Home-made perfume – The WHY

Analysis, performed by the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a group with coalition members from the Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group, Clean Water Action and other public and environmental health organizations, found that a large amount of retailed top-selling perfumes contain a dozen or more secret chemicals that are not listed on their labels.  Some of these undisclosed chemicals can set off allergic reactions or disrupt hormones.  Many of these have never been tested for safety on humans.

Seventeen of the popular fragrances were tested and contained chemicals that were not disclosed on their labels. These brands included: American Eagle Seventy Seven, Chanel Coco, Britney Spears Curious, Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio (for men), Old Spice After Hours Body Spray (for men), Quicksilver (for men), Calvin Klein Eternity for Men, Bath & Body Works Japanese Cherry Blossom, Calvin Klein Eternity for Women, Halle by Halle Berry, Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity, Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Wish, Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glow, AXE Body Spray for Men, Clinique Happy Perfume Spray, and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue.

Here’s what the research discovered, on average:

  • Ten sensitising chemicals that are associated with allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis. Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio contained 19 different sensitizing chemicals, more than any other product in the study.
  • Four hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption and cancer. Halle by Halle Berry, Quicksilver and Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glow each contained seven different chemicals with the potential to disrupt the hormone system.
  •  American Eagle Seventy Seven contained 24 hidden chemicals, the highest number of any product in the study.

Medical and public health experts from Harvard and the University of Washington peer-reviewed the study.

What This Means:

Just because your favourite fragrance isn’t on the list doesn’t mean that it is safe. In fact, harmful fragrance chemicals are used in thousands of products and are not listed on the labels. It seems like you should have the right to know how these seemingly innocent perfumes and colognes can affect your health. But, unfortunately, manufacturers don’t have to list warnings or even the actual ingredients used in fragrance blends on the label. And the problem isn’t limited to perfumes and body sprays. We are blasted with harmful synthetic fragrances every day in the form of scented cleaners, hair sprays and dyes, air fresheners, candles, shampoos, soaps, perfumes and body sprays. Research is finding that many of these scented products interfere with our hormones which regulate how our bodily systems function. Mess with that and the risk of diabetes, some cancers, obesity, thyroid disease and all sorts of ailments seems to increase. You may not think that all these fragranced consumer products bother you but try giving them up for a few months – after that, you may find that being exposed to them really does make you feel lousy.

Here’s how to give harmful perfume ingredients and other household fragrances the cold shoulder.

  • Smell good without a toxic cloud.If you want a scented product, make sure it is scented with pure essential oils that were extracted through a cold-press process, not by using solvents. You can also visit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to find safer fragrances and other personal care products.
  • Look at the labels.Personal care products must list ingredients on the label, although there is a trade secrets loophole for fragrance blends. Manufacturers can use the blanket term “Fragrance” or “Parfum” on the label but thousands of different chemicals – many petrochemical and volatile organic compounds – can hide under that description. Your best bet is to avoid any personal care product listing these ingredients: fragrance, Perfume, Parfum, Linalool and Limonene.

Scary stuff huh?

Home-made Perfume – The HOW

So, when combating the chemical industry with homemade products I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to come up with some easy perfume recipes for you to enjoy.  Remember to use 100% essential oils in your perfumes and do not use fragrances which are synthetic blends whose ingredients are pretty much unknown and best avoided.

The basic perfume recipe

What you will need:

70 – 80% of your final perfume volume should be either ethanol or a 100% vodka that will have virtually no smell, or a base oil such as Jojoba oil which has excellent keeping properties and little smell of its own.

5% – distilled water

15 – 30% should be your essential oils. These will be a combination of three essential oils from differing categories.  You will need base, middle and top note essential oils.

2% glycerine

What to do:

Take your liquid (alcohol, vodka or Jojoba Oil) and measure out ¾ of your final desired volume.  Pour into a glass jar.

Add your base note (full list below), maybe starting with 3-5 drops of the oil and gently stir with a glass rod

Smell before adding your middle note, gently stir again and smell.

Finally, add your top note stirring and smelling.

At each stage of adding the oils, you can add more of one particular note if you desire that scent to be stronger.  I would advise that you start with small batches and see which fragrances and quantities work for you.  Point of Note: you can always add more essential oil to create a stronger smell but it can be difficult to undo or dilute the smell after adding, so heed caution and take your time between each step of this process.

