Intro to Perfuming is the first video in the Artisanal Aromatics Series of education videos and discussions on topics pertaining to aromatherapy, herbalism, soapmaking, incense creation, and perfumery. On December 2nd, we talked about types of perfumes, fragrance classifications and notes, supplies, and the differences between fragrance oils, aroma chemicals, and essential oils.
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I am enrolled in a perfuming course through the Online Perfume School and am loving it as it has expanded how I think about aromas beyond what they smell like. Aroma has the power to evoke emotions and memories, but when you sit with an aroma or a blend, you can start to draw upon other sensory experiences such as the color of the aroma, its temperature, associated imagery, or how it sounds whether it be a particular sound or even music. Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful sensory experiences.
Perfumes are made using different types of ingredients. They can be made using natural essential oils only or they can be made adding fragrance oils and aroma chemicals in addition to essential oils. I recently wrote a blog titled Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils where I explored the differences between natural and synthetic components of perfumes and colognes.
There are three primary ways to create perfumes and colognes.
Some recipes on the internet will recommend using vodka for alcohol-based perfumes, but it is important to use a denatured (non-drinkable) perfumer's alcohol (SDA 40B), especially if you are looking to sell your creations. Perfumer's alcohol is a combination of Ethanol, T-butyl alcohol, and Bitrex (Denatonium Benzoate.) In the United States, you will have to get a special permit in order to not only sell your perfumes, but to also purchase larger quantities of perfumers alcohol. In most cases, the limit is 5 gallons per year without a permit.
There are several different formulations that can be used to create different types of perfume based on the percentage of fragrance and perfumer's alcohol as a base. For one fluid ounces (30 ml) here is a general guide of fragrance to perfumer's alcohol ratio. It will be most helpful to have a set of graduated cylinders to measure by ml. I recommend blending by weight, but you can also make notes on drops used.
When you make a spray perfume mixed with perfumer's alcohol, it is recommended to let it sit for up to a month for the fragrance to really meld into its final form. You can always use it right away, but the fragrance may change over time.
I use a blend of Jojoba oil and beeswax to make solid perfumes. If you are looking for a vegan alternative to beeswax, you can substitute Candelilla Wax, but it has a much harder consistency than beeswax, so you will need to adjust the formulation accordingly.
I use 10 ml roller bottles for perfume oils, in which case I use about 20-25 drops of the fragrance blend, plus 10 ml of a carrier oil like jojoba or sweet almond oil.
Perfume blending techniques
It is essential to understand the fragrance note of each component in the blend whether it be an essential oils, fragrance oil, or aroma chemical. Typically, they are arranged in a pyramid of Top notes, Middle or Heart Notes, and Base Notes. Top notes like citruses will evaporate more quickly, but will often be the first aroma that you smell when the perfume is applied. Middle notes are the heart of the fragrance and last quite a bit longer than top notes, and base notes last the longest as deep and heavy aromas. Aromatic blends are comprised of all three types to balance out the fragrance. You shouldn't use all top notes or all base notes on their own. Even if you are creating a light refreshing citrus blend you will want to give it some heart with mid notes and a solid foundation of base notes.
Your fragrance blends can also be used outside of perfume or cologne applications. Those fragrance blends can be used in soaps, skincare products, and bath & shower products as well. It is important, especially when using essential oils to know any safety precautions associated with the oil. I love cinnamon bark, but it is a highly sensitizing essential oil, so I will often use a synthetic fragrance oil in its place for the aroma only.
Happy perfume making and fragrance blending! Stay tuned for my upcoming weekly Zoom call series beginning on November 30, 2018 and the first topic will be more information on perfuming!
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There is a lot of internet chatter about essential oils versus fragrance oils as of late. I'm a certified aromatherapist and I primarily work with essential oils, but on occasion I do use fragrance oils. I use them sparingly and always in combination with essential oils because fragrance oils on their own have no therapeutic benefits. Primarily, I use them in soaps, bubble bath, and perfumes. So, what's the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils?
Essential oils are organic compounds extracted from plants that have therapeutic properties. They can be found in the plant’s flowers, stems, leaves, roots, grass, bark, resin, or fruit. The chemistry is extremely complex and may consist of hundreds of different and unique chemical compounds that influence the therapeutic benefits of each oil or blend.
Fragrance oils are a combination of natural and synthetic produced in a lab to mimic different aromas as some plants do not produce essential oil extracts even though they may be fragrant by nature. It is important if you do use fragrance oils to consider the purpose and be sure that the fragrance oils that you are using are phthalate free. Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are used as solvents in cosmetics and other products. They can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system in animals as well as humans. Read more about the impact of Phthalates on human health with links to other research on the CDC's website.
Both essential oils and fragrance oils are generally safe for the skin -- though it is always recommended to research possible skin sensitivities such as photosensitivity (risk of adverse reaction of some essential oils combined with sun exposure or UV rays from a tanning bed) with essential oils and always adhere to proper dilution ratios. There are also specific calculators available to measure how much fragrance oil to use by volume.
The ingredients of fragrance oils (aromatic chemicals, essential oils, and essential oil chemical components) are all tested and have usage rates outlined by IFRA (International Fragrance Association). Aromatic chemicals are comprised of synthetic and natural ingredients that are produced through distillation, synthesis, and extraction. They may even have the same chemical compounds found in nature. An essential oil compound may be an isolated aromatic chemical such as limonene.
Each fragrance oil ingredient is tested by the RIFM (Research Institute for Fragrance Materials). They test for irritation, solvency, absorption, flash point, specific gravity, flammability as well for carcinogens and other factors that may deem them unsafe for use. Fragrance oil suppliers should follow IFRA’s guidelines and use only RIFM approved ingredients in their fragrance oils. That said, not all manufacturers and suppliers may adhere to these stringent guidelines in the same manner that some suppliers boast to sell 100% pure essential oils, but sell diluted, adulterated, or synthetic substances and pass them off as 100% pure essential oils.
Properly tested fragrance oils can be perfectly safe for the skin while others may be specifically for use in things like potpourri or candles. Now, the question is, do I use or avoid fragrance oils? That is up to the individual. As I mentioned earlier, I use them sparingly in certain formulations. I particularly like to use them in place of skin sensitizing essential oils such as cinnamon bark and clove. I love their aroma, but they are too caustic for the skin. If you are looking for 100% all natural products then you probably want to avoid using fragrance oils altogether.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.