Making a Perfume

UNDERSTANDING FRAGRANCE

Disclaimer: The information herein provided is for general information only. Any health or safety related issues should be further researched, and the advice requested of a properly qualified professional. Aromatics & More Ltd. and its owners cannot be held responsible for, and will not be liable for the inaccuracy or application of any information whatsoever herein provided.

AROMA VOCABULARY

Accord: an accord is the perfumery is equal to a chord in music. it’s a blend of 2 or more smells that produce a third and distinctive smell. An accord may be a simple mixture or consist of many components and applies when each part  is in balance and harmony with each other material so that no single part can be detected.

Aroma Chemical: any chemical compound created and used for its aromatic properties. Aroma chemicals could be isolates of essential oils, the chemical change of those isolates, or synthetic compounds from petrochemicals

Body: the main fragrance theme, the middle note or “heart” of a perfume. It is also used to describe a fragrance that is well-rounded or full.

Balanced: This is when a fragrance has been so carefully blended that no single aromatic body or effect is readily identifiable.

Bottom (base) Note: the underlying components of a fragrance, responsible for its lasting qualities, often called fixatives.

Bridge: the ability of a scent (single oil or accord) to connect two notes of a fragrance and thus smoothing the transition from one phase to another.

Character: the distinct impression that the fragrance gives (fresh, fruity, floral etc.)

Diffusion: The degree in which the fragrance radiates from the product or the user after the application of the product.

Dry down: the final phase of a fragrance — the bottom note, the character which appears several hours after application. Perfumers evaluate the bottom (base) notes and the tenacity of the fragrance during this stage.

Fixative: a material used in a perfume to “fix” the perfume or make it last longer. Fixatives may be simply materials that are relatively longer lasting than the other components or they may have some physical or chemical effect of forming bonds with the other materials.

Lift: The impact of a fragrance. Highly diffusive fragrances have a good “lift”.

Middle (heart) Note: the core of a perfume composition which gives it its character. The middle or “heart” note make up the main part of a fragrance and determines the classification or fragrance family.

Note(s): one of three distinct periods in the evaporation of a perfume, (see: top note, middle note, bottom note). This also indicates an olfactory impression of a single smell.

Strength: The intensity of the fragrance.

Thread: the term “common” thread describes a fragrance’s ability to flow from one phase to another in a cohesive rather than a discordant fashion.

Top Note: the impression of a fragrance when first smelled or applied to the skin usually the most volatile ingredients in a perfume. the materials in the formulation that show themselves in the first stages of evaporation

Volatility: The degree in which a component freely diffuses into the atmosphere.

How Fragrances are Created

Fragrances are compounds added to products to improve their odor and create an aesthetic impression. The structure of a fragrance is like that of a pyramid with the base being larger than the top.

  • Top notes of the fragrance are the smallest part and make up 15-25% of the fragrance. These notes are those that you smell when you first open the bottle or use the product.
  • Middle notes make up 30-40% of the total fragrance and become noticeable after the top notes have faded.
  • Base notes or bottom notes consist of 40-55% of the total fragrance and tend to be long-lasting.  They don’t appear until after the “drydown”.

Top Notes: Basil, Bergamot, Cardamon, Clary Sage, Coriander, Eucalyptus, Graperfruit, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Pine, Tea Tree, and Thyme.

Middle or Heart Notes: Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Geranium, Jasmine, Marjoram, Frankinscense, Palmarosa, Chamomile, Rose, Ylang Ylang.

Base or Bottom Notes: Benzoin, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver

Blending Tips

Initially consider the oil’s note and the other oils which it may blend well with. There are many aromatherapy books on the market and information on the internet that give you indications of which oils blend well together.

First: decide what heart note(s) you want to use (i.e. body, middle note). Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and what type of product this will go into. What is the purpose of the perfume and what is the mood that you want to create. What age group will be using it?

