Oil Perfumes have been used for thousands of years, but the 20th century perfume landscape has been dominated by alcohol-based fragrances. With the rising popularity of face and hair oils in the past decade or so, it is unsurprising that Oil Perfumes have been making a big come back, so much so that even huge international brands are dipping their toes into the trend.
Oil Perfumes are made by mixing essential oils, absolutes and aromatic molecules into an oil base. Generally, oil perfumes use jojoba or almond oil as the fragrance substrate, for both their minimal scent and light texture. However, not all oil perfumes are equal. I have seen perfumes advertised as "oil perfumes" that use dipropylene glycol as their base. You may know dipropylene glycol as the main liquid in reed diffusers. Like some other deceptive oil perfume bases, like mineral oil, it is skin safe, but its effectiveness as a perfume base is questionable.
A light textured plant oil like almond oil will actually absorb into the skin (providing some moisturising benefits to boot) leaving behind the more volatile fragrance molecules, while larger molecule bases like dipropylene glycol will continue to sit on the skin making it a less effective fragrance diffuser for use on skin.
Because plant oils mimic the biology of your natural skin oils, it can make them less irritating to sensitive skin and more suited to dry skin types. Oil perfumes use the natural heat of your body to disperse its fragrance. Conversely, alcohol fragrances evaporate rapidly to disperse fragrance, potentially sapping some of the skin's natural hydration in the process. Alcohol perfumes are actually far more suited to scenting fabrics rather than skin.
Because oil perfumes do not evaporate prematurely, they last longer on the body. Oil perfumes tend to smell much more intense straight out of the bottle than alcohol perfumes, but actually sit closer to the skin on application. Rather than announcing yourself with a plume of perfume whenever you enter a room, oil perfumes allow you to enjoy your fragrance without offending others.
Oil Perfumes also last longer in the bottle. About 50% of each spray of alcohol perfume is lost with every pump. Oil perfumes are applied with dropper, wicks or rollers, making the application much more controlled.
Oil Perfume Tips
You can control your oil perfume's rate of absorption by applying a bit of lotion to your skin beforehand
Dab the perfume rather than rub, as you may break down your perfumes more volatile ingredients prematurely
Give it time. Mass market alcohol perfumes are specifically designed to make a great first impression. Oil perfumes must be allowed to settle on the skin before they can be fully appreciated.
Add a few drops of oil perfume to your bath, body lotion, dry oil or body powder.
You can apply most oil perfumes anywhere on your body except your face. Liv Tyler puts hers in her belly-button and Coco Chanel recommended to put it wherever you want to be kissed.