Think it would be nice to have your own signature fragrance? Try making it.
Perfume can be crafted at home. Yours may not smell exactly like the exotic whiffs from expensive brands, but there's satisfaction in doing it yourself -- and saving some cash.
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It's not difficult to concoct your own perfume. For some, the process is downright addictive.
"It's so much fun," says Sherri Griffin, of Orlando, Fla. "You make something and you're like, 'something is missing.' You add one thing and you go, 'Oh my God, this is me! This is perfect.'"
Griffin was hooked the first time she combined the fragrant essential oils orange, jasmine and vanilla in a bottle.
"I'm very girlie," she says. "I definitely like my floral scents."
She recommends sniffing out a few favorite scents, possibly going to a store to try samples. Do you like earthy? Think peppermint. Do you lean herbal? Try rosemary. There also are citrus, floral and sweet scents.
The primary ingredients in fragrances are the essential oils; a carrier oil such as almond oil or jojoba; distilled water, and vodka, as a preservative.
A do-it-yourself perfume may need to rest for up to six weeks, shaken on occasion, to get those scents to merge, says Griffin.
"The alcohol scent will fade and you won't even smell it when it's ready," she promises.
Choosing the right combination of essential oils can be confusing, but experiment. Griffin suggests making at least three different batches if you're unsure what you want, and keep tinkering.
Perfume crafting's guiding principle: Choose at least three essential oils: a top note, middle note and base note to create a full-bodied, longer-lasting scent. It's not unlike writing music, according to Faith Rodgers, general manager of Rebecca's Herbal Apothecary & Supply in Boulder, Colo.
"When you formulate with the different notes, it really makes a more well-rounded perfume," says Rodgers. "It's like when you have perfect harmony. It's just balanced and beautiful."
The strong but fleeting top note provides first impressions, the base note anchors the scent and the middle note gives it heft; Griffin calls it the "heart" of the perfume.
Perfumes made with plant-based essential oils are more delicate than fragrances sold at stores, says Rodgers, explaining that commercially made fragrances are generally derived from synthetic oils, whose scents last longer.
Perfumes derived from essential oils need to be reapplied throughout the day. They last longer when applied to clothing than to skin, says Griffin, who offers advice on essential oils at her blog, Overthrow Martha. She also posts her favorite concocted scents.
Rodgers uses the book "Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art" (Crossing Press; 2008), co-authored by Mindy Green, a guest instructor at Rebecca's. The book lists essential oils by their "note."
For example, Rodgers says, for a top note, look at grapefruit, tangerine, orange and bergamot -- her citrus favorites. (Bergamot flavors Earl Grey tea.) She recommends rose, lavender, camomile and geranium as attractive middle notes, and sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli and the strong, earthy vetiver for base notes.
There are dozens of other essential oils in all three categories. Visit Aroma Web for a comprehensive look at essential oils and how to blend them.
Rodgers also recommends buying Australian sandalwood rather than that from India, where conservationists say sandalwood is over-harvested and endangered.
Remember that fragrant essential oils change one another when combined -- and enjoy that discovery.
"It's amazing how something changes when you start formulating," says Rodgers. "How you can create this new, exciting smell."
The recipe: Sherri's #3
Clean glass bottle for mixing, preferably dark (or store it in a dark place while the perfume settles)
Small glass bottle for storing, preferably dark to prolong the life of the perfume, but clear glass works too
2 Tablespoons carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond oil
4 Tablespoons vodka (higher proof means less alcohol smell)
2 Tablespoons distilled water (not tap water)
At least 3 essential oils, representing the top, middle and base notes
1. In the mixing bottle, place the essential oils in the ratios desired. A general rule is 6 to 8 drops of base note, 15 to 20 drops of middle note and 9 to 12 drops of top note, depending on preference (mix, sniff, adjust). You will use about 30 to 40 total drops of essential oil.
2. Add the carrier oil and vodka; thoroughly shake. Set bottle aside for at least 48 hours and up to 6 weeks, preferably in a cool, dark place.
3. After this "resting" period, add distilled water and shake bottle.
4. Put the coffee filter into the funnel and transfer the perfume from the blending bottle to the storage bottle. This is a slow process; be patient.
5. The perfume is ready to use (shake before use).