Layering Fragrance: How and Why

Layering Fragrance: How and Why

One of the nicest things about natural, essential oil-based fragrance is its subtlety. The chemical compounds that give synthetic fragrances their staying power aren’t great for our olfactory systems over time, and many people find that they get headaches or other allergy symptoms from synthetic fragrances. Essential oils do bother some people (be mindful of the amount you use, the setting, and who will be there!), but their scent tends to stay within a much closer personal bubble rather than wafting around a room. A good rule of thumb with fragrance is that someone should only be able to smell you if they are within arms reach of you, or if they come in for a hug. It is called personal fragrance, after all.

This inherent subtlety lends itself well to the practice of fragrance layering, a fun and creative practice which allows you to layer products to create a scent that is still subtle but unique to you.

Any scent that we apply to our skin will smell unique on us — different than if the person next to us were to put it on. This is thanks to our own unique body chemistry and how the components of the scent react with that. So right from the first bit of fragrance we apply to our bodies, whether that is a body oil, body spray or an essential oil roll on, we are already beginning to layer fragrance — the fragrance of the product we are applying with the natural scent of our own body.

From there you might choose to consider ways to coordinate your different products to create an overall scent that you love. This might vary day to day. If you keep your favourite fragrance notes in mind as you make or buy body care products, you can choose them based on the predominant notes you would like to come through. For instance, over the winter I was in love with the scent of cardamom and so I made a clothing spray with cardamom, bergamot and cocoa; used spicy Superstar deodorant cream from Routine; and if I was going on a date or similar, I would use The Apothecary’s Nag Champa roll on. Each of these scents incorporates cardamom and other dreamy notes, and I loved the way they came together and blended on me.

Options for fragrance layers:

Those are a lot of layers! Imagine if you wore them all and each one had a scent — yowza! It would be overpowering. Keep that in mind when choosing your products. If you wear a lot of products each day and each one has a scent, try to keep those scents very subtle as they may compete or bother the people around you.

All of that said, here are some tips for layering your fragrance…

Keep it Light

If you’ll be layering fragrance, keep any products you’re making yourself to a 2% dilution of essential oils. You may normally use a bit more, but if you will be intentionally layering a few products, less scent is truly more. Other ways to keep the layers light? Apply just a bit. Don’t overdo it; you can add more later if needed. And stick to natural fragrances with no parabens or other chemicals that make them “stick.”

Start in the Shower

This might mean a scented body wash, or your shampoo and/or conditioner. If you are using a bar soap or a shampoo bar, chances are the scent won’t stick much. So while it’s nice to choose coordinating scents, you won’t need to worry about them clashing or overpowering.

Two DIY options for scent in the shower include a homemade sugar scrub (the carrier oil sticks around to moisturize and holds the scent nice and lightly); or simply adding essential oils to your unscented shower gel or liquid soap (you can do this at our Blending Bar!). Remember, keep the dilution of essential oils in either product to 2% max!

Fragrance in Toners and Moisturizers

Many toners won’t carry a scent, and any that they do have will evaporate quickly. However, if you’re using a hydrosol and you want to smell it every so subtly during the day, allow the mist to land on your shirt or scarf as you spritz your face — just the lightest touch of hydrosol will stick around.

Moisturizers like your facial moisturizer; body oil; lotion and hair oil can all be carriers of scent. I like to layer a Neroli Hydrosol as my toner with the Orange Blossom Facial Cream from Cocoon Apothecary for a calming experience; while my partner luxuriates in using the 4 Roses Facial Tonic as her cleanser, the Rose Hydrosol as her toner and the Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream from Cocoon Apothecary.

A body oil or hair oil can be mixed up for your particular needs (we can help you with that!) and you can add up to a 3% dilution of essential oils in either.

A lovely light summer toner and moisturizer for face and body is the After Sunny Aloe Spray, with aloe, sweet almond oil and a very light fragrance. You could mimic this recipe at our Blending Bar with your own preferred scent and use it on your whole body. This works well for oily skin.


Choosing an unscented deodorant is a great option in these days of limiting scents in public spaces, but with naturally-scented options like Routine and essential oil-scented liquid deodorants, they can also be a great component of a layered scent. These are complex and expertly-blended scent profiles, making them a surprisingly beautiful piece of the puzzle. You might even want to base your entire layering plan off of your deodorant scent!

Adding More

When the time is right — a date, for instance — you may wish to add a bit more. This can come in two different forms. First, a clothing spray. Because this won’t go directly on skin, you can go up to a 20% dilution here to give it more OOMPH. This is easy to make with distilled water, a little emulsifier if you don’t want to have to shake it each time, and the essential oils or blend of your choice. This is another one we can easily mix up at our Blending Bar!

The last ingredient is perfume; whether that be solid, roll on or a spray. Aromatic roll ons make a perfect take-along and could be a pre-mixed scent (like the ones we offer), a single note or a blend you come up with on your own. We have the supplies for you to make these and everything else mentioned at home; or this is another sweet treat we can mix up for you at our Blending Bar!

As an aside, hydrosols are also a lovely and subtle addition to the mix, working well as a de-stressing spray, a refreshing facial mist or a hair refresher during the day. Flipping hair upside down and spritzing lightly can restore volume and waves, and the scent will stay — ever so lightly.

Where to Begin?

The best place to start is to look at what you have. If you’re using scented products, you’ve been buying scents you like — so take a look at what they are. Do they have anything in common? Are they all spicy, citrusy, floral or musky? Do they share a common note like bergamot, jasmine, vanilla or lavender? Once you have figured out one or more commonalities between your products, you can build from there. You might find you have several different options to work with if all your products don’t fall into one, super clear category. For instance, I have my cardamom theme; but I also have a hair oil that I love that has a very sweet floral scent. I will sometimes build on the jasmine in that; or I might use a very “green” perfume that I love and keep things green and fresh. You can have a lot of fun with this!

Combos We Love:

Of course, it all depends on your body chemistry (as mentioned above). But here are some product combinations that we like together:

Posted by Lindsay on 6/17/2019 to Ask Your Aromatherapist

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