What are some good scent combinations for homemade toiletries?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Dootsie Bug
By: UrbaneWomenMag - CC BY 2.0
By: UrbaneWomenMagCC BY 2.0
I'm making homemade toiletries for everyone on my gift-list this year. I'd love to make my own scents without having to buy expensive essential oils, just using the herbs and other yummy stuff around my house.

I'd love to know about some good and useful scent combinations. Are there ones that are specifically good for calming? Invigorating? Head-ache relieving?

Any suggestions would be awesome. -Honeybee

First, let's just get this out there; what smells "good" is subjective. There's not one magic scent tonic that will appeal to every person on your list. Just come up with something you like. Finding out what your gift recipients prefer is nice, but you'll probably get a mixed bag of preferences. Perhaps try making three very different blends and letting people choose which they'd like.

Since these oils will come into contact with your friends' skin, do your research on the safety of each one before using them. Some essential oils are not recommended for pregnant people, those with sensitive skin or folks with sensitivity to strong odors.

Energizing/Uplifting Oils:
• Lemon, orange, citrus
• Peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus
• Rosemary
• Sage
• Geranium

A few energizing/uplifting combinations (to scent):
• Orange and jasmine
• Rosemary, grapefruit and peppermint
• Lemon, peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus
• Lemon, sage, coriander and eucalyptus
• Geranium, sage and grapefruit

Calming/Relaxing Oils:
• Ylang ylang
• Sandalwood
• Bergamot
• Lavender
• Chamomile

A few calming/relaxing combinations (to scent):
• Lavender, ylang ylang and chamomile
• Lavender and bergamot
• Chamomile, ylang ylang and jasmine
• Sandalwood, bergamot and rose
• Sandalwood and ylang ylang

What are your favorite mood-alterating scent combinations?

  1. I was considering making some soap and did a bit of research. From what I read, if you are thinking of putting natural items (orange or lemon peel, herbs, etc) into toiletries as opposed to essential oils, you may need to add something as a preservative unless it is going to be used immediately. Nobody wants rotten things in their goodies.

    Essential oils are actually fairly economical, especially if you can find smaller bottles. It takes very little and you can use it for so many things! I keep 2 or 3 on hand all the time for use in an oil burner, general sniffing, etc. 🙂 Check natural food stores. I found mine has a large stock. Some are more expensive than others. I think my larger bottle of orange oil was $7-10 but I've had it for 2-3 years and dripped a lot of it.

    As for scent combos, I'm a fan of citrus personally. Lemon and basil would be nice for a kitchen/garden soap. A great way to find scents is to check out stores like Lush. Their ingredient lists can give good ideas of nice scent combos. We have a local store that lets you add different scents to products so you can sniff test options. I like cherry and almond personally but then again I am okay smelling like food.

    For anyone with sinus issues, eucalyptus is awesome. My husband isn't a huge fan, but I love it. Peppermint can have similar effects. Awesome for a cold remedy kit. 🙂

    Sandalwood, ylang-ylang and bergamot are all ones that I shy away from personally but that's me. Lots of people love them.

    • please, l am a beginner. l just open your webside and your work is well presented and explained, so l am interested to learn this perfume making and also Soap making.Thanks for your good work.

  2. I have a question about scenting homemade candles.

    I once attended a candle-making party hosted by a friend and I was really disappointed in how weak my candles were scented. At the time we made them, my friend stressed there was a maximum amount of "scent" that should be added to the candle. Now I'm wondering if that limit was based on her personal preferences and not the physical properties of the candle.

    Can anybody shed some light on how make sure your homemade candles are strongly scented?

    • Too much fragrance can cause the candle to burn weirdly or not set correctly, meaning you'll have pockets of liquid in there–super flammable liquid, to boot! Candle making fragrances are designed to be stronger and stand up to heat better than essential oils, which can be a bit volatile.
      How much is too much? Well… it depends on the wax, the fragrance and the type of candle you're making. Some wax additives actually cling in all the scent molecules, resulting in a candle that smells nice at first whiff but doesn't do jack when it's burning.
      In your case, one or two more drops probably wouldn't have ruined your candle, but safe is always better than OMG WHY IS THIS ALL ON FIRE WTF.

    • If you are using natural fragrances, like essential oils, you're not going to get a very strong scent. Most conventional candles, with scents that will fill a whole room, do so with the use of chemical fragrances that are designed to last longer and be stronger. However, these chemicals are also a combination of known and suspected endocrine disrupters and carcinogens, and when you burn them in your home, you are inhaling those fumes. So for me, a more subtle scent is a fair trade off .