Decant into a sealed glass container and leave for 48 hours to one month.  The smell will increase the longer you leave it.

When the time comes that you have the fragrance you desire, add the 5% or a few table spoons of distilled water along with a tablespoon of glycerine and the rest of your alcohol then decant into a dark glass bottle and spray as often as your require.  You can make your bottle as pretty as you like – look in second hand shops for vintage bottles for presents for friends and family.

*Really important side note, please please please keep a record of your blends and quantities. If you make a fantastic smelling perfume you will want to make it again and you may not remember exactly what you used.  Trust me; this is a crucial skill to acquire when becoming a regular at making things at home.  Go buy yourself a really lovely book for all your recipes to go in.  It’s a book you will love, cherish and may even pass on to the next generation in your family.  What a lovely way to pass on home-made recipes and start new family traditions.

As oils do not mix with water you will have to shake your perfume dispenser each time you want to use it. Or you have the choice of adding an oil to water emulsifier. There are a few natural ones to choose from Amazon link

Sensual Smelling perfume:

Base Note: 10 drops of Sandalwood

Middle Note: 10 drops Ylang Ylang

Top Note:  10 drops of Jasmine


Sweet Scent:

Base Note: Vanilla

Middle Note: Neroli

Top Note: Bergamot


Evening Scent:

Base Note: Sandalwood

Middle Note: Geranium

Top Note: Rose or Orchard


Summer Scent:

Base Note: equal parts of Clove and Vanilla

Middle Note: Juniper

Top Note: Equal parts of Lemongrass and Orange

Summer Fresh recipe:

  • 1 oz of Jojoba oil
  • 1 oz of distilled water
  • 5 drops of Jasmine
  • 3 drops of Lemon
  • 3 drops of Orange
  • 3 drops of Sandalwood

List of Base notes:

Balsam Peru, Cassia, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Frankinsence, Ginger, Jasmine, Myrr, Neroi (also a top note), Oakmoss, Patcholi, Rose, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Valerian, Vanilla, Vetivet, Ylang Ylang (base to middle) 

List of Middle Notes:

Bay, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Chamomile, Cypress, Fennel (to top), Geranium, Ho leaf, Ho Wood, Hyssop, Juniper, Lavender (to top), Marjoram, Melissa (to top), Myrtle, Nutmeg, Palma Rosa, Pine, Rosemary, Spikenard, Yarrow.

List of Top Notes:

Basil, Bergamot, Cajuput, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Coriander, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Hyssop (to middle), Lemon, Lemongrass (to middle), Lime, Mandarin/Tangerine, Neroli (to middle), Verbena, Niaouli, Orange, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Ravensara, Sage, Spearmint, Tagetes, Tangerine, Tea Tree (to middle), Thyme (to Middle). 

Essential Oils which alleviate moods:

Jasmine and lavender can alleviate feelings of anxiousness and can be used as a sleeping aid.

Orange and ylang ylang can ease anger

Sandalwood and grapefruit can support combating fear.

Cypress and rosemary can support confidence

Frankincense, rose and bergamot can uplift and relieve against depression and grief.

Peppermint and black pepper can support mental powers.

Eau de cologne

  • 16 drops Bergamot
  • 15 drops Petitgrain
  • 2 drops Orange
  • 15 drops Lemon
  • 5 drops Lavender
  • 5 drops Neroli
  • 10 ml Orange flower water
  • 230 ml alcohol/vodka

Perfume 2

  • 4 drops Sweet Orange
  • 10 drops Lemon
  • 6 drops Tangerine
  • 8 drops Frankincense
  • 5 drops Neroli
  • 1 drop Myrrh
  • 11 ml alcohol/vodka or
  • 11 ml Jojoba oil for an oil based perfume.

Perfume 3

  • 5 drops Coriander
  • 6 drops Bergamot
  • 4 drops Neroli
  • 1 drops Jasmine blend
  • 3 drops Rose blend
  • 10 ml Jojoba oil

Perfume 4

  • 10 drops Lavender
  • 20 drops Coriander
  • 22 drops Sandalwood
  • 23 drops Cedarwood
  • 5 drop Frankincense
  • 100 ml alcohol/vodka

Further reading:

Personalized Perfumes: More than 40 recipes for making fragrances with essential oils by Gail Duff

Album of Fragrances: With complete instructions for making your own perfumes, potpourri, sachet, herbal moth repellent and incense by Edith G Bailes.

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