I’ve been fascinated by perfume since I was a kid. 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.
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 (at Home)
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.
DIY Perfume Recipe
These were the oils I used for each level of scent…
- 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)
- Rose (6 drops)
- Lavender (10 drops)
- Blue Chamomile (3 drops)
- Geranium (8 drops)
- 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
DIY Perfume Instructions:
- 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.
- Add the alcohol and cap tightly.
- 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?
Discussion (161 Comments)
Thank you for this recipe! Can’t wait to try it!
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.
Hi hope all is well but this is new 4 me. So in the top where u list all of this oils. U list top, middle and last notes. Do u use ALL of the oils to make one particular perfume?? I’m just curious. I don’t want to mix up all of the oils an have to throw it away. So is that 1 recipe in itself?? Thanks for your time. Looking forward to this journey
hi, relay as I know about perfumes making you can only use one oil of each tone
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.
I use perfumer’s alcohol-200 proof
I need a mixture for a clean fresh scent like “light blue” from a department store. Not string just like clean smelling baby fresh.
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!
Katie - Wellness Mama
You can. I used appleton estates
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
Katie - Wellness Mama
Most liquor stores should carry it…
Hey Katie wondering if there is any recommendations for making a mens cologne? Im guessing a more strong base like vodka
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!
80 proof works just fine. I use it all the time.
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.
Four years later from your comment, but if you see this can you reply with your recipe, Fiona? I’m guessing your is more of a roll on. I’ve tried liquid recipes before (not wellness mammas) and it did not last long at all.
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.
No, you cannot.
Please refrain from giving such unsafe advice.
Water or witch hazel do not properly dilute EO.
Dilution is of extreme importance or severe allergic reactions could take place.
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
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.
Vetiver is not a preservative.
It is a fixative.
Green fragrances you can try would be Violet Leaf, Basil or Petitgrain.
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.
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