Second: choose your complementary base note(s). A couple of ways to find out what compliments your heart note might be to cut strips of paper and put your scent on the papers. Combine the strips and see how they smell together. Another method is to take the tops of the bottles and hold them together. Mover the bottles through the air under your nose and sniff.

Third: add the heart note to the selected base note — (not the other way around).

Fourth: finish off with your complementary top note(s).

Last: add the modifier.

A modifier is a scent added to give the fragrance that gives it its uniqueness. Modifiers are use sparingly. Start with just a touch and keep adding. If you can smell the modifier in the blend then you have used too much. If this happens increase your heart note.

Always take notes as you work! It would be tragic to come up with that incredible scent and not know how you came about it.

Start by blending just two to three oils. Your scent should contain a top and middle note, or a top, middle or base note. In simple blends they may be just single oils. We have supplied a few formulas for you to get some ideas where you can start. A well constructed blend will smell like one fragrance. In a balanced blend you should not be able to distinguish its different parts. It may be soft and floral, woody, spicy or fruity. Scents change and develop as they age, revealing the top, middle, and bottom notes respectively over time. It should not change from one scent to another to another during this time.

Types of Fragrance Ingredients

A fragrance blend can consist of a mixture of essential oils, synthetic aroma chemicals, or both. In some cases a synthetic is used because the essential oil is prohibitively expensive. Because of animal humane reasons natural oil may be replaced by a non-animal synthetic. Some oils are impossible to obtain, or don’t occur in nature such as pear and mango.

When many of us hear the word chemical we think that is unnatural or toxic. Chemists know that everything around us is made up of chemicals, we eat them, we drink them, WE are them. When essential oils are extracted all the components of the chemicals are present and are affected by soil quality, sunshine, water and so on. So year to year the oil may vary. In perfumery, components of the oil may be extracted to control the consistency of the aroma and to remove any undesirable qualities. These are known as “aroma chemicals”. Aroma chemicals are sourced from isolates of essential oils, chemically modified isolates of essential oils and from the petrochemical industry. When mixing perfumes care should be used with all fragrance components as you would when using pure essential oils. Overall there are probably more hazards when mixing pure essential oils than most aroma chemicals. Fragrance oils are aroma chemicals blended to create a desired aroma.

In addition to Top, Middle and Base Notes, perfumes are also put into categories that describe the fragrance, such :

  • Citrus: Derived from ingredients such as lemon, bergamot and orange. They are lighter and refreshing and almost always considered top notes. They are volatile and not very long-lasting.
  • Fruity: Most often these are notes based on comforting flavors. They are perceived as being fresh, natural, clean and crisp. They tend to be strong and good for covering strong base odors.
  • Herbaceous: These are crisp, leafy, greens scents. They are fresh, clean and natural smelling. They are very diffusive and make good top notes.
  • Floral: Floral notes tend to be the most varied and are the most popular for women’s fragrances. They can be familiar, gentle, and clean. There are several sub-types and they are powerful smelling. They can be used in very small amounts in blends or worn alone.
  • Oriental: Oriental notes are loosely described as being ingredients originally sourced from the Far East.  Examples include Sandalwood, Vanilla and Frankincense. They are long-lasting.

Types of Perfume

The difference between a perfume, cologne and splash is the ratio of water and alcohol to the fragrance. The following is a chart that illustrates the ratios. It has become almost impossible to acquire pure grain alcohol for making perfumes. As a substitute for alcohol try to buy the strongest strength Vodka that you can find. Do not every substitute the alcohol with the pharmacy variety called isopropyl alcohol.

