It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost a year since my last blog post. It’s crazy how time flies. First, it was a busy Christmas season and then for a long time I simply felt lacking in ideas as to what to write about. However, I have been recently asked why I chose to create oil perfumes vs alcohol-based perfumes, and I thought that that would be a great blog topic to make a comeback to blogging.

So how is a fragrance with an oil carrier different from a more conventional alcohol-based perfume? In my opinion, both are valid carriers and both have their application. That said, I chose to work with oil as the base for my fragrances, and here are my reasons.

The initial harshness

Alcohol-based perfumes are very harsh initially. We’ve all been in a perfume department and tested various fragrances, and the scent hits you right in the face after spritzing. The reason for that strong initial ‘hit and lift’  is that alcohol has a very high evaporation rate. That’s what gives the false impression that an alcohol-based fragrance is much stronger than it actually is – 10-15 times stronger, by some estimates. Oil perfumes, on the other hand, have a much slower evaporation rate, and the initial impression of a scent is more accurate. An oil perfume still unfolds over time like a flower, exposing more of the top notes first, then the middle notes, then finally the base notes. However, due to a more even and level evaporation rate, there is no initial harshness associated with them.

Oil perfumes evaporate at a slower rate and aren’t harsh on first contact.

The need for strong fixatives

The fast evaporation rate of alcohol-based perfumes is why they require strong fixatives, many of them synthetic and harmful. I’ve written before on the dangers of synthetic ingredients in fragrances and why natural botanical fragrances are much better for you. In short, synthetic fixatives cause migraines, allergies and disrupt hormone production. Since the evaporation rate of an oil base is much slower than that of alcohol, there is no need to use harsh chemical fixatives. Instead, the scent’s longevity can be prolonged by using natural fixatives, such as benzoin resin, myrrh or olibanum.

Additional skincare benefits

Using a neutral oil, such as jojoba or fractionated coconut oil, as the carrier for the fragrance provides additional perks. While you’re enjoying the scent itself, the luxurious oil base nourishes your skin. You can rest assured that your skin is not absorbing any synthetic substances that are often toxic. Instead it’s just a little jojoba oil, good for your skin and the rest of your body.

The flammability issue

Aside from the actual quality difference between oil perfumes vs alcohol-based perfumes, there are also practical considerations. By their very nature, alcohol-based perfumes are highly flammable, which makes it nearly impossible to ship them abroad. In 2013 the Global Aviation Safety regulations were tightened, which included much stricter rules on shipping perfume. Since then, one of the major hurdles for perfumers have been figuring out how to mail it, particularly overseas. Choosing to work with alcohol-based perfumes would limit an independent natural perfumer to domestic shipping by ground only. In the UK even that requires a special ‘restricted goods’ sticker and the parcel needs to be inspected by a postal worker when handed over. That, however, does not apply to non-flammable perfumed creams, gels, oils or lotions, making oil perfumes much more attractive from that perspective.

Good things do come in small packages

Finally, another consideration is the bottle size. Alcohol-based perfumes are usually sold in larger bottles: more value for your money at first glance. In reality though, the concentration of the actual aromatic compounds in a conventional eau de cologne is only 2-6%, and typically 10% for eau de toilette and 15% for eau de parfum. Oil fragrances tend to be sold in a much smaller bottle, usually just 10-15 ml, but the concentration of aromatic compounds is typically at least 20% or higher.

Ravenscourt Apothecary Green Tea perfume

A little goes a long way with oil perfumes.


Natural oil perfumes are usually just dabbed on on pulse points or applied with a roll-on applicator. Alcohol-based perfumes tend to have a spray top instead. Some people may not like having to wash their hands after dabbing on oil perfume, especially if they are used to just spritzing some on. It’s a matter of personal preference and habit, but switching to oil perfumes may require an adjustment.

Top notes in oil and alcohol

So are there any ways in which alcohol-based perfumes outperform oil fragrances? Although opinions are divided on this, I think that top notes tend to come through brighter and clearer in alcohol. Oil makes the top notes appear somewhat denser. Generally speaking, oil perfumes tend to sit closer to the skin of the wearer. Only those who come in close contact with you will be able to smell it. To me, that makes the relationship more intimate. It’s as though you have a cool secret you’re not going to share with just anyone. That alone is what makes me like oil perfumes so much.

Do you have a preference when it comes to oil perfumes vs alcohol-based perfumes?