What’s in a Fragrance? The Science Behind the Best Perfumes

Did you know that the perfume market in North America will reach $8.5 billion by 2024? They’re so common it’s impossible to think of life without them.

Perfumes are enchanting, and it can captivate people in various ways. Sometimes, that would pique your curiosity and ask, “how is perfume made?” But without any knowledge of perfume manufacturing, you won’t know the answer.

Don’t give up yet.

With this guide, you’ll learn how perfume is made. Whether you use the knowledge to satiate your curiosity or for a future perfumer job, this is for you. Read on and find out more:

Ingredients for Perfume Making

Most perfumes extract scented oils from various natural ingredients. These can be plants, fruits, woods, and secretions made by animals. During the process, other materials like alcohol, coal, tar, and petrochemicals get used up.

For scents not coming from essential oils, manufacturers use artificial chemicals for emulating it. Most popular and rare scents often come from these materials. That’s why it’s likely that your favorite perfume has synthetic scents mixed in them.

Some common natural ingredients include rose petals, myrrh, jasmine, frankincense, oakmoss, and vanilla. For synthetic ingredients, they use manmade scents of musk, ambergris, and lily of the valley. You’re likely to find more as you explore the ingredients used by your favorite perfume.

Extraction Methods

Did you know that the average perfumer’s annual salary is $165,000? These are people making unforgettable scents using techniques either passed down to them or what they learn through years of research. Regardless, they use various extraction methods to make either perfumes or colognes.

You can extract the essential oils using solvent extraction, steam distillation, expression, enfleurage, and maceration. These methods are both ancient and modern, and some are doable at home. But most of them are processes exclusive to professionals:

  1. Solvent Extraction

This method uses big, rotating drums to accommodate plant ingredients. Manufacturers cover these with either benzene or petroleum. Regardless of the solvent, the plants dissolve and leave a waxy substance containing the oils. It then gets placed in ethyl alcohol, dissolving the oil and burning it to make highly-concentrated perfume oils.

  1. Steam Distillation

In this process, manufacturers use a still to store natural ingredients. These will remain sitting in the still until it gets extracted. The resulting substance passes through a series of tubes, liquifying and cooling the process.

Perfume makers also boil plant materials in water to extract their oils. This is a simple method, but it’s effective. If this guide is making you want to get a perfume, check out this Jean Paul Gaultier Classique eau de toilette spray.

  1. Expression

This is one of the most ancient means of extracting perfume oils. It’s simple and often used for extracting citrus-based oils. It uses either mechanical or manual means to press the plant until the oils come out for extraction.

  1. Enfleurage

In this process, manufacturers coat large class sheets with grease. They then spread the flowers or plant ingredients across them. After that, they place it in tiers between wooden frames.

When this happens, workers move and replace the flowers by hand. They do this until the grease absorbs the fragrance of their materials.

  1. Maceration

This extraction method is similar to enfleurage. The only difference is that perfume makers use warm fats to soak up the flowers’ fragrances instead of grease. After that, they dissolve the fats in alcohol to get the essential oils within.

Blending Ingredients

Making a scent begins after extracting and collecting the essential oils. After choosing all the ingredients, the perfumer blends them. They use formulas made by perfume industry masters, often called as “noses.”

Most formulas get developed as a result of several years of hard work. Often, it will include hundreds of various ingredients. That’s why most perfume companies are protective of their formulas.

As mentioned before, some perfume materials come from either plants or animal products. For example, castor, musk, and ambergris come from beavers, male deer, and sperm whale. They use these animal substances as fixatives, allowing the perfume to dissipate slowly and retain the scent longer.

Coal, tar, mosses, resins, and other manmade chemicals act as fixatives too. To dilute perfume ingredients, perfume makers use alcohol and water. The amount of alcohol as opposed to the scent will determine the price and strength of perfume.

As a general rule, stronger and expensive perfumes have more essential oils. Eau de parfum often has lower alcohol concentrations while body mists use the opposite.

Aging Process

High-end and pure perfumes often require months of years of aging after blending the scent. Manufacturers do this to let the perfume make the right scent. With aging, various scents blend, otherwise known as notes.

Perfumes have top notes giving the scent with the body while base notes make the enduring fragrance afterward.

Quality Control

This step is the most important aspect of perfume making. This ensures that the final product won’t have harmful or undesirable ingredients. Some of these are so toxic that most governments ban them.

Without quality control, a perfume brand’s reputation falls apart. Furthermore, it can endanger the public since it takes a while for sellers to recall all faulty perfume bottles.

Also, it’s hard to harvest natural ingredients for the perfect perfume scent. It’s especially when these brands use animal oils since they’re troublesome to collect without causing harm to animals. The good news is that synthetic perfume materials enabled perfumers to make scents without the same level of effort.

The advent of more advanced methods and synthetic ingredients means better quality control. With artificial materials, perfume makers need not worry about the consistency of their products. It’s also a good thing for buyers since this makes high-quality perfume cheaper.

Learn How Perfume Is Made Today!

This is the science behind perfume scents. If you’re looking to learn about how perfume is made, use this post to guide you.

Did this guide satisfy your curiosity about perfumes? If so, we encourage you to read our other posts and learn more interesting beauty and fashion tips today!


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