Fixative is an
old term for any natural substance that will hold and ‘fix’ and that
helps a fragrance last longer on the skin. Alcohol-based
scents are the most fleeting, so you want to add something to help
"anchor" the scent. Lowering the evaporation rate of the alcohol
usually does this.
Benzoin and Frankincense, other resins and Tolu Balsam and Peru balsam
are some of the more common additions to a blend that will help to
‘fix’ it. Orrisroot is also an excellent fixative, but it is a
sensitizer (as is Benzoin), so perhaps reserving these for your
potpourri mixtures might be a good idea. Fixatives are generally
the base notes and kept at about 3-5%. The fixative can be a
powerful part of the scent. Some think that any fragrance
fixatives might impart to a scent should be kept to a minimum.
However, some of these odors with powerful fixative qualities can be
integrated into the scent as a base and form a powerful base; the
formula of which can be used over and over again in other perfumes to
make a fragrant accord.
The resins can be mixed with alcohol and added or they can be part of
the original blend. If the resins are mixed in the alcohol, they
should be allowed to steep for about a month then filtered out.
Certain base notes also have fixative properties due to their slow
evaporation rate: Labdanum, Myrrh, Sandalwood, Spikenard, Patchouli,
etc. Since these also tend to be strong scents, they are kept to
a minimum in a perfume formula, usually around 10-20% of the total
In 1923, the book Perfumes & Cosmetics by W. A. Poucher
was published. It contains an excellent section on Fixatives.
Fixatives were considered to be of the utmost importance in the
production of a quality scent. In ancient times, perfumes were
made from all natural ingredients, many of these ingredients were
resins and balsams that have a very long-lasting odor and are now
known as the main fixatives. Frankincense and Myrrh, balsams of
all sorts were considered long-lasting; Spikenard and Iris root
(Orrisroot) were the best; while Rose and Marjoram odors were
considered of middle lasting quality and were only the mid part of a
perfume. Myrrh, Spikenard and Marjoram was a woman’s scent.
Frankincense, Patchouli and Mint was a man’s scent.
In the 18th century, the vogue was Ambrette, Clove, ‘coustadon’,
Calamus, Orris, woods and seeds such as Clove and Dill seed and citrus
peels and animal odors like Ambergris. A scent made from these
was called Poudre de Marechal. The plants were crushed and
pressed through silk to make a powder. Part of this powder was
used directly while the balance might be extracted and macerated in
alcohol and then separated by silk or a sieve. This alcoholic
extract was used to scent clothes, gloves, other leather articles and
one’s body. See page 236 of Herbs & Things by Jeanne Rose for a
modern version of this scent.
Fixative definition: Perfume odors once were expected
to be somewhat tenacious, but sweet and elusive. Often these
complex perfumes were made as infusions and not distillations, which
is a process that loses some of the odor quality and style of the
plant material. So fixing a scent means that you “are able to
select those odors that when blended with more volatile constituents
of a perfume, will prevent their rapid evaporation but at the same
time retain the predominating note of the fragrance”.
Fixatives fall into 3 headings:
a) Agreeable — Benzoin, Frankincense, Balsam of Tolu, Sandalwood, Clary
b) Disagreeable — Valerian, Civet, Africa stone, Castoreum, Asafetida and
parts of the smell of the Jasmine (indole).
c) Neutral — these are chemical odors used in commercial perfumery.
These fixatives will each slightly change the basic
scent of the perfume and modify them. There are three ways that
one can ‘fix’ a scent.
1) Adding fixatives to the alcohol to complement the final perfume.
Remember first that quality alcohol has no scent and no taste.
There two types: neutral grape and neutral grain spirits. These
are the only ones that we recommend to use.
You can add the base notes in small quantities to 95% neutral grape
spirits to slightly scent it. Start with a liter/quart of this
spirit, which already has a pleasant slightly fruity odor. Of
particular interest is adding one Vanilla bean to 1 liter of spirits
for a wood/fruit base. Macerate for several months, label it and
use it in as a diluent in your Wood/Fruit perfumes.
Other base alcohols that can be used are 1 gram Tonka bean or Benzoin
resin/quart for floral odors. For exotic oriental perfumes a
good fixative alcohol would be 1 gram each of Labdanum, Orris, Peru
Balsam can be used per liter/quart of spirits. This must be
macerated and aged before use. Ginger and Opopanax add spice and
warmth; Oakmoss and Vetivert are good for Fern and Green or Wood
scents. Probably the total amount of natural ingredient should
be no more than 3 grams total per quart. Remember this is to act
as a ‘fixative’, it is not necessarily a part of the main scent.
Blending in scents that will work in harmony with the main odor you
are trying to create.
Exalting fixatives is the final fixative that improve or fortify the
main scent and are usually composed of animal notes that soften and
smooth harsh notes. These animal scents of Civet and Musk are
often added in mere drops or a trace. Final fixatives can also
be Rose or Rosewood for their sweetness or absolutes from natural
sources that are predominating in a floral note such as Mimosa (citrus
odors), Jasmine or Tuberose.
The article above is from the Jeanne Rose Newsletter (used with
Aromatherapy Treatments by Jeanne Rose
treatments and many conditions discussed — Incorporating all
Complementary Methods Including AROMATHERAPY TREATMENTS OF
HYDROSOLS AND ESSENTIAL OILS; DIET (SUPPLEMENTS, HERBS, VITAMINS);
EMOTIONAL AND OTHER COMPLEMENTARY TREATMENTS; HERBAL Treatments
HYDROTHERAPY/SPA; MASSAGE and more.
learn how to take care of our self and the secrets that Jeanne
Rose has acquired over the last 40 years. Share the ways in which
herbalism and aromatherapy may provide healing. This is about
living green and Nature’s Green & Aromatic Secrets. Living an
environmental healthy and conscious life in the city or country.
Jeanne says, “Aromatherapy is to Herbalism as surgery is to
medicine”, during the seminar in October and in the book, you will
learn how to care for many conditions using a complete alternative
treatment program. Essential Oils work well with herbs and the
trick is finding out when and how to use both, for herbs and
essential oils compliment one another most graciously.
The New 200
page book of (75) Treatments ($200 on line) is free with this
This is the Collected and Recommended information compiled from
more than 40 years of files and personal consultations. 200 pages.
(Pre-order now - the book will be shipped October 17, 2010.)
Internationally acclaimed author, Jeanne
Rose, has graciously offered her recipes and writings to be used
on the "all natural beauty" web site. Jeanne has been in the
forefront of the movement towards using all natural products for many
years. She is a master herbalist and aromatherapist that has
made a huge impact in the field at large. Please visit Jeanne's
web site (jeannerose.net) to see her many books that she has written, as well as her
all-natural products, educational opportunities and her special program, the "Aromatic Plant Project".
You may call her at (415) 564-6785.
The Jeanne Rose Current Teaching Schedule
Purchase Your Own Alambic Still