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How do I make a perfume spritzer?

March 9, 2012

Now lots of people want spritz products to add to their range either as a perfume, as a tonic or as an anti-microbial (if the spritz is for a household application) and  so I thought that it would be great to explain to you a little about how they are formulated.  At this point some of you might go ‘well that is a silly thing to do being as though you usually charge people for their formulations’  and I’d have to disagree.  Much time and money is wasted on trying to explain and demonstrate the foundations of a formulation to clients that I figure if I can get them over the first rung of the ladder they can spend the time with me making it REALLY amazing, trying new ingredients or even working out how to get it the same but cheaper (it is business after all).  So, I’ll share with you but only if you remember this. This is step one of your ‘suck it and see’ method of learning. I don’t expect that this formula will solve all of your problems, make you a millionaire and wash up your lab equipment afterwards.  That is a fairy story, this is a starting point formulation.

Picture:  The first two show what a good spritz should look like – it is quite crisp and clear once you get past the glass imperfections. In the last one the oily perfume wasn’t fully solubilised and a thin emulsion as been formed. This may not be stable in the long-term and is best avoided. 

The Formula Basics.

So, when you make a perfume spritz you are trying to add a little bit of oil (primarily the perfume) into a lot of water (or waterish stuff).   If you try adding any amount of oil to water it will just sit on the top – try it with some essential oil now just so that you can see how it behaves.  You can shake it up and the oil drops become smaller but as soon as you stop shaking they join back together in a big oil slick blob at the top.  Not stable and not something you can sell.

To get this to work we need what is called a ‘solubiliser’.  In this formulation the solubiliser will  grab the small amount of oil and wrap its self around it.  It can do this without sinking because the solubiliser has an arm that it can wrap around the oily stuff and an arm that keeps it anchored in the water!   There are many different types of solubiliser and choosing the right one can be tricky but your ingredient suppliers should be able to help but if you want a quick fix I’ve listed some at the bottom of the article.

Next you will need to choose your perfume ingredient. This could be a synthetic perfume, essential oil or a blend of things. The key thing to keep in mind here is that different perfume ingredients have different chemistries and as such may work better or worse than another in the same base.  That is all part of the fun and why making these things work can take some time.

Once you have those two things chosen it’s time to play around to see how much solubiliser you need to make your perfume disappear.  What I usually do is decide how much perfume I want to have in my finished product – 1% is OK for a perfumed body spritz.  I weigh that into a glass container and then add the solubiliser on top starting with the same amount solubiliser to perfume – 1% in this case.  Then I mix it with a spoon or something to see what happens. If the perfume, solubiliser mix looks cloudy I add more solubiliser – another 1%.  If it still looks cloudy after that I add more and keep on going until the mix looks clear (like the solubiliser alone).   Usually this is no more than 6 x the volume of perfume and more often 3-4 times.  This step is important so watch, take your time and keep note!

Once that is done you are on the home stretch.  Add your glycerine, and any other water based actives including your preservative and mix well.  Then start adding in the water 20% ish at a time stirring gently each time.   See how it looks and use the alcohol allocation to improve the clarity of the blend.  If it starts going cloudy again you are stuffed and the process will probably need to start again.

Top up with the rest of your water, check the pH – it needs to sit at a skin- friendly 5.5-6 ish and then stop.  If you want to colour your product you have a number of choices, natural colours will fade over 3-6 months of sun exposure, synthetic colours may fair better but not always.  Colour is optional but if you choose it or need it for your branding protect your colour with some UV filters.  I would say that getting this bit right is beyond the scope of this article as there are many things to consider including your preservative choice so if this sounds like you, call me or another formulator who can help.

Pack off and  then you are done. Well, sort of……

Perfume spritzers are jam-packed with water really and bugs love the stuff so I always recommend that people get a micro check done on their product at the very least. Ideally regular Preservative Efficacy Testing is a must if you are planning to retail your creations.  It also pays to keep retained samples of your creations and perform some stability testing on them. A full stability test can be organised by a third-party lab and the report that you get afterwards will detail the life of your product including any colour and odour changes, pH change or other differences that may trigger alarm bells.  At the very least you should observe your product on your own window sill for at least 6 months before sending it out for friends and family. Discard if you start to see hazy bits floating in there or it starts to smell wrong – that will be the bugs!

General Notes and information.

* Solubilisers.  Some commonly used solubilisers are as follows:  Polysorbate 20, 60, 85.  PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil,  Decyl Glucoside and Decaglyceryl Monolaurate.  This is only a small selection, more exist and great developments are taking place to make greener, cleaner and better solubilisers which I can talk about in another post.

* Alcohol.  The alcohol serves a couple of purposes. Some perfumes are more soluble in alcohol than water and so give clearer solutions when a little alcohol is added to the mix.  Also a bit of alcohol helps to reduce the foam from the solubiliser (a little bit) and also helps the spray to feel dryer (a little bit) on the skin.  You can get organic alcohol if that helps or you could use witch hazel instead but it won’t work as well and it does have a smell.

* Solubiliser amount. The formula above says 4%. This is not set in stone as we talked about in the article but a ratio of 1 part perfume to 4 parts solubiliser sits in the comfort zone and covers most things.

* UV protectors and colour.  You can add them but it may get complex.

* Additional preservative boosters to add may be a chelating agent to help mop up any microbe food that might be swimming around. Sodium Phytate is a good natural one and EDTA is the classic old school option.

* Preservative addition level – I’ve put 1% as many of the new generation blends are developed for a 1% addition rate. However 1% is way over the top for some preservatives so please read the literature behind your preservative choice and add the recommended dose.  You may also need to use more than one ingredient to kill all types of microbe and as such may need extra help getting this bit right. That is OK.

Have fun and if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.

Good luck!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2012 1:06 pm

    Would the recipe be different for a room mist?

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 23, 2012 7:18 pm

      It could be quite a bit stronger if it were for a room mist. You could increase the fragrance loading quite substantially to give a long lasting aroma. You may also want to add in an odour neutralising ingredient to cover things like food or smoke aromas. However, essentially the formula could stay the same.

  2. April 4, 2021 2:30 am

    This is an old article but still very relevant to us newcomers in the industry. Most of us think we can just do everything with organic oils and fragrance and that’s it, haha, boy was I wrong. Again, this article has educated me in the Cosmetic Raw Materials side of the house. Thanks for the knowledge.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      April 26, 2021 5:49 pm

      No problem Fletch, it is still something I talk to clients about on a weekly basis. The main thing is that you appreciate the process of creating a good product and keep on experimenting. It’s good fun really, I promise!

  3. Stephen permalink
    October 5, 2022 8:14 am

    WOW! so happy I came across this article. I was so frustrated with poly 20 and all my formula was lacking was an increased amount of poly and a change in the mixing sequence. NICE ONE! I’m a new man :)..tx for this info. I’ll try it on more oils but for now i tested it on two oils viz. Eucalyptus and a synthetic perfume oil called Narciso Rodreguez.

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