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Carrying Your Perfume Scent: Alcohol or Oil for Perfume Making?

A perfume is made of more than just fragrance. After the fragrance formula has been devised, the raw materials need to be added to a carrier — a base material that “carries” the scent.

A carrier has three functions.

1) Protect The Wearer

Many essential oils and fragrance ingredients are potentially harmful when applied directly to the skin. They can be slightly caustic, contain allergens, affect the way the sunlight interacts with our skin, be irritating, cause rashes, etc.

Additionally, essential oils often have effects on the body based on the nature of the plant from which they were derived. While some effects are positive, like the healing power of lavender, even good things can be bad in large doses. Diluting the oils in a carrier can reduce these problems.

2) Lift and Carry the Scent

The carrier you use will influence the length of time a perfume lasts and the range at which others can smell it.

For example, an alcohol carrier will carry the scent further because the alcohol evaporates off and takes some of the fragrance with it. On the other hand, an oil carrier will keep the scent close to your skin because the oil soaks into your pores.

3) Dilute the Fragrance

Many fragrance ingredients are quite pungent on their own; the scent is often too strong to wear without a carrier—even if the fragrance ingredients are safe—and many of us would prefer not to rudely announce our presence with a thick cloud of fragrance trailing in our wake.

What we seek is a subtle enhancement to our general aroma, and that requires toning down the fragrance we wear with a diluent as a base.

Alcohol Carriers vs. Oil Carriers

Should you use alcohol or oil to carry your fragrance? Well, that depends. Oils and alcohols interact very differently with fragrance materials.

Using Alcohol Carriers in Perfume

If you choose alcohol, you can’t just hop on over to the liquor store and pick up a fifth. That alcohol is too watery. You need something much stronger.

Like perfumer’s alcohol.

This is basically ethyl alcohol that has been denatured (i.e., someone added something to it to make it undrinkable). Why do we do that? For safety.

Alcohol is best for fully diluting your ingredients; it functions as a preservative, and if you want to be able to spray your perfume, you need alcohol as a base.

Alcohol lifts a fragrance. As the alcohol evaporates off, the scent will radiate outward, enveloping you in a cloud of scent. If you are accustomed to commercial perfume, you will be familiar with the distinctive way that alcohol lifts a fragrance.

With alcohol-based perfumes, a little goes a long way. However, what you gain in projection you lose in longevity.

Our classic perfume bottles are perfect for holding alcohol-based perfumes.

Using Oil Carriers in Perfume

The scent from perfume oils sticks closer to your body, and the scent increases with your body heat. Unlike alcohol, which dries out your skin, oil-based perfumes are moisturizing.

Since the oil sticks to the skin longer than alcohol, the scent will stay with you longer; however, what you gain in longevity you lose in range. Only those who come in close will be able to smell your fragrance.

The most commonly used oil is fractionated coconut oil. This is coconut oil that has been modified so that it remains liquid at room temperature.

The liquid is clear and remarkably thin – its molecules are even small enough to fit through the holes in many atomizers. It leaves a less greasy residue than most oils, and has an indefinite shelf life.

Our vintage potion bottles are perfect for holding oil-based perfumes.