How Are Fragrance Oils Made (And What Of?)

From dabbing the oil onto your skin to using it in your diffuser, you might be a fragrance oil fanatic. But do you know how fragrance oil is made and what is it made of?

Fragrance oil is made in a lab from synthetic compounds and made up almost entirely of petroleum by-products. Some fragrance oils are made with a combination of synthetic aromatic compounds and natural essential oils. 

In this post, we’ll talk about how fragrance oil is made, as well as what it is commonly made of. We’ll also discuss the two types of synthetic fragrance oils and how you can make your own fragrance oil at home.

How Is Fragrance Oil Made?

Scientists and perfumers work in laboratories to create synthetic fragrance oils. They use synthetic aroma chemicals and materials found in nature, like essential oils, resins, and extracts, to reproduce a scent artificially. 

To make a fragrance oil, perfumers and chemists create chemical reactions with synthetic compounds to make a new scent. They use scent binders like phthalates to help keep the aroma strong over a long period of time. On average, fragrance oil has a one-year shelf life, though it depends on how the product was stored and what raw materials were used to make it.  

Perfumers typically have an extensive catalog of fragrance ingredients they can choose from to create an oil, some perfumers having more than 3,000 different fragrance ingredients at their disposal. These ingredients may be natural or synthetic and may come in a powder, liquid, or crystalline form. 

When a perfumer opts to use power or crystalline ingredients to make a fragrance oil, they must utilize a solvent to help it dissolve into liquid oil. A common solvent that has been declared safe to use by most worldwide standards is Di Ethyl Phthalate or DEP. Some perfume chemists choose to use an alternative solvent that is phthalate-free. 

After a perfumist dissolves the powder or crystalline ingredients into the fragrance oil, the perfumist can choose to duplicate a scent or decide to create a new and unique fragrance oil by combining different ratios of top, middle, and base notes. 

To duplicate an aroma, a perfumer uses a gas chromatographic (GC) – mass spectrometric tool to analyze and identify the ingredients within a fragrance he wishes to replicate. 

Top, Middle, And Base Notes

When a perfumer creates a new fragrance oil, they must think about what top, middle, and base notes they are going to use and in what quantity.

The top notes in a fragrance oil – or any fragrance for that matter – are the first notes you smell when you initially open a bottle or spray the first spray of the day. Top notes fade quicker than their middle or base note counterparts, and perfumers typically use about 15-25% of the scent as top notes. Typical top notes in fragrances are lavender, lemon, grapefruit, orange, basil, cardamom, clary sage, coriander, peppermint, and thyme. 

The middle notes of a fragrance are the body of the scent and can be smelled once the layer of top notes has evaporated. Perfumers usually use about 30-40% of a fragrance composition for the middle notes, and popular middle notes include cinnamon, clove, rose, jasmine, iris, geranium, chamomile, cedar, and ylang-ylang

Base notes are the notes that give fragrances their staying power and which you smell last when you’re wearing one. Base notes also tend to linger in the air, and other notes would fade away very quickly without them. A perfumer, on average, will use between 40-55% of the fragrance’s composition as the base notes to give it some long-lasting staying power. Musk, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla, and vetiver are go-to base notes. 

What Are Fragrance Oils Made Of?

Fragrance oils are a mixed combination of synthetic aroma compounds, essential oils, and aromatic resins. 

There are two types of synthetic fragrance oils: typical fragrance oils and nature-identical fragrance oils. One is made slightly different from the other. 

Typical fragrance oils are made in a lab from synthetic compounds and are made up primarily of petroleum by-products such as aldehydes, benzene derivatives, toluene, and other chemicals. 

On the other hand, nature-identical fragrance oils may be either partially or entirely synthetic. They can be created from non-natural materials or be made from a blend of synthetic aromatic compounds and natural essential oils. 

The main difference between typical fragrance oil and nature-identical fragrance oil is that a nature-identical fragrance oil has a chemical composition that is virtually the same as the essential oil molecule found in nature. 

Nature-identical fragrance oils are made to be a carbon copy of what’s found in nature using synthetic and natural materials. In contrast, typical fragrance oils are wholly made using synthetic compounds and mostly petroleum by-products. 

Natural Fragrance Oils

Natural fragrance oils are similar to synthetic fragrance oil. It is also made in a lab, except that with natural fragrance oils, they are created by isolating one of the isolates, or natural aromatic components, from the scent. Natural fragrance oils are not man-made from another material but created from a part of something real in nature. 

A single chemical called a natural isolate is separated from a plant that has a smell, like a rose or orange. A perfumist can choose to extract different isolates and blend them together like they do when creating essential oils. 

For example, if a perfumer wants to create a rose-smelling fragrance, then he or she could isolate the natural aromatic component (the isolate) from the plant. If the chemist wished to make an orange-smelling fragrance, then he could isolate limonene from the orange’s natural oils. That limonene isolate can be added to other isolates to create a fragrance oil. 

Isolates such as limonene, geraniol, and linalool are all isolates that can be added together to create a specific scent. 

How To Make Your Own Fragrance Oil

With a couple of ingredients and ascent in mind, you can easily create your own fragrance oil. Here’s how: 

  1. Choose your scents: Think about what top, middle, and base notes you’d like and set out to purchase those extracts. Citrus notes are most common for top notes, while florals make up the middle, and woodsy notes like pine and sandalwood make for a good base. 
  1. Gather your gear: Get your materials ready. You’ll need a small perfume bottle or rollerball (5mL), three essential oils (for the top, middle, and base notes), an unscented carrier oil (such as almond oil or jojoba oil), and four glass droppers.
  1. Add 80 drops of carrier oil to your bottle.
  1. With the dropper, add ten drops of your essential oil base note, then five drops of the top note, followed by five drops of the middle letter.
  1. Close the bottle and shake well (and remember to shake well before each use)
  1. Label the bottle how you’d like.
  1. Store your new fragrance oil in a cool, dark place away from light and heat. 

To use, spray on or roll it on, depending on the bottle you chose. 


Jasper Pieterse

Hi, my name is Jasper and I've been a long time fragrance fan. Ever since 2014, I started to get a huge interest in fragrances and I've had my nose on countless of different fragrances. I'm excited to share my experiences!

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