The difference between water based, oil based and alcohol based perfumes

Alcohol Based Perfume – Aromatic Oil mixed with denatured alcohol

Alcohol based perfume are usually mixed with denatured alcohol or ethanol. Perfumes mixed with alcohol are far more mainstream than oil or water based perfumes. It is alcohol based perfumes that are found on the shelves of major department stores and sold under all the well known brand names. It’s also this type of perfume that we stock. You can easily recognise an alcohol based perfume by the words eau de in the description whereas an oil based perfume will have no such description. Alcohol based is referencing the denatured alcohol or ethanol paired with the fragrance inside eg ethanol (carrier) mixed with Chanel No 5 (aromatic oil)

alcohol vs oil based perfume
Typical packaging used for alcohol based perfume

Oil Based Perfume – Aromatic Oil mixed with an odourless carrier oil

Oil based perfumes are normally mixed with jojoba oil which is the perfect carrier oil for perfume as it is odourless and colourless. These formulations are very expensive and its normally marketed in small glass roll-on bottles as the formulation is too thick to spray as a mist from a perfume bottle or atomizer. Pure perfume extract can also be catogorised under oil based perfume. Upon customer request we do offer perfume extract. Oil based is referencing the odourless and colourless carrier oil paired with the fragrance inside eg jojoba oil (carrier oil) mixed with Chanel No 5 (aromatic oil)

Can you spray an oil based perfume?

Oil-based perfumes are not typically designed to be used in a spray form. This is because oil-based perfumes are much thicker in consistency than alcohol-based perfumes, and the oil can clog the spray nozzle, making it difficult to dispense the fragrance or even breaking the nozzle. Additionally, oil-based perfumes are generally more potent than alcohol-based perfumes, and the spray application may cause the scent to be too overpowering. However, some perfume brands have created oil-based perfumes that are designed to be used in a spray form. These perfumes often contain additional ingredients that help to thin out the oil and make it easier to atomise or spray. In general, it is best to check with the manufacturer’s instructions before attempting to spray an oil-based perfume, as not all oil-based perfumes are designed for use in a spray form, and improper use can cause damage to the perfume and decrease its overall effectiveness.

oil based perfume vs alcohol based perfume
Typical packaging used for oil based perfumes

Water Based Perfume – Aromatic Oil mixed with distilled water

Water based perfumes are inherently difficult to formulate as water and oil do not mix. Since an emulsifier is needed for this type of formualtion it generally means water based perfumes could be very expensive to formulate. To increase the chance of success when creating a water based fragrance less aromatic oils are used which means the perfume will be weaker. Water based is referencing the distilled water paired with the fragrance inside eg water (carrier) mixed with Chanel No 5 (aromatic oil)

In Conclusion

When clients want to know if we sell oil based or water based perfume it generally stems from a misunderstanding of how perfumes are made. This misunderstanding may have its roots in the large amount of cheap fragrances which flooded the market a couple of years ago. These cheap fragrances usualy contained a very low concentration of aromatic oils which may have led to the belief that it was water based. For example if aromatic oils were to be mixed with distilled water it will result in a very cloudy perfume and therefore the need for the low concentration of aromatic oils along with an emulsifer which could prove to be very costly.

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