How to make your own DIY perfume from scratch

DIY perfume guide

DIY perfume

How to make your own DIY perfume? Is it easy? Is it worth the effort? Yes, absolutely. Here’s how.

If you’re in a buying mood, we’ve listed some of the amazing indie perfume brands out there (like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab). However, making your own perfume  sure beats spending money to smell like everyone else, and you’ll know exactly what goes into your perfume, too. Learn how to choose from the five perfume categories, pick your perfume notes and oils, then put it all together. Handmade with love!

What you’ll need to make your own perfume:

Make your perfume with fragrance oils, not essential oils

In this tutorial we’’re going to use Fragrance oils rather than essential oils. You need to know what you’’re doing with essential oils – they can cause health problems if used incorrectly, and frankly an itchy rash is a hard look to pull off.

Fragrance oils are widely available online, and in some bath and body or craft shops too: hit up Google and see what you can find.

The other reason for using fragrance oils is that they’’re cheap.

Choose your favourite of the five perfume categories:

  • Woody
  • Floral
  • Fruity
  • Oriental
  • Green/Fresh

In making your own perfume, the first task is to decide which of these categories appeals to you most. You may still add fragrances from a different family, but as a beginner the majority should be of the same type; this way you’’re less likely to wind up with a perfume that smells muddled and funky.

Choose your perfume’s top notes, middle notes and base notes

Next, and most importantly, we need to consider the Notes. Notes are the combination of smells that form your perfume. Think of your perfume blend as a great song. There need to be lyrics (Top Notes), tune (Middle Notes) and beat (Base Notes). The song will feel like it’s lacking something if it doesn’t have all three elements, and so will your scent.

Base notes are the smells that stick around the longest, and fix the lighter smells in place. Middle notes are the main body of your perfume, and linger for a good while. Top notes are the ones which you smell immediately, but which evaporate the fastest.

A good rule of thumb to go by is that 50% of your blend should be made up of base notes, and the other 50% is divided between middle and top notes however you see fit.

Once you’’ve decided on the kind scent you want, it’’s time to shop for supplies. I recommend Plush Folly – you can buy all your perfume making supplies there, and their prices are excellent.

Example DIY perfume recipe

I’ve created an example perfume recipe so you can see how I went about it and put what you’ve learned into practice on your own scent.

In my perfume recipe I’ve gone for a woody scent. Keeping in mind everything we’’ve just learned, I’’ve selected four fragrance oils that I think will go well together. You can use as many different oils as you like, there are no hard and fast rules. But as this is a beginner tutorial, we’’ll use just a few.

  • Cedar wood (base)
  • Patchouli (base)
  • Rose (middle)
  • Bergamot (top)

Now wait… you might be thinking, Rose is not a wood – and neither is Bergamot! This is true. Well spotted!

Choosing top and middle notes that are not woody, but which still work well with woody smells will give the perfume a lightness and femininity that woody smells alone might lack. This is the part where you experiment to find out what goes well together and what just smells of old socks.

Creating a perfume blend…

Now that you’’ve got your supplies in front of you, it’’s time to create your blend. Grab a cotton wool pad and some pipettes, and don’’t forget to write down everything that you do. It sucks to create an awesome perfume and then never be able to recreate it!

This is the part where you get experimental. Start by adding a single drop of one of your base oils to the cotton wool pad. Smell it: how strong is the scent? Add a single drop of another base oil to the same pad. Smell it again, is it good? Is one scent coming through clearly, and the other not so much? Does it need more of one? Keep adding or subtracting drops of your base notes, until you’ve found a smell you like. You can use as many cotton wool pads as you need.

Now we add the middle notes. Add a single drop to your pad with the base notes, give it a few minutes. Now smell it – does it work? Does it smell different to how you expected it? Is it lost in the smell of the base notes? Has it changed how the base notes smell?

Once you’’re happy with it, add your top notes, following the same process. Eventually, you’’ll reach a point where you’’re happy with the scent you’’ve created.

Now it’’s time to… wait.

Yup, I told you that patience was important here! Leave your pad at least overnight, and smell it again. It’’s changed, hasn’’t it? That smell you loved yesterday has mutated into something else. This is called maturing in the world of perfumery, and it’’s much like making wine. If you’’re lucky, it will have matured into something delicious. If not, it’’s time to try again.

Making your perfume…

So far we’’ve patiently and carefully created a perfume blend, writing down everything along the way. Now we get to make the perfume. W’e’re going to use Jojoba or Sweet Almond oil as our dilutant in this recipe. Fragrance oils are extremely strong, and using them neat isn’’t clever for your skin either. You can use perfumer’s alcohol if you prefer, but it can be expensive and tricky to get hold of.

Grab a mixing/measuring cup and some pipettes. We’’re going to create 1.5ml of perfume blend per 10ml of dilutant. This will give you a strong perfume, containing 15% oils. So if you don’’t already know how much your chosen perfume bottle can hold, now is the time to check. My perfume bottle holds 15ml, so I’’m going to create 2.25ml of perfume blend. You don’’t need to be scientifically accurate as this is only a personal product. If you were to sell your creations, that’’s when you’d need to start rocking the accuracy.

Add your perfume blend drop by drop to the mixing cup, until you have the required amount (2.25ml) and then carefully add your chosen dilutant. I’’m using Jojoba oil – it’s great for the skin and absorbs really quickly without any greasy residue. Now mix up your blend and dilutant, cover it with some foil or cling-film, put it somewhere dark and dry, and… you guessed it. Wait. This time, you need to leave your finished perfume to mature for at least a week. If using an alcohol-based dilutant, you need to leave it much longer, at least a month. This gives the alcohol time to marry with the scented oils, and means you won’’t be hit in the nose with a blast of chemicals. Maturing is still important when using non-alcoholic dilutants, so don’’t be tempted to skip out on this step!

Whilst you’’re waiting, you have plenty of time to find the perfect perfume bottle. Remember that if you’’re using alcohol, an atomizer bottle works best, and if using carrier oil, a roll-on or dabber bottle is the way to go. Why not check out your local charity shops for vintage bottles? Or check out eBay for a bargain. There are all manner of great perfume containers out there.

Once you’’ve matured your perfume for as long as necessary, go back and smell it. Do you still like it? Has something gone awry? Does it smell a bit like a laundry heap? If so, try again. Or perhaps your maturing time has gone by and you’’re greeted with the smell of fairies and angel wings (it could happen. And we all know how sweet a fairy’s wing smells). If you’’re happy with the perfume, transfer it to your (clean) bottle, name it, and show off your incredible alchemic skills

Congratulations. You’’ve just saved yourself a lot of money, shown vast dedication to the handmade movement, and created your own signature perfume. Don’’t you feel like a rock star now?

If you’re still not sure why you should be doing this, smell some moist earth and read Perfume – Story of a Murderer, then fall in love all over again with one of your most freakish and under-appreciated senses.