M I Y Cosmetics & Fragrances

Make-it-yourself cosmetics and fragrances is an exploding market. Its probably fair to say that we’ve all grown up rummaging in the kitchen for an emergency remedy be it for sunburn, a face pack, exfoliant or whatever major problem has popped up! Also popular is baking soda and lemon juice for tooth whitening, although it is said by dentists to be a bit of a no no because its so abrasive; Crest strips are supposed to be on the money! Not that I have tried them. A personal favourite is a face and hair treatment using an egg, honey, rosemary and salt; don’t be tempted to rinse the egg pack out of your hair with hot water unless you are trying to achieve a scrambled egg head!!! It will however leave skin soft, clean and mildly exfoliated, and hair will be shiny with body, leave on about 10-15 minutes. Once dried, wash off face with cotton wool dipped in warm water move up from neck to forehead in circular movements. Pat dry and moisturise with normal moisturiser or use a Vitamin E capsule breaking it open carefully, spread contents all over face; taking care not to get face pack or creams into eyes.

Collecting kelp off the beach and drying it at home can work out well as an additive for baths, wraps, skin and hair care ingredients. Ground kelp is said to be wonderful in soap, but requires a heavy perfume to conceal its odour. Sea buckthorn oil is a fantastic ingredient and can be collected, ground in a food processor and drained through a filter (fine for home use) – it too is a tad harsh on the olfactory senses! Rose petals, rose hips, oakmoss, honeysuckle, lilac, the list is fairly lengthy, any number of wild Irish ingredients can be gathered from hedgerows and beaches, and processed at home.

For the kitchen operator; enfleurage is passed off as simple. All that is required is coconut oil, a clean glass dish, beautiful aromatic blooms, a weight to press them into the oil with and cling film to cover them with. Sounds so easy, over the summer, the lilac blossoms called to me, and I diligently collected them, placed them lovingly head down in oil, returned twenty-four hours later to smell my beautiful creation; it was all bitter and twisted like a drunken reject!

Oakmoss submerged in perfumers alcohol has resulted in some success, as it forms part of a fantasy fougère that is building up its own following, it has been gifted to volunteers; feedback has been positive with some likening it to a discontinued Paco Rabanne after shave. Then I discovered Timbersilk™ and Apricot Liquid these two ingredients are not crazy expensive but are delightful either separately, or combined and distributed into the blend!

Amateur perfumers and kitchen operators are prevented from selling their products under EU law Regulation 1229/2009 until their products have been registered on the Cosmetic Portal for a minimum of one month prior to being sold anywhere in the European Union. Many natural ingredients can have dire effects on our health. Two prime ingredients of a fougère are coumarin and oakmoss, both are known skin sensitisers, and are only permitted in fragrances in limited quantities. A fougère meaning fern-like must also contain bergamot, wood and lavender, and may well resemble a walk in a magical forest.

The amateur perfumers kit may be based on all natural products such as essential oils, absolutes, enfleurages, tinctures, and or aroma chemicals and or fragrance oils; some containers; including sprays and perfumer’s alcohol (ethanol or denatured alcohol). Jojoba oil is one of the basic oils for the perfumer/cosmetologist; its a great base for essential oils, and is just perfect for a perfume or body oil, and a wonderful addition to hair care products. Perfume is based on repetition, the number one asset is a formula record book or file box, a glass measuring jug and glass stirring rod. Write everything down, we learn from our mistakes, or just build up a formula over years of playing with the recipe.

A fragrance is broken down in terms of top notes, heart notes and base notes, a system established by G. W. Septimus Piesse in 1867 when he compared the aromas created by essential oils to musical keys, referred to as an odophone scale. It is generally accepted that the heart of the perfume should constitute 50% of the overall blend. The base (longest lasting) should account for 20% and the top notes (shortest lasting) 30% of the mixture although this can vary depending on the teacher. A great many recipes that are floating around the Internet and in books do not conform to this ‘rule’. A contributing factor in the context of natural ingredients might be that the price of the middle notes can be astronomical (£295 for 10ml of Boronia Absolute; although it sounds divine. If you have quit smoking, its the equivalent to just shy of thirty-four packets of cigarettes at current UK prices November 2016 or thirty-two packets of cigarettes at Irish prices).

As hobbies go, perfume is not cheap but it is very therapeutic, especially if you are looking for something to do with idle hands and check how your olfactory senses are progressing without nicotine. There are also numerous classes offered, none of which could be ‘classed’ as cheap. On a personal note, after much online research eventually I did sign up for a course, its a competitive market!!! To those of you that are starting out, do not be forced into spending hundreds of dollars/euros (between the kit, course and books, it cost me in the region of €600-800)! Based on my experience, self-taught is just perfect; Jo Malone started out in her kitchen, as have many others! Begin with some free reading material, buy one or two decent books, because the area of MIY cosmetics is such a hot topic, there’s a massive demand for information and this demand is currently being met by a few too many charlatans peddling complete thrash on auction sites and stupidly expensive courses.

Book suggestions for the novice perfumer: –

No. 1

Piesse, G. W. Septimus, (1857) The Art of Perfumery and Methods of Obtaining the Odours of Plants, Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston can be read for free online or bought from auction sites.

No. 2

Rimmel, Eugene, (1867) The Book of Perfumes, London: Chapman & Hall, 193 Piccadilly, can also be read free online.

No. 3

For those that have become hooked and want to have a reference book that includes such things as a drop to millilitre converter, accurate number to multiply perfume blend by to add correct quantity of diluent for perfume, EDP,  EDT, cologne, body lotion and outline of base, middle and top notes: –

Hornsey, Sally, (2011) Make Your own Perfume: How to Create your Own Fragrances to Suit Mood, Character and Lifestyle, Oxford: Spring Hill; she also sells ingredients for perfumers, courses, books and business consultancy found at http://plushfolly.com

No. 4 for the serious perfumer:-

Arctander, Steffen, (1960) Perfume and Natural Materials of Natural Origin, Elizabeth NJ USA prices start at approximately $1,831.33 for a hard copy of this book but can be read for free online. A must-have for the professional perfumer.

No. 5

Steffen Arctander, (1969) Perfume and Flavour Chemicals (Aroma Chemicals) – 2 Vols, Montclair, NJ USA currently out of print but link to a second hand one on Amazon. Online PDF.

One of my favourite online retailers of beautiful ingredients for artisan perfumers is http://hermitageoils.com based in the UK and Australia.

Perfume making supplies in Ireland: –

Bomar Aromatherapy in Wicklow carry some fantastic stock from essential oils, absolutes, perfumer’s alcohol, emulsifying wax, oils, sodium and potassium hydroxide for soap making, candle wax, wicks and containers

EU Regulation


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