 Fragrance Type % oil %alcohol %water
 Perfume 15 – 30 90 – 95 5 – 10
Eau de perfume 8 – 15 80 – 90 10 – 20
Eau de toilette 4 – 8 80 – 90 10 – 20
Eau de cologne 3 – 5 70 30
Cologne splash 1 – 3 80 20

 

 

 

Helpful Measurements

300 drops=Tbs or 15/ml

100 drops= 1 tsp or /5ml

25 drops =.25 tsp or 1.25 ml

 Solid Perfume

Solid perfumes are also pleasant to use and easy to make. A basic formula would use 80% of your favorite light oil, 13% beeswax and 7% of your fragrance.  Melt wax with oil, let cool, add fragrance, blend well and pour into container. Lip balm containers make excellent containers for this. If your results are too hard, add more oil or less beeswax; to soft, add less oil or more beeswax; too strong, add less fragrance. As always I offer suggestions and a place to start.

 Perfume Oil: Add 10% fragrance to your favorite light oil. I suggest adding 1% Vitamin E oil as an anti-oxidant.

How to add Fragrance to your Products

Adding your fragrance to a product can be quite challenging. There are a many reactions which may occur and change the thickness and look of your product.

  • Fragrances are primarily oily compounds and many formulas are water based. When the fragrance is incompatible with a water base formula a non-ionic solubilizing surfactant such as Polysorbate 20 or 80 may be used. The fragrance is first mixed into the surfactant before adding it to the final batch. The amount of solubilizer needed will vary from fragrance to fragrance. A good starting point is to mix three to four times the amount of solubilizer to fragrance.
  • Since fragrance makes up such a small amount of the total formula it may seem surprising that they can have such an impact on the thickness of a product-especially in shampoos and surfactant cleaning agents. It may make them thinner or it may make them thicker. In shampoos and body washes one way to deal with the problem may be to adjust the final viscosity by adding salt to the formula after the fragrance has been added. Another solution is to make up a batch of non-fragranced base and test your fragrances on small amounts at a time. This is trial and error and cannot be anticipated until the products are put together unless you are a highly experienced cosmetic chemist or perfumer.
  • Fragrances may affect the appearance of your product. Because they are oil based they may make clear gels and formulas hazy. They may also make an emulsion separate, go grainy, or even pearl over time. Fragrances may also make the formula turn yellow. For this reason testing your products stability is highly recommended before marketing your products.
  • Fragrances are typically added at the end of the formulation process. Adding them early on when the product may be warm will have negative consequences. The more volatile components of the fragrance will evaporate off when the heat is added. Ultimately the fragrance will not smell as you expected it would. If heating is not required the fragrance should be added to the oil phase of your formula.
  • Often times the same fragrance may be added to a full line of different products. A fragrance used in a shampoo may not smell the same as the same fragrance used in a cream. One solution may be to up the fragrance level in the products to cover variations in the base odor. One must be careful to not overdo this though as fragrance may also cause varying reactions when applied to the skin.

Is the Product Stable?

Because fragrances are made up of organic compounds that contain many reactive groups one may have to perform stability testing on their products.  Testing should include storage under conditions of high heat and intense lighting. The increased heat may drive potential reactions that may change the scent and color of a product.  Exposure to light may turn a formula yellow or make it smell bad.  One solution to problems of heat stability is to add an anti-oxidant to your products. Anti-oxidants selectively react with free radicals to neutralize their ability to react. One such anti-oxidant is Vitamin E.

Depending on what type of plastic the product in contained in, it is possible for the fragrance to migrate into the plastic and change the odor of the formula. PET plastic is one plastic that may be used with fragrance. In cases where the fragrance is sensitive to light an opaque package should be used.

Perform a Patch Test

Some products and scents may react with the skin and cause dermatitis or sensitivity. Test your product on a small patch of skin. Do this more than once in the same place. If you have a skin reaction your product may produce an allergic reaction in others too. Some people may react to even the mildest of perfumes. It is a good idea to have a warning on your product labels that may read “discontinue use if irritation develops”. I put this on all my products even if they are fragrance and color free.

