Despite the fact that 5 ounces of the stuff can cost over $200, I’ve been buying designer perfume since I was a teen. But, because my wallet simply cannot accommodate a new bottle of the stuff every few months, the question of whether I can use essential oils as perfume has often crossed my mind. I mean, essential oils smell great, and they’re much more affordable than another bottle of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. After doing some research I can tell you that you most certainly can use essential oils as perfume and, while there are a few guidelines to keep in mind to wear them safely, you’ll probably end up saving major dough if you do.
I knew a woman who always smelled strongly (the perfect amount of strong, though) of jasmine — no other notes or mixes, like a typical perfume might have. When I finally asked her what fragrance she used, she told me she had a roll-on bottle filled with jasmine essential oil mixed with coconut oil that she used as a perfume a few times a day. The kicker? The entire oil cost her a mere $13 and lasted her for about a month at a time. For someone who goes through perfume like a pack of gum, this could be a huge money-saving hack.
As I started to research essential oils as perfume, I came across something that was truly shocking. I’d never really considered that the ingredients in perfumes, aside from the plant derivatives, could be harmful. In retrospect, this might’ve been a bit naive for someone who’s reported about clean beauty and knows which harmful ingredients are often used in products. For some reason, though, I’d never lumped perfume in with skin care and makeup. Phthalates consistently come up as one of the top ingredients to avoid and, lo and behold, most perfumes are full of them. Phthalates have been attributed to a number of health-related issues, including developmental disorders, poor lung function, polycystic ovarian syndrome, problems conceiving, hormonal imbalances, and more. And yet, we’re literally spraying them onto our bodies and rubbing them in. WTF? Aside from phthalates, there are a number of other ingredients typically found in perfumes that would certainly not pass the clean beauty test. Taking this into account, it was an easy decision for me to (mostly) do away with perfume for good.
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Essential oils are plant-based and don’t contain any unnatural ingredients, so why wouldn’t you opt for them? And, you can even mix together a few different oils to come up with your own unique scent no perfume bottle could ever match. I think there’s something quite romantic and cool about having a determinable signature scent. If you’re into florals, try out jasmine, lavender, rose, and ylang ylang and see which one suits you best. Cedarwood and sandalwood are great if you want something more earthy and ambiguous. Bergamot is a great option for citrus lovers, and clove has a nice spice to it.
Essential oils aren’t the perfect substitutions for perfume, though. For one, they might not always have super long-lasting scents. While you can probably rock a store-bought perfume for hours upon hours with a small amount of scent fade, essential oils may not last nearly as long. (Though, you will probably need less essential oil overall than perfume, so re-applying more often may still make sense for you.) Essential oils are also a lot stronger and more concentrated than a perfume might be, and can potentially irritate your skin. Experts warn you should add a carrier oil — aka another oil like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or sweet almond oil — to dilute your essential oils before placing them on your skin. And, some essential oils shouldn’t be placed on the skin at all (I’m looking at you, lemongrass and rosemary), so you’ll want to be careful with the brand you shop from and the oil you decide to use. To that end, you also want to make sure you’re buying an essential oil and not a “fragrance” oil, which is an essential oil that’s combined with chemicals. Once you find a safe oil you love, you can dab a little to your wrists and behind your ears to leave your favorite smell in the air.
My recommendation would be to go to a store that sells essential oils (you can even find them at Whole Foods!) and sniff your way to your favorite. I guarantee you’ll find a clean signature scent you’ll love, and you’ll save some money to boot.
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