The popularity of home crafting has been on the rise lately, largely thanks to the internet and its ability to bring together not only people who can share tips on making your own things at home, but also the ability to source everything you need to do so. With that in mind, could you viably make your own perfume at home? In this article we'll be discussing how you can make perfume yourself and, most importantly, if you can save money doing so over buying it in the shops.
What goes into making a perfume?
Commercial perfumes are incredibly expensive, but most of this money is due to being marketed as a high end product and often goes towards paying for celebrity endorsements and other marketing tactics. When you remove the branding and marketing, how much does the perfume itself cost to make? Well, to answer that it's important to first understand what goes in to making a perfume.
Perfumes are essentially a mixture of fragrant oils, with a few other ingredients to help them stick to your skin. The most important ingredients are the fragrant oils, which come in three varieties: top notes, middle notes and base notes. Top notes are the fragrances that you first notice, only lasting about 10 minutes before they give way to the middle notes and eventually the base notes. Fragrant oils are classified by which category they belong to, with some of the most popular fragrant oils for each type being:
•Top notes - Basil, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon
•Middle notes - Black Pepper, Cardamom, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Clove
•Base notes - Cedarwood, Cypress, Ginger, Sandalwood, Vanilla.
In addition to the fragrant oils, you will also need a carrier oil, a clear, high proof alcohol such as vodka, distilled water, a funnel and coffee filters and some bottles to both mix and store the perfume.
What do the ingredients do?
The alcohol in perfume might seem bizarre, but it's a necessary component for achieving a consistent fragrance. Each fragrant oil contains scent molecules and some are lighter or heavier than others, creating an imbalance in fragrances. A clear alcohol helps break down and blend the different fragrances together without providing an overpowering odour of its own.
Carrier oils are used because they carry the fragrance from the other oils to your skin and they don't evaporate. The best carrier oils are odourless and colourless, so they should not affect your perfume in any way.
Lastly the distilled water is used simply to dilute all the oils and provide more body to your perfume, as well as to help aerosolise it so that you can easily apply it to your skin.
How much does all this cost?
After understanding all the necessary components that go into making a perfume, the next important step is understanding whether it is financially viable to make your own as opposed to buying commercial perfumes. There is a whole range of prices for commercial perfumes, but generally the cheaper ones have poor quality ingredients that don't smell as strong or for as long. A decent, mid range perfume costs between £30-50 for 50ml, so we will be using that for our comparison.
You may already have some of the necessary ingredients at home, but assuming you don't we'll run down each item on the list, how much you need and how much they cost.
• Alcohol (100ml) - Since you only need a small amount you could buy a 35cl bottle, which should cost you less than £10 (or you could buy a larger bottle and share it with yourself!)
• Carrier oil (35ml) - The most popular carrier oil is Jojoba oil, which can you buy in 200ml bottles for £17.
• Fragrant oils (30 drops) - You'll need about 30 drops total for each perfume you make, but which oils and in which amounts is entirely up to you. You can generally get 10ml bottles of most fragrant oils for £2 and since you need at least one of each note that's a minimum of £6. Spend more to buy bigger bottles though and they will last you a lot longer! We'll budget £15 to provide enough variety and quantity to make several different perfumes.
• Distilled water (45ml) - This one might be a bit tricky to track down but you don't want the impurities found in tap water. You can generally find 1L for £1.
• Bottles - Dark bottles work best but you can really use anything. You'll need at least one for mixing and one for storage and application. Commercial perfumes require fancy bottles to stand out from the competition and provide a semblance of value, but you can use anything. £5 should cover these costs.
• Coffee filters and funnel - These should cost you no more than £1 total.
The sum of the expenses above comes to just shy of £50 (£49 to be exact). This is the same price you might expect to pay for a mid-range perfume, but not only can you customise your own perfume to your exact specifications but you can make several different perfumes for the price of one! 3 large bottles of homemade perfume at a minimum for the same price as 1 small bottle of commercial perfume works out as a bargain by any measure.
Are there any alternatives?
Actually, yes! Rather than buying fragrant oils, it's entirely possible to make your own from scratch using plant material. Gather whatever pleasant smelling flowers or herbs you like, but make sure the scent is at its strongest and the leaves are dry. You only want the fragrant smelling parts, so if you're using flowers then you only need the petals and if you're using herbs or other plants then get rid of any branches or twigs. Put them in an airtight container and bruise them slightly with a wooden spoon to help release the scents. Then add the bruised plant material to a glass container with a lid and pour over just enough carrier oil to cover everything. Seal the lid tight and store it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight for 1-2 weeks. This should allow sufficient time for the scents in the plant material to infuse in the oil, but if after straining the plant material you find the oil does not smell strong enough, you can always add more plant material and repeat until it does. It may take a few attempts to get a feel for how strong you want each fragrance to be, but once you do you'll be able to control the smell and strength of your fragrant oils to your exact liking!
Putting it all together
Once you've gathered all the necessary ingredients, it's not very difficult to make your own perfume. Using the measurements above, you'll first want to add the carrier oil to a glass container with a lid before adding first your base notes, then middle notes and finally top notes. The ratio you want is 20% base, 50% middle and 30% top, but with experimentation you will be able to tweak these to your exact liking. Take into account the balance of fragrances and use your best judgement here. For example, if one fragrant oil has a particularly strong odour compared to others, consider adding slightly less of it.
Next add the alcohol and shut the lid tight. Let it rest for at least 48 hours, but you can let it rest for anything up to 6 months depending on how strong you want it to smell. You should check it regularly to ensure it does not get too strong for you.
Once the oil smells how you would like, add the distilled water and shake vigorously for 1 minute to make sure everything gets well blended together. Finally, using the funnel and coffee filters pour the mixture through the filters into your final bottle ready for use!
As explored in this article, it is perfectly financially viable to make your own perfumes. Not only can you gather all the ingredients necessary for around the same price as a decent commercial perfume, but using our guide you can make 3 bottles of perfume for the same price as 1! Some of the costs are one time only, such as the bottles, so over time you will need to spend less to replenish your supplies. In addition to being able to make more for the same price, there is also the additional benefit of being able to mix and match your fragrances or even make your own so that you have complete control over your perfumes.