Oriental Blends

Oriental Bouquet : Ylang Ylang 2 parts, Gardenia 8 parts, Jasmine 4 parts, Vanilla 8 parts, Sandalwood 6 parts
Vanilla Rose: Vanilla 10 parts, Petitgrain 10 parts, Rose 5  parts
Jasmine Spice: Pimento Leaf 2 parts, Cinnamon 4 parts, Orange 8 parts, Vanilla 16 parts
Zanzibar: Nutmeg: Nutmeg 1 part, Cinnamon 3 parts, Coriander 2 parts, Bay 1 part, Clove 1 part, Orange 5 parts
Lavender Spice: Rose 1 part, Clove 1 part, Nutmeg 1 part, Cinnamon 2 parts, Lavender 4 parts
Exotica: Vanilla 2 parts, Cinnamon 1 part, Patchouli 10 parts, Musk 3 parts
Autumn: Orange 8 parts, Clary Sage 2 parts, Myrhh 2 parts, Vetiver 2 parts, Pimento Leaf 1 part, Bay 1 part 

Floral Blends

Wood Rose: Bergamot 6 parts, Rose 10 parts, Honeysuckle 8 parts, Sandalwood 8 parts
Moon Flower: Gardenia 12 parts, Jasmine 6 part, Rosewood 6 parts, Benzoin 2 parts.
Bella: Lilac 4 parts, Rose 10 parts, Jasmine 8 parts, Gardenia 12 parts, Patchouli 5 parts
Lily: Peach 2 parts, Rose 10 parts, Honeysuckle 6 parts, Lily of the Valley 8 parts, Musk 6 parts
Blush: May Chang 8 parts, Ylang Ylang 10 parts, Rose 8 parts, Musk 6 parts, Lavender 4 parts
Powder Puff: Gardenia 3 parts, Neroli 3 parts, Lily of the Valley 2 parts, Jasmine 2 parts, Sandalwood 2 parts
Melody: Neroli: 5 parts, Fragipani 10 parts, Almond 6 parts, Vanilla 12 parts, Honeysuckle 2 parts

Fruity Blends

Just Peachy: Ginger 4 parts, Peach 10 parts, Coconut 8 parts, Vanilla 8 parts
Coco Limon: Lime 12 parts, Coconut 5 parts, Honey 2 parts, Almond 2 parts
Ala Mode: Green Apple 10 parts, Raspberry 6 parts, Cinnamon 2 parts, Nutmeg 2 parts, Vanilla 6 parts
Party!: Pear 4 parts, Peach 2 parts, Musk 2 parts, Strawberry 8 parts
Amaretto Creme: Almond 2 parts, Vanilla 2 parts, Honey 2 parts, Oatmeal 2 parts
Pina Colada: Pineapple 3 parts, Coconut 4 parts, Vanilla 1 part
Fresh Berries: Strawberry 4 parts, Raspberry 4 parts, Lime 4 parts, Bay 2 parts.

 Herbal Blends

Emerald Isle: Rosemary 4 parts, Lavender 12 parts, Oakmoss 8 parts, Bergamot 4 parts
Wood Walk: Cypress 4 parts, Juniper 2 parts, Cedarwood 10 parts, Lemon 2 parts, Pine 2 parts
Homme: Lavender 10 parts, Lemon 4 parts, Rosemary 4 parts, Bergamot 6 parts, Vetiver 4 parts
Femme: Grapefruit 5 parts, Lime 2 parts, Lemon 1 part, Clary Sage 2 parts, Lavender 2 parts
Applique: Lavender 8 parts, Lemon 10 parts, Eucalyptus 5  parts, Rosewood 8 parts
Secret Garden: Lemon 15 parts, Clove bud 10 parts, Rosemary 15 parts, Lavender 16 parts,  Benzoin 2 parts
High Flyer: Lime 10 parts, Lavender 10 parts, Peppermint 5 parts, Lemon 3 parts

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One thought on “Making a Perfume

  1. I want to thank and appreciate you for the depth and scope of information you provided on this site. I am indeed richly informed. I am exploring the feasibility of going into spray perfume and makeup production. Any more information will be highly appreciated. Many thanks.

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