As Shakespeare's Juliet knows "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," unless that name belongs to one of 3,000-plus synthetic chemicals used in the fragrance industry. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average perfume contains 15 chemicals listed on the label and another dozen or more that aren't. Many of these are associated with adverse reproductive effects, as well as liver and kidney damage. If you'd rather wear something sweet but safe behind your ears, read on.
Make a Water-Based Perfume
Floral water is very easy and economical to make. Collect fragrant flowers at their peak, such as rose, lavender, jasmine, honeysuckle, neroli (orange blossom) and gardenia. Rinse or dip them in water to remove debris, then rough chop them until you have two cups. Place the chopped flowers in a large canning jar and add enough distilled water to cover. Cap the jar with a lid or cheesecloth and let it sit undisturbed overnight. The next day, line a strainer with a tea towel or cheesecloth and strain off the flowers, reserving the liquid in a saucepan. Squeeze the cloth over the pan to get as much liquid out as possible. Heat over low heat, stirring often, until reduced by half. Let cool and pour the scented water into clean mister bottles before storing in a cool place away from direct light.
Tincture Fragrant Greenery
Certain plants have highly aromatic leaves in addition to flowers. Herbs such as rosemary, lavender, basil and sage offer wonderful fragrance and act as natural preservatives due to a high concentration of volatile oils. Clip a few sprigs of the plant after it flowers and rinse or dip in water, inspecting leaves for debris. Spread the foliage evenly on a screen to dry until limp. This reduces water content and the risk of mold. Using scissors, cut the sprigs into 1-inch pieces and place in a large canning jar. Cover with the highest proof vodka you can find, plus 1 inch above the plant material. Cap the jar and let the mixture tincture sit for four to six weeks, shaking gently once each day. Strain, capturing the liquid in a clean container. Transfer into bottles with mister tops and store in a cool, dry place.
Make Scents With Spices
Spices are produced from dried fruit peels, seeds and bark and can also be used to make natural perfume. Place one cup of dried plant material into a large canning jar and cover with vodka, plus one inch. Cap the jar and shake gently. After four-to-six weeks, strain, reserving the liquid. Pour perfume in clean mister bottles and store in a cool, dry place. Excellent spices for perfume-making include cinnamon sticks (broken), green cardamom pods, dried juniper berries, whole cloves, fennel seeds, sliced vanilla bean and chopped, dried lemon or orange peel.
Roll-On With Plant Oils
This perfume is made with essential oils steam distilled from plant leaves, stems, seeds and flowers. The finished product is a roll-on perfume and couldn't be easier to make. Simply pour 4 ounces of jojoba oil into a glass bottle with a rolling ball top. Add 10 to 20 drops of essential oil, either alone or in combination, such as patchouli, balsam, sweet orange, lavender or rose geranium. Replace the ball and cap the bottle. To use, roll between fingers a few times to disperse the oils before applying to skin.