Creating customized essential oils
There’s no way to miss the buzz about essential oils—they’re incredibly popular and great for a wide variety of uses, from cleaning the house to focusing when hitting the books. Most of us have some kind of diffuser filled with our favorite oil blend, or we never fall asleep without spritzing the pillow with lavender.
While the jury may still be out on whether the ingestion or topical use of oils has direct medicinal benefit, plenty of research shows that pleasant, natural scents have positive impacts on the brain. Essential oils are credited with mood boosting properties, improving memory and focus, and relieving tension.
So which essential oil is good for what, and how do you create perfect custom blends? Getting started can be intimidating—there are dozens of brands and thousands of possible combinations. I turned to our in-store scent guru, Crystal, for tips on creating perfectly customized blends.
“It’s really helpful to understand the different categories of scents before you start,” Crystal said. “That way you already have a basic idea of which scents pair naturally.”
The main classifications for scents are:
Citrus: grapefruit, lemon, lime
Floral: lavender, jasmine, plumeria
Herbaceous: basil, rosemary, marjoram
Camphoraceous: cajuput, eucalyptus, peppermint
Spicy: aniseed, black pepper, cardamom
Resinous: frankincense, myrrh, balsam
Woody: cedarwood, cinnamon, cypress
Earthy: patchouli, valerian, carrot seed
Once you have a handle on the categories, the next step is to understand how scents work together. Each scent is classified as having either a top, middle or base note.
Top notes are the most scent-forward type, and also the first notes to evaporate.
Middle notes follow behind and linger long enough to balance out the top and the base—the middle note is used to mellow and accentuate the top and base scents.
And, as you would expect, the base notes are the final scent to arrive and the last to leave the fragrance party.
Common top notes include the citrus scents, herbs like basil, thyme, verbena and sage, and spicy oils like cinnamon, bergamot and cajuput.
Middle notes also include a number of spices, like bay, fennel and rosemary. The resinous scents also hang out in the middle: pine, juniper, and cypress are all in this class.
The longest-lasting oils are often woody, earthy and deeply spiced; popular base notes include clove, oakmoss, vanilla and cedarwood.
“A balanced blend will have at least one top, middle and base note,” Crystal said. “There are a couple approaches for proportions of each, but I find the easiest to remember is the 20-50-30 method, using percentages of top, middle and base oils respectively.”
As for which oils highlight which moods or feelings, a lot is intuitive, Crystal said. “Bright, citrus scents make me feel awake and alert, while spicy scents feel warm and soothing.” Floral scents can feel creative and playful, and woodsy, earthy smells ground us like a hike along our favorite trail.
But, said Crystal, that’s just the beginning. “Mostly, it’s about having fun, experimenting, and having a clear goal in mind for how you’ll use your combination.” She recommends taking notes on combinations and proportions that you like, so you can remember for next time.
“My go-to combination at the moment is orange, lavender and patchouli,” Crystal said. “It combines citrus, floral and earthy scents for a tension-relieving, mood-lifting blend.”
She recommends using it in the morning, added to a diffuser or a piece of essential oil jewelry. “I like to attach my intention for the day as I use the oil,” she said. “Something meditative and inspirational, like, today I will celebrate the positive experiences and be kind to myself.”