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Clean Perfume - Making Natural Fragrances

With synthetic additives in many perfumes, why not choose natural perfume ingredients to create your own fragrances.  

Most big name perfumes contain only a tiny percentage of natural ingredients from flowers, plants and resins, and contain aroma chemicals to mimic nature.   Natural perfumes have a more limited palette and often don't persist in the same way for 24 hours or more, however their complex subtlety is something I love.  
Essential oils can have many components and harvests can vary from region to region and by climate. Like fine wines, experienced aromatherapists and perfumiers can tell where in the world for example, a lavender essential oil is produced.    Jasmine, one of my favourites (but incredibly expensive!)  is one of the flower aromas that in my view cannot be successfully reproduced. It has such a unique fragrance that can be overpowering and sickly when produced synthetically but is a delicate sweet green floral in it's natural form which is incredibly luxurious. Natural essential oils also have added benefits in that that most have reported health and mood benefits, or aromatherapy. Lavender essential oil has many published scientific studies on improving sleep and inducing relaxation for example. 

Perfumery can be said to be more like an art than a science.  Like music. the individual notes can be combined in chords (or perfumery term "accords"). Perfumes can be created with a harmonious blend of base notes, middle notes, and top notes. 

Top note: This is the first thing you'll notice in an aroma. It's the first impression that doesn't last very long probably up to an hour. Most citrus oils fall into this group. 

Middle (or heart) note: Middle notes are longer lasting than top notes, and can stay on a perfume-testing strip for a few hours. This is also called the "body" or "bouquet" of the aroma. Most of the florals fall into this category. 

Base note (or fixative): Base notes, or fixatives, allow your blend to linger and ground and balance the other notes.  Blends that contain strong base notes are ideal for use in perfumes. These are usually the heavier resins such as benzoin and frankincense, sandalwood and vanilla. 

Choose Essential Oils You Love

Natural perfumery is personal. Your essential oil blend should reflect your preferences and be uniquely you. Before you start creating your perfume blend, choose two to three oils, but no more than five and ask yourself what aromas appeal to you? Do you like florals like rose geranium or ylang ylang? Maybe you love rich, warm, earthy aromas like sandalwood, vetiver or patchouli. Perhaps you enjoy the lighter, sharper citruses like grapefruit or lime. 

Formulate Your Fragrance Concentrate

This next step is all about experimentation and imagination…the fun part! It's time to create the aroma concentrate for your natural perfume.

  1. First, place a few drops of the oils you've selected on separate perfume testing strips. Fan out the strips and waft them in front of your nose and inhale to get the general impression of the fragrance.
  2. Try to notice how the aromas play on one another. Is one aroma too overpowering? Is one undetectable? Do certain notes change when used in combination with other oils? This is where you can experiment and adjust your ratios based on the aroma strength. 
  3. Close your eyes, and ask yourself: what does this fragrance remind you of? Do you associate any colours with this fragrance? Does it inspire memories or a time, place or even a character or time of year?
  4. It's important to write things down, you can then develop your formula that you can re-create.  

Mix Your Natural Perfume

You can make a spray or a perfumed oil. A spray with perfumers alcohol is more volatile and will evaporate with more impact, a perfumed oil is more subtle and will warm gently on your skin. 

Spray - use 4-8% pure ingredients diluted in a base mixture of perfumers alcohol and flower water or distilled water in a ratio of 85g/15g. Blend in a glass bottle, and shake well. 

Oil - use jojoba oil or fractionated coconut oil (both have long shelf lives) and add 10g concentrated fragrance to 90g oil. 

Why not create perfumes for yourself or as unique gifts for others. All it takes is a bit of trial and error and the learning process can be all part of the fun.   Start with your favourite essential oils, perhaps do a bit of research, the books and courses from Karen Gilbert are incredible: www.karengilbert.co.uk

A note on safety:  It's important to note that although natural, essential oils are very potent and therefore there are EU regulations regarding their use to protect you and others.  Read all instructions that accompany the essential oils you buy and follow carefully, as some essential oils can only be used in very small quantities.  I also would reccomend not using essential oils on children or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  

Creating your own perfume can be incredibly satisfying.  You may find you have a new interest, hobby or even a career.  Certainly, I've developed a greater appreciation of fragrance since blending my own perfumes.  This can also foster a greater appreciation in other related areas, tuning your senses with a greater awareness for example of taste in cooking, colours and composition in your environment, a kind of aroma-mindfullness!

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