The differences between oil based perfume and alcohol based perfume

Perfume as we know it is a mixture of an aromatic component which can be obtained from natural sources. For example, these aromatic components can be obtained by either the natural extraction of essential oils or the production of aroma chemicals from synthetic sources through various chemical processes. This aromatic component is then combined with a solvent/carrier which dilutes the aromatic component. In its undiluted form, almost all aromatic material (synthetic or natural) are inappropriate to be worn on the skin due to their potency and potential to cause allergy or skin irritation. The solvent also goes further to assist in dissolving any aromatic material with thick and resinous properties. This is to allow them to have usable features during the perfume production process. In the perfume industry, the most common solvent/carrier utilized these days is 190-proof ethyl alcohol. However, this has not always been the case, especially with the fact that the history of perfume shows that fragrant oils and balms are among the first recorded perfumes created and used for the body.

So then, what is the difference between oil-based perfume and the more conventional alcohol-based perfume?

Oil Based Perfume – While any oil carrier can be used, they are generally chosen with respect to a low odor profile. Some oils have quite a strong odor and as such cannot be used as a carrier. The art of perfume is all about the skillful blending of the aromatic component. Therefore, you don’t want this aromatic component to be overpowered by some strong smelling carrier oil. Typically, jojoba or fractionated coconut oil is often chosen as the carrier for natural perfumes. Oil based perfumes are generally applied to the skin given that they have little or no outright irritating effects. Oil fragrances are typically packaged to take the form of roller balls, which you then apply to warm areas like your wrists, inside of your elbow, behind your ears, and the back of your neck. One of the key advantages of an oil based perfume is that they are non-drying to the skin making it a preferred perfume of choice for people with dry skin. Typically, oil-based perfumes have a softer, more natural scent and tend to “stick” to the skin and linger. They nourish and replenish moisture given their effects and suitability for any skin type.

Alcohol Based Perfume – These are the type of perfumes we are all well acquainted with courtesy of advancement in perfumery through the first perfume distillation process by an Arabian Chemist. They are generally delivered via spray and because alcohol evaporates quite fast when it meets your body heat, they give the impression that they are much stronger than they actually are. For longer wear, they are better applied to clothe as fabrics give them something to cling to. Alcohol-based perfumes are multi-note with layers of stronger scents. One of the key characteristics that make alcohol-based perfumes appealing is the initial fragrance “hit” and the “lift” that it gives to its volatile top notes. This is due to the fact that it quickly lets off those notes as it evaporates given its high volatility. Another advantage of alcohol also lies in its ability to quite easily dissolve heavy, resinous botanicals. This is why a lot of natural perfumers choose to use alcohol as the carrier for their perfumes. Alcohol-based perfumes when created are tough to replicate as they come with the uniqueness of scents. The natural perfumer can make tinctures and then use these tinctures as a base for their perfumes, thereby creating unique perfumes that no one else will be able to replicate. 

Perfume oils are having quite the moment, spreading from indie scent makers to big names. It makes a whole lot of sense, given the current popularity of face oils and hair oils, but it’s not just a trend; perfume oils do have lots advantages over the more mainstream alcohol-based perfumes. There are so many incredible scents out there and really, the true comparison of oils vs. perfumes comes down to personal preference. The key differences that exist between these two types of perfumes lie in application — do you like to spray or dab? — and in perceived potency – do you like the fragrance to “hit” you in the face or do you like the slow reveal?

If you’re new to oil-based perfumes, or perfume in general, here are a few tips you need to know about their application to ensure you get the best of it… Dab, don’t rub when applying your perfume. When you rub the oil into your skin, it breaks down the more volatile top notes, such as citrus. If you have problems with the scent being absorbed too quickly, then moisturize before you apply; a quick slick of petroleum jelly or a waxy, unscented lip balm can also help to ensure the fragrance adheres. Layering with a scented lotion in the same fragrance will also aid in strengthening the effect of your perfume...