  3. Some unique combinations that I really enjoy:
    -Lavender and Sage
    -Citrus and Rosemary
    -"Fruit" and vanilla (usually some cherry-based generic fruit smell)
    -Thyme, Rosemary, and Mint

    If you're making scented cleaning products, tea tree oil is nice, but I like it mixed with some other smells, otherwise I think it just smells musty. I would add lemon or mint to liven it up.

  4. As Little Red Lupine already mentioned, you might be surprised at how cheap some essential oils are. I bought orange oil and peppermint oil for truffle-making this year, and since a little goes a really long way, it's pretty reasonable. I think mine were $1–$2 for a tiny little 1 fluid dram bottle (about 3/4 of a teaspoon), but I only need a few drops per batch of truffles, so it lasts awhile. I don't know how much you'd need for homemade toiletries, but if you start with just a couple drops, you could probably see how it smells and up it if need be.

    I also wonder whether dried spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg might work — but I don't know whether you might wind up with a gritty texture. I have no clue about the different effects of any of them, either — I just like the way they smell (and any of them would smell really yummy with orange!).

    You may also want to check with the people on your list whether they're scent-sensitive. Personally, I'm fine with natural scents (so essential oils and spices would be fine, especially if they're not too strong), but any sort of chemical perfume gives me a headache, so I often wind up buying unscented products (I actually quite like the way unscented handmade soap smells…). This might be different for different people, though.

    • I just want to warn people, be careful with what oils you are buying if you plan on using them for food. I just bought a 6-bottle essential oil set on Amazon ($19) but these were NOT intended for consumption. Thankfully I just intended on using them for skin care.

  5. When I started making soap, I looked into buying essential oils at my local health food store – waaaay expensive. Now I buy them online for much less. (www.soap-making-resource.com is my favorite place right now. The website is a little sketchy looking, but I've ordered from them several times, and their service is really good.)

    My favorite combination is lavender and orange – sounds weird, but it is universally liked among the friends and family to whom I have gifted it.

  6. Vick's mix
    1 part tea tree oil
    2 parts eucalyptus oil
    4 parts wintergreen
    4 parts peppermint
    Basically works like Vicks.

  7. I just made my first batch of soap a few weeks ago. I used bulkapothecary.com to purchase the essential oils. They seemed to be pretty good priced. One batch was honeysuckle, orange, and a touch of vanilla. The other was Jasmine and pink grapefruit. Both smelled really nice! I also made a batch of massage bars that smelled amazing. They were made of equal parts beeswax, olive oil, and cocoa butter all melted together and then cooled into molds. Smells like chocolate and honey…yum!

  8. My absolute favorite blend is Cedarwood Essential Oil and 10X Orange Essential Oil. It makes me feel like I am standing in a grove of orange trees — I love it!

  9. Be careful about citrus oils in skin products, they can burn you!

    I know ginger will strengthen contractions, peppermint will alleviate nausea, and lavender is calming.

    Doula essential oil knowledge, for the win!

  10. I'm pretty obsessed with Lavender and Peppermint. I use it a lot in my home cleaning products and when we make soap, and it's really clean but just enough sweetness from the lavender that it's nice for soap and lotion. I personally also love patchouli, but I realize that many people disagree with me on that point. And lemon and orange oils are really cheap at my health food store, so I use them a lot to make air fresheners. Tea Tree is another favorite; I like it with the lemon to sweeten it up, and it is antibacterial. I use it in my kitchen cleaner and in my home made facial toner. Rosemary lemon tea tree smells like yummy kitchen to me…I've never used rosemary EO, though, because I'm lucky enough to have a rosemary bush growing in my yard so I just toss a couple sprigs into the spray bottle if I'm making cleaner. Rosemary lemon tea tree is also a great combo for gardening soap with grits and pumice; the combination of gritty things really works well to get the dirt off your hands, and the not too sweet smell isn't overwhelming.

    One thing I've recently learned the hard way about soap making; because we're trying to avoid synthetics and chemicals, we used beet root powder to color our last soap batch. It produced a gorgeous dark purple soap which I was at first thrilled with. Until I spent the last few months cleaning purple soap scum and purple soap residue off the shower on a daily basis. It's great soap…but it's a hot mess, and I realize that I could never give it as a present or sell it because I don't want to put someone else in the position of cleaning up the purple mess. So any gift soap I make will be uncolored. YMMV.

  11. Are there any good substitutions for lavender? I can't stand it, but all of my homemade shampoo recipes call for it. Am I the only one?

    • It's just providing scent, so you could replace it with any essential oil you want. I'd avoid citrus ones since they can burn the skin, but other than that, go for it.

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