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aromatherapy 101

Perfumes & Colognes

If you like fragrance, perfume making can be a rewarding and fascinating hobby. It is also inexpensive. Commercial perfumes can cost as much as $250 per ounce, but you can make a gallon of your own perfume for much less. A $50 investment will enable you to create a wide range of perfumes, colognes, and toilet waters.

The ratio of essential oils to alcohol makes the difference in perfume, cologne, and toilet water. Perfume has the highest ratio -- 20% and up, while toilet water has the lowest ratio -- from 2 to 5%. The ratio for cologne can range from five to 12%. There is no government regulation concerning the exact proportions, and manufacturers determine their own product standards.

The equipment you will need -- eyedroppers, one-dram to four-ounce bottles, measuring spoons and cups,filter paper -- is relatively inexpensive. Muslin is the best filter paper, but if unavailable, coffee filters or several layers of good-quality paper towels can be substituted. The materials required to make perfume include essential oils -- both natural and synthetic -- dried botanicals, and 190-proof grain alcohol (which is available at liquor stores in one-fifth bottles).

Certain substances are not available as oils or in oil form, and an alcohol extract must be made from the dry material. To make an alcohol extract, soak one part powdered or chopped material in six parts alcohol. Measure the materials by volume and place in a closed container. Stir or shake the container every day for seven to 10 days, then remove the "perfume" from the container and pour it through filter paper or pure talc. Add more pure alcohol to bring the quantity back to the original amount used. This produces an extract or perfume which can be used as is or blended with additional oils or extracts.

Perfumes must contain 15% fixative in order to retain their scent. Angelica, calamus, orris, vetiver, and musk are all available in the oil form and are excellent perfume fixatives. If you cannot obtain fixatives in the oil form, an alcohol extract can be made from the dry material (as previously described). Ideally, the fixative is combined with the oil or extract as you go along, since it lends a scent of its own. However, there is no harm done if you add the fixative as the final step.

Experiment with combinations of two to six different essential oils, fragrance oils, or extracts. Limiting the number of components will minimize confusion. A drop of each oil will be enough until you are familiar with the interactions of the oils. Take careful notes of your experiments and your reactions to them. When you have a fragrance you like, dilute it with alcohol using the proportions necessary for the desired perfume or cologne-strength solution. Small amounts of distilled water will cut the odor of alcohol. Next a fixative oil should be added until the fixative equals 15% of the perfume. Pour the perfume into a bottle, carefully seal it, and store the bottle in a cool, dark place for two to four weeks to age.

Now you will be able to use a perfume as unique as you are!


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