Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make Your Own Cologne

Have you noticed this whole mountain-man beard uprising? I have to be honest. I don't get it. Of course, if one wants to wear a beard, one should absolutely feel free. If one wants to pair it with Levis and a plaid shirt atop a T shirt with a meaningful slogan, go ahead. If one enjoys multiple tattoos layered under that T, that's good too. The look is perfectly completed with a short espresso, in case you're wondering.

Gotta say, TO is riddled with guys who fit this description and it's all starting to seem so derivative (not to mention unkempt). I prefer the metrosexual thing, any day. I love an impeccably-tailored slim suit with a crisp shirt (patterned natch) and a contrast tie. But then, if I were a guy, that's the look I'd be working.

My husband, who had a close beard for many years - and it looked good - shaved it off one day when he finally decided it was more trouble than it was worth. My kid, who was 6 at the time, came downstairs, took one look at him and started shrieking. She then hid under the dining room table (not the most secret of locales) and proceeded to cry: What happened to Daddy??? Ah, those were the days.

My point is that there's no need for beard oil in this house. But have you noticed how you can find that stuff everywhere?? Every shop on Queen West is selling it. I do wonder if and how it works. It must, or all the plaid-wearing, mountain-beard guys would be scoffing at it. Does it soften the beard like conditioner would? Does it mitigate the scratchiness? (Note: The puffy beards are less scratchy than the cropped ones, so I wonder if it's even necessary...) Is it like face serum for the part of the guy-face with hair?

I don't suppose we're gonna answer these important life-questions in this post - though if you're a mountain beard-having guy who happens to be reading this (and I haven't totally put you off), please do let us know!

This is actually one of those Simpsons-style segues into my real topic - man cologne. Not sure if your SO likes to wear it or if he wears it for you. Personally, I love man cologne and I've been known to buy it and wear it happily. It's generally constructed from chyprous scents I love: citrus top notes, mossy mid-notes and resinous base-notes. I love a man cologne that's also confident enough to subtly highlight florals (neroli, anyone?). Scott, too, appreciates these fragrance qualities, perhaps from years of coaxing. (Mind you, I don't think that scent-preference is taught.)

He sees me making all the potiony things and occasionally says stuff like: What about something specifically for me? Oh, how plaintive. So, today I made him bespoke man cologne. After doing a scent-testing, to determine what he'd prefer, I tinkered and combined essential oils and came up with something so delicious that I made one for myself too!

In case you'd like to give it a go, here's what you do:
  • Make sure you have an appropriate glass container (10 ml). One with a roll on applicator is optimal but you can use a pump closure or a dropper. Note: Not a lot of guys like to use droppers, in my experience. You can find roller containers here. Plastic won't work.
  • You'll want to use jojoba oil as your base. You can use ethanol or vodka if you're making an alcohol-based fragrance, but that's the subject of another post... Oh, and if you wanted to go crazy, you could make a solid perfume. But again, one thing at a time!
  • You'll need the following essential oils: Cedarwood (Atlas), Ylang Ylang, Neroli, Orange, Cypress, Vetivert, Frankincense. Don't cheap out on these cuz when it comes to scent, you get what you pay for. Neroli is particularly expensive. Consider finding a place that sells a 3-10% dilution in jojoba. This may still be of very high quality, but the bottle will be affordable. Plus, neroli is so intense, uncut, that it's sometimes hard to appreciate its awesomeness until you dilute it.
  • Experiment with your preferred ratios. I try to balance the low notes (vetivert, cedarwood) with the mid notes (ylang ylang, frankincense and neroli) and the high notes (orange, cypress). Let's not get too prescriptive... Use 35 drops of EO in total. No, it's not "accurate", drops of different EOs will be of slightly different sizes. But every bottle you have will provide its own basic drop size, from which you can extrapolate. You're making this "to smell". When you've got a combo you love, it's done.
  • It's as easy as adding the EOs into the bottle (in your preferred ratios) and then topping up the mixture with about 9 ml of jojoba oil. Of course, finding your special sauce may take time. Don't be afraid to throw out the EO mixture and start again. And write down how many drops you're using in each mixture. Cuz you'll forget in 3 minutes.
Note: If you do throw away the mixture and decide to start again, only wash out the container if you're prepared to let it dry completely. Water droplets in your bottle will corrupt the oil mixture and it will turn into a bacterial soup. You want this mixture to be entirely anhydrous - without water. I've been known, when experimenting with ratios for myself, to just discard the not-perfect EO mix, making sure to get rid of 99 per cent of the liquid in the container, and to start again - unless I'm using different oils on my next try. In that case, you've got to use a new bottle or one that's entirely clean and dry.

