Ask the Aromatherapist: Crafting Signature Scents by Blending Essential Oils
Creating a unique blend to match your brand, your mood or your intended scent profile is both rewarding and fun. It’s also easier than one might think once you’ve had a little practice. I like to remind myself blending oils is a little bit science and a little bit art and a lot of personal preferences! So let’s get started.
I like to set up my blending station before I get too far down the process. I have my pencils for recording results—good and bad, and paper, pipettes, perfume test strips, a small glass amber bottle for your blend. I keep extra amber bottles and lids on hand just in case. I also keep some coffee beans to clear my nose. However, the very best way to keep your olfactory system from overload is to go outside and smell the fresh air for a reboot! This simply step does wonders to keep my nose in good smelling order.
Part 1: Intention
Before I ever start to blend, I write a short description of my intent. I want to hold in my mind the smell I want, the emotion I want to encourage, and the use of the blend. Then I create to this intention. Some of the questions to ask yourself might be: Do I want an uplifting blend to brighten winter days? Or do I want a calming blend for bedtime? How about a woodsy scent reminiscent of the rain forest or a perhaps I want to recall summer days in a citrus orchard full of lemons, grapefruits, oranges and limes. Perhaps you’re ready to create your own personal scent for a line of products or gifts.
To spark your creativity, here are some ways I think about intention:
- A gentle, feminine floral blend for use in a rich hand crème.
- A warming or cooling, woodsy, ‘medicinal’ blend for massage oil.
- A bright, citrus oil to diffuse
- A deep, woodsy/spicy masculine blend
- A soothing blend for bath salts and soaks
- A clean blend for room and linen spray
- A scent that represents mine and my company’s playful, welcoming and energizing spirit.
Part 2: Striking the Right Notes
Most every essential oil is identified as a Top Note, a Middle Note or a Base Note. These classifications are determined by the volatility, scent type, i.e. citrus, woodsy, floral, and the intensity of the scent. A perfumer in the eighteenth-century, Septimus Piesse, assigned this musical structure to blending essential oils in perfumery. His work has always guided me in my blending, either for the oils constituent benefits or for perfumery. When I mix oils together to create the aromatic blend or ‘synergy’ I like to think of the synergy as an entire orchestra whereas the Top, Middle and Base are much like the strings, the brass and the percussion. This has truly taught me to ‘listen with my nose’.
Top notes normally evaporate very fast and tend to be uplifting and refreshing. Their high volatility is what gives the first impression of a blend. If you like food and wine, think of this as the taste at the front of your mouth. Most citrus oils to include grapefruit, Petitgrain also lavender, lavandin, eucalyptus and Australian Tea Tree are considered top notes.
Middle notes are the most common; the ‘heart’ and the bulk of the blend- they give the body and balance to the synergy. They blossom with time, rising up as the top note evaporates, giving a warm, soft fragrance to the blend. Geranium, Rosemary, Chamomile and Juniper, Cypress, Black Pepper, Rose, and Jasmine are popular middle notes.
Base notes are intense and heady. These are the heavier oils with lasting, lingering fragrance power. They are rich and relaxing and conjure the exotic and regal. Frankincense, Myrrh, Rose, Patchouli, Vetiver and Jasmine, Benzoin, Peru Balsam are base notes.
There are some essential oils that straddle two notes, such as Ylang Ylang, a base note that tends toward the middle, and lavender, a middle note that tends toward the top. The King and the Queen of the flowers which are Jasmine and Rose live in both the middle as well as in the base categories. Ask another Aromatherapist and their opinion will most likely differ from mine or better yet decide for yourself based on the oils you are blending. Learning to listen with your nose is not difficult, it just takes practice.
When building a blend, chose one or more oils from each of the notes. Well-balanced blends include elements from each of the musical scale to create aromatic harmony This will give you a scent that makes an immediate impression, yet has the depth, longevity and emotion you want.
Part 3: Blending Ideas with Different Carriers
Essential oils and oil blends can stand alone when used with a diffuser or dabbed onto a cotton ball to fill the air with fragrance. I know friends who use this trick when traveling to make their hotel rooms feel more like home. Some use it in their closets to keep their clothes smelling fresh. But most often, you’ll be incorporating your essential oil blend into a carrier—carrier oil, butter, wax, lotions, crèmes, water, gel and even with salts and powders.
