"How is perfume made?" is a question that I have been asked countless times.
The process begins with the perfumer's imagination, as they envision the desired scent and compile a list of potential ingredients. Raw materials, which may be obtained from plant or animal sources, are then gathered. Some perfumers prefer to extract and distill the plants themselves, while others purchase pre-made ingredients. The preparation of these materials requires time and expertise, and can be quite costly.
Once the raw materials arrive at the laboratory, the perfumer can begin blending them in a glass container and testing the scent's development over the following days. Adjustments are made as necessary, with each new blend requiring more time for improvement. Sometimes, an added ingredient doesn't turn out as expected and ruins the entire blend. Other times, a slightly imbalanced ingredient can spoil the fragrance. In such cases, the perfumer must start the process anew, requiring patience and time.
Once the desired scent is achieved, the blend must mature for 6-9 weeks. After this time, alcohol is added, and the fragrance undergoes 6-8 weeks of maceration. The next step is stability testing to ensure that the fragrance can withstand a variety of conditions in a bottle. After passing this test, the fragrance undergoes a cosmetic test to ensure its safety for use on the skin. This test is conducted in an EU-approved lab without any animal involvement.
Following these steps, the fragrance receives its IFRA certificate and is ready for production. However, each batch requires repeating the entire process mentioned above, except for the cosmetic test. If the fragrance formula is changed or if the ingredients come from a different supplier, the cosmetic test must be conducted again.
Some perfumers use only natural ingredients, while others rely almost entirely on synthetic ingredients. Fragrances with high amounts of natural ingredients are generally considered to be of higher quality, but are also more expensive. On the other hand, perfumes made primarily of synthetic ingredients can be produced more quickly and inexpensively, with a lower risk of failing stability or cosmetic tests.