Make your own: non-toxic fragrances

Make your own non-toxic fragrances: it saves money, your health and the environment. Also it's quite fun. This is a (growing) list of ideas that the author or readers have tried.

Note: as with any cosmetic or skin product, artificial or natural, do a skin test first to make sure you don't have a negative reaction to any of the ingredients.

Ingredients: cornstarch, baking soda, essential oil.

I mix half-half cornstarch and baking soda, but you can try different quantities of each. The baking soda helps deodorise, the cornstarch helps absorb moisture. Put the powder in a nice little jar with a lid, and you can apply it with a dainty powder puff or brush. It makes you smell faintly doughy; if you're not keen on that then stir a few drops of essential oil into your powder. (Sweet orange is my current favourite.)

Some recipes add coconut oil to the powder for those who prefer applying a paste to a powder.

OK, I've had rather limited success here so far, but I'm hoping it's simply because my perfumes haven't had enough time to steep, or brew, or infuse, or whatever the appropriate technical term is. I guess we shouldn't expect homemade concoctions to smell as strong as their commercial cousins – part of their appeal is their subtlety. The trouble is, so far mine are very subtle. One way round that I guess is to carry a small bottle of it with you and re-apply.

Ingredients: olive oil (cheaper than almond oil, which you can also use and which may be superior for the purpose), essential oils.

Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil (s) to about 100ml of olive oil, and give it a couple of days at least to absorb the scent. Keep it in a lidded dark-glass container preferably, or in a closed cupboard. When you sniff it, you can smell the olive oil, but when you apply it to your skin the essential oil scent is more noticeable.

Ingredients: bottle of the cheapest vodka you can buy (which didn't deter me from drinking a fair bit of it when the fragrance manufacture got too stressful); sweet-smelling herbs and other botanicals – rosemary, lavendar, peppermint, citrus peel...the list is vast. 

I tossed the grated peel of one lemon together with an indefinite amount (I keep adding bits) of dried peppermint, rosemary and lemon thyme leaves into about 300ml of vodka in a glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. You let this steep, shaking it regularly, for several weeks. Then strain out the liquid and use as a cologne. After one week, mine smells OK when applied, but it only lasts a brief moment. I am trying to be patient.

These concoctions all work out at well under R20 each.

No one has said : “Wow you smell nice!” yet, but I live in hope.

Fresh ideas from readers
I haven't tested these myself yet, but readers swear by them and they sound most promising:

  • Sandalwood scented paper lining cupboard shelves and drawers, scented drawer and wardrobe sachets
  • Alum BP mixed with distilled water
  • Epsom salts in distilled water
  • Milk of Magnesia
  • Vodka and salt
  • A slice of lemon rubbed under the arms
  • Lavender water, rosemary water or lemon thyme water
  • Rock crystal deodorant
  • Castor oil with a dash of rosewood essential oil

What about commercial non-toxic products?
Not everyone is inclined towards slaving in the kitchen perfumery, and there are non-toxic / less toxic products out there. Just beware words like 'eco', 'natural', 'herbal' etc. - they may be just words.

To get an idea of where your favourite commercial 'personal care' products are on the hazard scale, plug them in to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) excellent Skin Deep database. Just looking at The Body Shop, for example: according to EWG, their products range from 'low hazard' to 'high hazard' .These are a few Body Shop products EWG deems to be pretty safe:  Essential Lavendar Oil, Refreshing Foot Spray, Ylang Ylang Body Oil, Lavendar salt scrub.

 - Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, December 2010.

This is just the start to our database of nontoxic products. If you have a great non-toxic recipe for fragrance or in fact any daily-use product, or know of a commericial product that uses non-toxic ingredients, please consider sharing it with us (I'll need your full name if you'd like a proper credit) in the comment box below.

Read more:
Scent of a Human. The B.O. Wars can get rather nasty...

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