Though once relegated to cleaning products and potpourri, modern perfumery has recently come to embrace the wonderful complexity and versatility of lavender. It is no wonder, either; lavender has a long and storied history as a perfume.
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Many ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans, valued it for its scent, and the Ancient Egyptians even used it in rituals honoring the dead. Thus, with its unique scent, timeless nature, and rich history, lavender makes a perfect addition to any perfume wardrobe.
What Does Lavender Smell Like?
When we think of floral scents, we often assume a certain softness: the word “floral” suggests something sweet, delicate, and ephemeral, like early spring blooms. Lavender, however, defies many of these assumptions.
Though still a floral, its scent is strong, charismatic, and intensely botanical—underlying its floral sweetness are green and spicy notes, which combine to give lavender a somewhat woody, herbal quality.
Lavender can sometimes also have a sharp, prickly quality; however, the extent of this sharpness can vary by subspecies. For example, English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) tends to be softer and subtler, while French or Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has a sharper, bolder scent.
Beauty Benefits of Lavender Essential Oils
Lavender is much more than a pretty scent, however—it can also be a valuable component in our beauty routines. Specifically, lavender essential oil is thought to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help clear up acne and other problems caused by natural imbalances in the skin.
Another benefit is its apparent anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe mild skin irritation and redness. Of course, lavender is also known for its ability to aid relaxation and encourage peaceful sleep, so perhaps its biggest benefit is helping us get enough beauty rest.
How to Use Lavender Essential Oil
Luckily, unlocking the benefits of lavender is easy: a few drops of high quality lavender essential oil can be added to any carrier oil, such as coconut or jojoba, to create a simple skincare treatment in minutes.
To access lavender’s calming effects, the essential oil can also be used to make a pillow spray by mixing equal parts witch hazel and distilled water, then adding several drops of lavender; this mixture can be kept in a spray bottle and applied to a pillow at night. As always, users should check for any allergic reacting by patch testing new products before use.
How to Make Lavender Perfume
With essential oils, blending a custom lavender perfume is easy. For traditional spray perfumes, essential oils can be blended with an odorless alcohol, such as vodka, and funneled into an atomizer.
For those who wish to avoid alcohol, essential oils can be mixed with a carrier oil and stored in a rollerball-style applicator. The choice and ratio of individual notes can be customized for the wearer, but with lavender’s strong, unique scent profile, the combinations are limitless.
What Other Scents Go Well with Lavender
Despite its strength and complexity, lavender pairs well with a variety of notes. For example, one of the more popular notes to pair with lavender is vanilla, which can soften the strong scent of lavender by adding a touch of sweetness.
Likewise, citrus notes, such as mandarin orange or lemon, can sweeten lavender’s spicy-woody tendencies without diminishing its sharpness. Traditional florals, such as tuberose and jasmine, can impart a softer character to any lavender perfume.
Best Lavender Perfumes
While it is possible to make lavender perfume at home, the need to source quality ingredients, as well as the sheer multiplicity of notes that pair well with lavender, gives designer perfumes a clear advantage. The following are some of the best lavender-centric perfumes and their profiles.
Libre by Yves Saint Laurent EDP
Blending the soft and the bold, Libre* truly offers the best of both worlds. The perfume’s prominent lavender note is softened by notes of orange blossom and vanilla, while mandarin orange injects some zest into the mix. The result is a fragrance that exudes sweetness and class, strengthened by lavender’s bold complexity.
Petit Matin by Maison Francis Kurkdjian
Petit Matin* is a playful, sparkling take on classic lavender; with prominent notes of Italian lemon and orange blossom, this scent evokes the image of fragrant orchards and rippling fields of lavender flowers. This summery fragrance is perfect for anyone looking for a romantic vacation in a bottle.
Oscar Lavender by Oscar De La Renta EDT
This classic fragrance pairs lavender with rose and jasmine to create an elegant experience. The powerful florals make Oscar Lavender* a very flower-forward perfume, but its sweetness is grounded by coriander and the green, woody character of lavender. The result is like walking through an expertly cultivated garden, where blooms blend with earth to create a harmonious whole.
Vera Wang Embrace French Lavender and Tuberose EDT
This sweet fragrance blends vanilla, tuberose, and lavender to create a soft effect that sits delicately on the skin. Vera Wang Embrace* also features notes of mandarin orange, which lends it a fruity-floral vivacity that prevents the perfume from becoming flat or cloying.
Terre de Lumiere Intense by L’Occitane
Terre de Lumiere Intense is a spicy take on lavender that blends pink pepper, anise, and honey to create a mouth-watering fragrance that is perfect for long, sultry nights. A strong base of agarwood and olibanum keep it grounded, while bergamot lends a fresh, citrusy note to balance out the heavier scents.