would pair well with the sweet orange or mandarin. I would love some suggestions
    Thanks

  35. Could you sub Roman Chamomile for the Blue Chamomile? I only have Roman Chamomile right now.

  36. Katie, can you not use top notes, because i’m doing a project for my school.

  37. I made this perfume, but I used vodka instead. It’s currently melding. I like how it smells, but it feels like it’s a little masculine. Is that how it’s supposed to smell?
    It’s definitely complex. I can experiment with it more, but if I want to make it more fresh and feminine, should I start a new one?

    Thanks for the inspiration. I love this stuff!

  38. Hello, just wondering, what is the purpose of the alcohol. What does it do for the fragrance. I’m researching online and can’t find anything…

    • It helps meld the scents of the essential oils and create a more stable finished product. Alcohol is often used in perfume for this reason…

  39. Once I make the perfume, can I add it to my homemade lotions and soaps for a similar scent? Or should I do that before I add the oils to the alcohol?

  40. Is alcohol optional or mandatory?? Cant v make perfumes wid out alcohol?????

  41. No men’s cologne? I need to make some outdoorsy smelling cologne for a friend

  42. Hi there
    Thanks for the inspiration. Did you manage to buy vanilla essence in bulk and did u find a spray pump that copes with the viscosity of the essential oils?

  43. Hi i am growing my own moon garden but I’m not finding any info on my beautiful moonvine. i saw rose water made on the stove. i was wondering if you can do this with the moinvine petals also …..thank you very much. i hope you can help me out.

    • Hi, A.M. Perhaps you saw my comment #18 where I made white rose, it should work for moonflower, too. To amplify the instructions,you can take the petals, put them in a kettle and with scant water or maybe extract some of the petal essence with vodka or Everclear and dilute whole thing with scant water: just enough light simmer to build up a well scented head of steam in the kettle. The lid is convex, bulging out. Removing it from heat, turn the lid over so it’s concave, like a well, put as many ice cubes in it as it will hold. This condenses the steam back into the mix but without further diluting it (the lid reversal caper is hard to visualize which is why am repeating, turning the lid upside down very deftly and whacking it back on the kettle before much steam escapes retains the steam but then you have a “holder” for the ice cubes which immediately condense your moonflower steam.). Removing the solids from the resulting “water” you have a sort of more condensed “florida water” and can cool, bottle per Katie’s instructions. I am a fan of moonflower and datura–have dried them but never perfumed them, hope it works for you.

  44. I have made my own perfume for about two years now and use Vodka. I am going to try this recipe Katie as I would like a stronger perfume than what I currently have. Thanks for sharing this and sharing the information about the essential oils. All your recipes reallly help me keep myself allergy free, healthy and feeling fab! You are an angel

  45. Can I use coconut rum as the carrier?

    • I haven’t tried, but my guess is it would be sticky since it probably has sugar added to sweeten it…

  46. Hi Wellness Mama! Thanks for this great thread and wonderful blog. I find myself here often. I have also loved perfumes since I was little. The world of fragrance is certainly fascinating. I have been considering making my own perfume for a while and this site has been most helpful.

    One concern/question I have is the longevity of all natural fragrance. I know that most commercial perfumes contain fixatives to help them last longer on the skin. I have read how natural perfumes tend to fade away very quickly. I think sometimes it also boils down to individual bodies/chemistry. I know essential oils I have put on my skin in the past have disappeared within minutes.

    How has your experience been with an alcohol based homemade perfume? Did you feel it lasted pretty well on your skin? I’m sure one’s individual body and chemistry all play a role, but, that aside, did you find it pretty long-lasting? I’d like to know what to expect before investing in this little “venture”. Thanks for this fantastic site. I find myself here often. It’s always a joy to read your posts!

    • The alcohol defintiely does seem to help it last a lot longer.

  47. This is a question concerning making my own perfume using essential oils.

    What is considered high proof alcohol and food grade? I asked because I read this in one of your answers her about making perfume. Is this the alcohol that you buy from the liqueur store?

    • A high proof alcohol would be over 90 proof. I’ve found pure grain alcohol such as Everclear to be a good option. Some states don’t sell the higher proofs, but most do.

  48. Hi! I have no idea what I’d be doing at all. I had found out about perfumes like this through a book I was reading. I was wondering if you have tips for beginners? And since I’m asking questions, I was wondering if you know any good sites that give a list of oils to use for this stuff? Or a certain shop that sells the oils? Since I’m not good at doing research, I just wanted to ask. So, yeah. (=

  49. Hi, I’m going to try your recipe for my wife but instead of alcohol, I’m planning to substitute it with fractionated coconut oil. In your recipe, you used 4oz of alcohol, do I use 4oz of fractionated coconut oil or should I use less?

    Thank you!

  50. YES, one day my daughter and grand daughter and I decided to pull out my E.O.’s. We sat for hours trying different blends. If we liked it right away we put it aside to smell again later. If it hit is between the eyes we tossed it. We just put one or two drops of each on a cotton ball. After a few hours of that AND in between smelling we sniffed coffee, I heard it cleans the smellers palate if you will. We settled on 3 difference scents, put them in zip locs to go back to in a few days and we loved them. We then made up some perfume and named them. WHAT a great girls day together. BTW, you have some great posts. Thank you for all your hard work and sharing.

  51. Can you add grapeseed oil or rubbing alcohol?