Today we’re having a bit of mouthwatering, nose-delighting fun with a partner post and video for 5 ingredients that will make your formulations smell awful, which I shared earlier this month. This post is all about ingredients that I think smell amazing, and will contribute that delightful scent to your DIYs!
Want to watch this project instead of reading it?
As with all things scent related, whether or not you think the ingredients on this list smell heavenly or horrible is a very personal thing. If you hate the smell of chocolate I’m aware that no amount of my fan-girling about unrefined cocoa butter will win you over. The larger point to keep in mind is that these ingredients will contribute their characteristic scent to your formulations. As much as I love the natural scents of these ingredients, I don’t necessarily want those smells in everything I formulate, so sometimes I’ll choose a refined version or a different ingredient all together.
The ingredients on this list are all ingredients you’d include in formulations for not-scent-related reasons; obviously there are heaps of gorgeous-smelling essential oils, fragrance oils, and hydrosols out there, but since those ingredients are primarily included for their scents I haven’t included any of them in this list. I also want to note that the level of scent you’ll get from these ingredients can vary a lot depending on where you get the ingredient, the crop, and the processing method. Refined versions won’t smell like much of anything, of course—this post is all about unrefined ingredients. That said, I definitely recommend reading descriptions and reviews to get a feel for how fragrant an ingredient may or may not be before ordering it.
My advice about smelling your ingredients and starting with small batches from 5 ingredients that will make your formulations smell awful still stand, even if the ingredient smells great! Please pop over and give that post a read, too 😊
Thanks to my patron Zil for the inspiration for this post!
Good, unrefined cocoa butter smells mouth-wateringly of high-quality chocolate. YUM. That delicious scent will come through in formulations if you’re using cocoa butter somewhere around 10% or more, though of course just how noticeable it’ll be will depend on how fragrant your specific cocoa butter is.
I especially love including unrefined cocoa butter in lip balms where it’s chocolatey-ness can really be appreciated, but it’s also gorgeous in lotions, body butters, and body butter bars. It pairs really well with citrus, vanilla, coconut, nutty carrier oils, coffee, mint, and generally anything that you think tastes nice with chocolate. If you love chocolate paired with strawberries, try pairing cocoa butter and a wee bit of strawberry fragrance oil in a formulation and see what you think!
As much as I love cocoa butter’s chocolatey goodness, I don’t always want everything to smell like chocolate. The scent of cocoa butter doesn’t pair beautifully with all essential oils, or I might just not want a chocolate note in a particular formulation. In situations like that, refined cocoa butter works beautifully.
Some delicious cocoa butter formulations
- Rich Mocha Hand & Body Lotion
- Cocoa Coconut Vegan Body Butter Bars
- Peppermint Cocoa Lip Balm
- Chocolate Rhassoul Shampoo Bars
- White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Lotion
Bring the smell of the tropics to your formulations with virgin coconut oil. This staple formulating oil never fails to make me want a piña colada on a secluded beach! The smell of rich, buttery coconut oil pairs wonderfully with cocoa, citrus, vanilla, and fruit, and can come though in your formulations around 10% and up. If you like virgin coconut oil I highly recommend trying Baraka’s traditional coconut oil as well; it’s processed in a slightly different way that gives it a warmer, slightly toasted scent that is divine.
For situations where a mental trip to the beach doesn’t work for you, refined coconut oil is a very easy swap and doesn’t smell like anything. I tend to choose refined coconut oil for soap making as it’s cheaper than virgin coconut oil. You can also try babassu oil; I find its skin feel is almost indistinguishable from coconut oil, and every version I’ve tried doesn’t smell like anything.
Some delicious coconut oil formulations
- Sticky Coconut Lip Balm
- Cocoa Coconut Rich Cream Facial Cleanser
- Cinnamon Cocoa Massage Bars
- Passionfruit Coconut Conditioning Body Lotion + Hair Conditioner
- Naked Lip Balm
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Cranberry seed oil
You’ve likely been disappointed by carrier oils that come from lovely fruity things, but don’t smell like it (I’m looking at you, mango butter!). Unrefined cranberry seed oil to the rescue! This silky liquid oil smells wonderfully fresh and juicy; I wouldn’t say it smells like cranberries, but it does have a tangy, fruity scent that is hard to find in the world of natural ingredients. I have used the cranberry seed oil sold by both Essential Wholesale (US) and Plant’s Power (Canada) and can recommend both of them!
You’ll generally need to use 20–30% cranberry seed oil in your formulations for the scent to come through, though just how much you’ll notice the scent will depend on how fragrant your cranberry seed oil is and what else is going on in the formulation. I find the scent of cranberry seed oil pairs well with citrus, floral, and other fruity scents. Yum!
If you don’t want a hint of fruitiness in your formulations you could opt for refined cranberry oil instead, but I would just choose a different low-scent lightweight liquid carrier oil instead (there are quite a few suggestions in the encyclopedia entry for cranberry seed oil!). I consider the scent of unrefined cranberry seed oil to be a pretty big part of the reason to own it; if you don’t want that scent, save your money.
Some delicious cranberry seed oil formulations
- Cranberry Orange Body Oil
- Frosted Cranberry Face Cream
- Berry Glow Facial Serum
- Frosted Cranberry Butter Balm
- Cranberry Orange Tinted Lip Balm
Plum kernel oil
If you’re a marzipan lover, you need some unrefined plum kernel oil in your life. This satiny liquid oil doesn’t smell anything like plums; instead, it smells like almond-y marzipan. It pairs wonderfully with spice, vanilla, fruity, and chocolatey scents, and generally comes though when used at 10% or more. Not all plum kernel oils smell like marzipan, so make sure you’re reading the description from your supplier and any available reviews. Mine is from Essential Wholesale and it smells fabulous!
For formulations and situations where a bit of bitter almond loveliness doesn’t work for you, I recommend selecting a low-scent stone fruit oil instead; apricot kernel oil and sweet almond oil are both easy choices with similar fatty acid compositions. Much like cranberry seed oil, I’d save your money and stick to cheaper stone fruit oils if you aren’t a fan of the smell of bitter almonds.
Some delicious plum kernel oil formulations
- Summer Stone Fruit Lip Balm
- Argan Plum Body Oil
- Sugar Plum Conditioning Body Butter
- Rich Plum Face Wash
- Sugar Plum Body Butter Bars
The smell of unrefined bayberry wax makes me feel a bit homesick, but in a good way. This dusty green wax smells like Canadian coniferous forests, reminding me of summers spent in Riding Mountain National Park and hikes in the Rocky Mountains. Bayberry wax also makes quite a good vegan alternative to beeswax (another ingredient that smells lovely!); it has a very similar creaminess that can be hard to find in vegan waxes.
I love pairing the scent of bayberry wax with resinous, fresh, camphoraceous, and floral scents—anything that makes me think of forests and the great outdoors, really. It can come through in your formulations when used below 10%, though of course, that’ll depend on how fragrant your particular batch is and what else is going on in the formulation.
Some delicious bayberry wax formulations
- Moraine Lake Body Lotion
- 1915 Redwood Beard Balm
- Manitoba Forest Balm
- A Quick Guide to Bayberry Wax & Liquid Oil Ratios
- Bayberry Vegan Lip Balm
Those are my favourite fragrant ingredients; what are yours?