Aromatherapeutic Blending vs. Natural Perfume Blending - What’s the Difference?
As an aromatherapist, and someone who’s spent more than 20 years in and around the fragrance industry, I often get asked questions about essential oil blending. Specifically, I get asked about the difference between aromatherapeutic blending and natural perfume blending. Is there a difference? Well, let’s take a look.
The first thing that’s important to understand is intention. What is each discipline trying to achieve? Generally speaking, both aromatherapy and natural perfumery are interested in making you feel good, if not better. However, if you look a little closer, there are some pronounced differences in the overall aim.
When making a natural perfume, you’re generally looking to create an overall olfactory impression - creating a feeling, re-creating an experience, or expressing an artistic concept. How you get to that olfactory impression, however, is left solely up to the perfumer.
They may use only undiluted essential oils, absolutes, or CO2 extracts, or they may include natural isolates (single odor molecules that are extracted from natural raw materials using distillation techniques) and/or diluted natural essences (incl. concretes) dissolved in a solvent, for unique olfactive impressions. However, the intention is always the same - an overall olfactory impression. And it can take many different forms of natural materials to get to that overall impression.
When making an aromatherapeutic blend, the intention can be similar to that of a perfume - to create an olfactory impression, an aesthetically pleasing scent that smells good - to help make you feel good. That is one approach in aromatherapeutic blending.
However, in aromatherapy we are also interested in the therapeutic value of the blend, meaning that the blend will provide maximum benefit to the health of the individual. That means approaching blending from a holistic perspective, incorporating the emotional, mental, and physical attributes each essential oil can provide. An aromatherapist will determine what goes into a blend not merely based on the aroma (the hedonics), but also based on the therapeutic benefits each oil in the blend contributes.
Importantly, an aromatherapeutic blend will have only undiluted essential oils, absolutes, and CO2 extracts in it. This holistic approach is fundamental to respecting the contribution of the plant itself.
Who is the blend for?
Then there’s the consideration of the person who uses the blend. In Perfumery, wearing a fragrance is not only about the person who’s wearing the scent, but also about the person(s) who smells the person wearing it. There’s a dualism of wearer and receiver.
You might wear a fragrance because you like it and it makes you feel good. Maybe it gives you confidence or it reinforces cleanliness after you shower. Maybe it reminds you of a special person, place, or time that you want to experience again. It’s personal.
But maybe you wear a fragrance to attract someone, or, if you have a partner, because you know that person loves that scent on you. In this case it’s about connection and intimacy.
Aromatherapy, on the other hand, is focused solely on the person. It’s about the needs of the individual and the connection that the person has to the aromatherapeutic blend. There’s no “other”, just “I”. It’s about using the essential oils to create a physical, mental and/or emotional response strictly for oneself.
If we turn to the blend itself, we see differences as well. The composition of a natural perfume is very different to that of an aromatherapeutic blend. Generally you find that a natural perfume is made of more than 10-20+ natural essences. An aromatherapeutic blend, on the other hand, typically has only 2-9 ingredients.
Remember, the aim of the natural perfume is to evoke an olfactory impression based solely on a feeling, experience, or abstract concept. So, how you arrive at this can include many ingredients, whether whole, isolated or diluted.
In aromatherapy, we look to bring out the unique, and subtle, influence of the plant from which each essential oil derives. Each whole, single-source botanical makes a distinct impression on the final blend, whether on an emotional, physical, or spiritual level. And what’s most rewarding is that you’re able to connect with each plant, and the combined synergy that each plant provides.
Overall, natural perfume blending and aromatherapeutic blending are both beautiful and beneficial in their own way. One is not superior to the other. They’re just different. And they serve different purposes.
The only thing that matters is the intention. What are you trying to achieve? Once you know that, you’ll know what approach to take. And then the joy of blending begins.