You may find that your final cologne smells very different on you than in the bottle. It's just like when you buy alcohol-based perfume at the store... Your biochemistry is highly engaged in the wearing process, so you may want to vary your formula once you've worn it for a while. For example: Maybe your skin gobbles up vetivert, leaving too much top note. I find that, in my formula, I need more of all the EO drops, because I seem to eat up all EO scents quickly.

Hopefully you'll give this a go because it's totally fun and impressive for your giftees. If you do try it, let me know. I want to hear all about it!

Today's questions: Have you made your own fragrance? If no, would you? Do you like the manly scents? Peeps, let's talk!


  1. my fave is jo malone vetyver. i guess from the above that this is a manly fragrance and i guess it's not very usual but i love it!

  2. I've only found one scent that I like when I'm actually *wearing* it, and that's (don't laugh!) Charlie Red, which I think is made by Revlon. I haven't seen it in forever (sad face), but I love that stuff. And it smells totally different on me than it does on it's own. I also used to like the Lucky for men scent, but now it has bad memories associated with it, so I avoid it. It's funny how scents do that, isn't it? The smell of diesel always reminds me of home (and yes, I do love the smell), and the smell of Stetson always makes me look around for dad.

    1. I've hear people talk about that Charlie Red before, weirdly! I have to try to find some - just for research :-) Scent association is the strongest of all, IMO. I know exactly what you mean...

  3. I love (natural and not-overpowering) colognes, for myself! I can't go near a scent counter but recently wandered into a bespoke scent boutique (?!) and had an aburdly fun time tinkering. The knowledgeable peops there said I prefer an Amber base, whatever that means, apparently five of my six favorite pre-mixed scents used it. I would love to have a bunch of raw materials and mix like you're talking about!

    1. Oh - aren't those so fun?? All the chemistry, none of the clean-up :-) It's pretty easy to put together the kit you'd like. To buy 12 of those bottles I linked to, 6 essential oils of your choice and some jojoba would probably set you back 100 bucks. It would make a bunch of gifts and the essential oils would last, depending on how they're stored and quality, for years. Replacing the oil and containers would be about 25 bucks a go.

  4. One question and one comment. (1) Do you find jojoba oil scentless? I always thought it had a pronounced odor. (2) I find it so interesting that you framed your discussion of men whose style you find attractive in terms of how you would dress if you were a guy! I think for me it's the opposite--I love men who present themselves in pretty much the opposite way as I think I would as a guy. But then again it's pretty hard for me to imagine myself presenting as masculine, so who knows for sure, but I definitely imagine being on the more groomed end of things, with rich fabrics and tailored clothes, while I'm usually into jeans-and-T-shirts-and plaid men as partners. Anyway, I just thought your comment was interesting to consider!

    1. G: That is such a good question! I don't find it scentless but I don't think that the odor is pronounced. But I'm off to get a new batch of the organic stuff today so I'll do some targetted smelling of the different varieties that my vendor stocks! I do find that the scent disappears when it combined with other base oils and essential oils. The degree of refinement affects the scent of the oil. (Also, the oil you've smelled may have gone off?)

      And it is funny to imagine how we'd be if we were totally different than ourselves. I just love that well-groomed look. It's so elegant and respectful. And cute!