First things first- get samples of the products that interest you. We sell them at a reasonable price and truly it is the only way to get to know our products. Blending and scenting isn’t to be a complex intimidating process. Because you always build a test first, you don’t waste a lot of product or money if you don’t like the first, second or third time!
Here are some fun project ideas.
Perfume and Body Sprays
- Try our Perfumer’s Balm if you want to wear your favorite oil—synergy, on your body. Please don’t apply just the oils/synergy directly on your skin. You’ll want to blend into something.Our Perfumer’s Oil is another lovely choice when you choose to wear a scent. You’ll find a detailed guide on the % ofessentialoil needed to create a perfume, or cologne or an Eau de Toilette.
- Body/Linen Spray works well as a base for an ambient spray to use on linens or your pillow at night. I like a strong scent at 2.5%. When scenting a water based product such as this spray, you will want to mix your essential oil blend 1:1 in a separate vessel with Polysorbate 20 and shake well before adding to your base. The Polysorbate emulsifies the oils with the water base and keeps the oils from floating on top of the base. You other option if not using the Polysorbate would be to shake well before using the product. That’s fine; it is up to you.
Crèmes, Jellies, and Gels
Gel and Jelly Tip: don’t exceed 1%, or they will turn to water.
- I use our DMAE MSM cream as my night cream and scent just 1 oz at a time with my favorite of the moment. One time it’s Australian Sandalwood and the next time the Lavender I just distilled! Because I make it in small amounts, I can indulge myself no matter what mood I’m in. For my face, I usually stay at .5 to 1.5% concentration. Please do not exceed 3%; I personally try never to go over 2.5%
- Jellies are wonderfully hydrating! Scenting our USDA Certified Blueberry Aloe Jelly at 1% makes for soft, smooth skin.
- You can also start with a scented hair and body wash, such as Clear Lavender or Clear Citrus. They are sulfate-free, as are our Pink Grapefruit and Breathe Green That said, I do recommend one of the unscented bases with your favorite synergies.
- One of my holiday favorites—and the guys like it, too, is to use our Coffee Hair & Body Wash as the base and add just a touch of Peppermint. You’ll want to start at .25% but, remember, don’t exceed 1% with Gels or Jellies or they will turn to water.
Powders and Salts
- Our Milk Bath Soak and Body Powder are easy to scent. Just pour the desired amount into a Pyrex dish, and add .25% but no more than 1% essential oil or essential oil blend and stir well. Use a spoon to break up any clumps. Then add to your bath. Try putting them in a shaker bottle– you can take this on your carry-on and stay fresh even if your luggage doesn’t make it.
- Epsom Salts in my bath is always a treat. They soothe and relax me. Our Bath Salt Soak helps me every time. Sometimes I add a bit of Bay or Peppermint for the comfort it brings my tired, overworked muscles.
Step 4: Blending
Now you’re ready to blend. It’s best to use amber glass bottles. We sell different sizes depending on your needs, and they won’t react with the oils. You’ll want pipettes, a calculator, pencil, paper, labels for the bottles to store your blend, and a cloth to wipe up any mess. I prefer to use latex gloves and eye goggles. I keep a trash can nearby for used pipettes and wipes, and a glass of milk in case I get any oils in my eyes.
Setting up your Blending Station
You’ll need a well-ventilated, well-lighted room, and you need to be very careful of the surface you are blending upon. A stainless steel table is preferable; wood finishes and essential oils generally do not work well together. You will strip the varnish right off and leave an unsightly ring on your table if you drip your oil.
Be careful of kitchen counter tops too, the essential oils also can strip their protective coatings. Protect countertops and other surfaces well; I have a big piece of cutting board I cover a section of counter top with when I blend so I never have to worry.
Allow yourself the ability to concentrate when you are blending. I do not try to hold a conversation when I am creating a synergy, or blend. Rather I devote my entire mind to making sure I have the right scent in hand before drawing oil into the pipette. I always smell the bottle before I begin to draw the oil, and always when I am dropping the drawn oil into the container I am steady handed, and I always count out loud.
I wear latex gloves when blending, so my hands do not pick up any of the scents I am blending. When I go outside to clear my olfactory senses, I need not cause olfactory confusion by having various scents on my hands. Goggles are always smart to use. Work safely. Please.
