Making Perfume Safely

It's easy to make your own perfume as long as you follow the rules

Make your own perfume using essential oils or even flowers fresh from your garden.

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Making perfume at home isn't difficult as long as you use the correct ingredients and observe safety rules. This follow-up to an earlier perfume-making tutorial includes details about the purpose of the ingredients used in making perfume, as well as some additional precautions regarding potential hazards.

Using Ethanol

Alcohol-based perfumes employ ethanol. High-proof, food-grade ethanol is the easiest alcohol to obtain. Vodka or Everclear (a pure 190-proof alcoholic beverage) are often used in perfume making because they're clear and don't have a particularly "boozy" odor. You should not use denatured alcohol or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) when making perfume and never use methanol as it's readily absorbed across the skin and is toxic.

The Base Oil

Jojoba oil or sweet almond oil are a good carrier or base oils because they're kind to the skin, however, there are other oils that can be substituted for them. Just keep in mind that some oils have a relatively short shelf life, meaning they can go rancid fairly quickly—which probably won't improve the fragrance of your perfume. Another issue if you're going to try a different carrier oil is that some oils are less likely to stay mixed than others.

Animal oils, such as civet (an oil secreted by perineal glands of several viverrid species) and ambergris (a byproduct of the digestive process of sperm whales), have a long history of use in perfumes, and are still commercially available should you wish to try them, although they can be pricey. The most important thing to remember when choosing a carrier oil never to use a toxic one as your carrier oil. Many essential oils that are used for fragrances are actually toxic in high doses.

Essential Oils

Commercial perfumes tend to use synthetic organics, which can cause sensitivity reactions. Natural perfumes aren't necessarily any better. Essential oils are very potent, and as mentioned, some are toxic. The fragrances from many white flowers (e.g., jasmine) are toxic even in relatively low doses. Thyme and cinnamon oils, while therapeutic in low doses, are toxic in high doses.

You don't have to avoid these oils. Just bear in mind that with perfume, sometimes less is more. You should feel free to experiment distilling the essences of herbs and flowers but know your botany. Distilling poison ivy would not be a good plan. Distilling oil from hallucinogenic herbs might not be appreciated either.

Hygiene

Be sure to filter your perfume and use only clean containers to store them in. You don't want to introduce bacteria, fungi, or mold into your perfume, nor do you want to encourage their growth. Many essential oils inhibit microbial growth, so this is less of an issue with perfume, however, it can become more of a concern if you dilute the perfume to make cologne.