Working with Oils
I recommend starting with no more than six oils. Here you will benefit from choosing a top, middle and base note for your synergy. Until you get to know each oil well begin by including one drop of each and build upon your blend from there.
Use a pipette to draw your drop of essential oil and begin to build your blend! One. Drop. At. A. Time. What I do is line-up the oils I am going to use a pipette directly in front of each one of them. I unscrew the lids, leaving them in place so that I can easily lift them off to draw the oil. Once I use a pipette, I throw it away. You never want to take the chance of adulterating one oil with another by using a pipette with more than one oil. I keep a trash container right near my blending station and toss each pipette after use. If I decide I need to increase one oil or another I use a new pipette. It’s an inexpensive safeguard. The thought of mistakenly using a pipette that was used to draw a drop of spendy Rose in my expensive bottle of Jasmine is one I would rather not entertain!!
I recommend having some milk handy in case you should get any oils in your eyes. The milk neutralizes the oil and does so quickly. But if you are careful this should not happen. I have NEVER gotten oil in my eyes in nearly 20 years and honestly if you are careful this will not be a part of your memory either.
Part 5: Test. Store. Write.
As you’re blending your essential oils, you’ll likely have to make two or three or even four attempts to get the exact right blend you want. And may have to modify the %’s depending on the carrier you use. For instance if you use a carrier with a scent profile, you may want to adjust your synergy/blend. Write everything down in your recipe book or on a big label so you can recreate your perfect blend. I promise you won’t remember everything next time!
To test my blend it has to come out to play. When creating a personal perfume, I first add drops to a half tsp or so of carrier oil before I dab a bit on my forearm. Then I walk away from my blending station, smelling as I walk. This test process helps me understand how the top, middle, and base notes are working and confirms I’m getting the scent I want as time goes on. I like to clear my nose with frequent deep cleansing breaths outside or by sniffing coffee beans. At this point, I also like to test in a carrier. I’ll blend a little in lotion and try that for an hour and then again in the morning, letting the blend cure overnight to see if or how the scent changes. I keep all my test notes on each recipe so I can recreate when I need to. I am a firm believer in letting a personal perfume blend marry for a period of time. Give them at least overnight before you make adjustments. Once I have just what I have been striving for I have let them marry for as long as a month.
Take care when storing your essential oil blends. Tightly cap the amber glass bottle making sure to leave a little air space at the top so your blend can breathe. Store in a cool, dry space. If you’ve mixed up a carrier product, store according to the guidelines. Shelf life will vary based on the oils and carrier products themselves.
I couldn’t resist adding in this amazing manuscript to inspire you as you build your own recipe book of favorite blends.
A Few of My Favorite Scent Expressions
- It’s very simple, but one of my favorite ways to enjoy scent is with our Simple Gel Facial Cleanser. Scent at .5% with Rose and Geranium, or .5% Rose or .5% Neroli and I do the same thing with our DMAE MSM Crème after toning
- I use my own Lavender Distillate aka Hydrosol as my base (If you don’t make your own, you can find USDA Certified Organic Distillate )Add a 3% concentration of our Don’t Bug Me Blend. I shake before use and take it walking in the woods or around the lake. EW sells lovely distillates you can use as a base for essential oils blends, don’t stop here!
- Try adding 4 drops of Organic Lavender and 3 drops of Clary Sage to your bath in the evening. I also like to add 3 drops Neroli and 3 drops Petitgrain after a hard day. I sleep like a puppy.
- I love using our Perfumer Balm with my favorite scents so that I can wear them. Our Elegance Blend is a favorite of mine, and I use our small make-up jars for the scented balm. They make wonderful gifts! I have also used the balm for Vanilla Absolute and Rose Absolute as well. They last a long, long time and hold up very well. I carry them in my purse and never have a problem. And the small make-up jars are TSA friendly so you can take them on the plane with you when you travel.
If you want to do a little additional reading, we have some recipes and how-tos in our library;
Now you know my secrets for blending and creating your own signature scents and stunning synergies. We’d love to know your ideas, tips and recipes for blending essential oils. Please share!
Kathy Steinbock, Cert. Aroma, R. A
Essential Wholesale & Labs