20 BEST Essential Oils to Scent Soap Naturally (You'll Want to Save This!)
When I first began my soap making adventures and experiments, I really had no clue about anything. I knew I wanted to make "natural" soap, without dangerous chemicals. One thing I discovered fairly early on, before I spent too much money on "fragrance" oils, is that when you are scenting soap, the ONLY natural way to do it is by using essential oils. Here are my personal favorite essential oils for scenting your soap naturally, and why they work!
Essential oils are REAL plant oils, unlike fragrance oils, which can contain artificial scents, dangerous chemicals, and many unknowns. The FDA doesn't require all ingredients in fragrance oils to be listed, so many dangerous toxins can fall under an unknown umbrella ingredient.
The bottom line is: if you want natural soap, to make or purchase, you'll have to be sure it's scented only with essential oils!
I wasn't very familiar with essential oils when I began making homemade soap years ago. I knew they worked for medicinal purposes, and I had been using them this way for quite a while. However, I didn't know about how to blend them, or which ones to use for making soap.
I also discovered that essential oils are rather expensive for making soap because you have to use relatively large amounts. A few drops will just not work.
Here is my list of the best essential oils to use to make delicious smelling and truly natural soap. These essential oils all blend well and are more common (therefore the least expensive) essential oils, making them perfect for making soap!
I've chosen my favorite oils by how well they blend with other oils, how well they smell on their own, and except for a couple in the list, most are (for essential oils) on the reasonably-priced end.
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!
Where Should You Buy Essential Oils for Making Soap?
I'll tell you what. Essential oils cost a lot. Especially GOOD ones.
So, even though I use high quality therapeutic grade essential oils for healing, medicinal use, and massage (directly on skin with a carrier oil), I just couldn't afford to use these kinds of essential oils in my soap. This is because when you make soap, you need to use a relatively large amount of essential oils in order to have enough scent come through. (I'll discuss amounts for making soap below.)
So....I searched the world over for essential oils that were still of good quality, but that were more affordable than buying little 10 mL bottles of oils for $20! I started out buying my oils in 2 ounce bottles--again, because of the cost.
Then, when I started making larger quantities of soaps, I purchased my most common essential oils in 16 ounce amounts, and this saved me even more money in the long run.
After searching and experimenting with many companies for soap making essential oils, Starwest Botanicals has become my hands-down favorite company to buy my soaping essential oils from! I hope you'll check them out. If you are going to get into making handmade soap, it's worth taking a look.
Starwest Botanicals also has a great selection of herbs and herbal products--I think they are pretty amazing! They are also my favorite place to purchase any kind of carrier oils or herbs for cooking or making medicines.
The links in the descriptions of the essential oils are for Amazon, in case you want to take a look there! I can't speak to the quality of the essential oils, but I tried to find brands that at least give you a decent quantity, which you need for making soap.
With that said, in my experience, essential oils sold in larger amounts in the stores (including Amazon) are not of the best quality. Just be careful when purchasing your essential oils.
You may like this article for more information: How to Choose an Essential Oil Brand That is Quality and Won't Break the Bank.
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My Favorite Essential Oils for Scenting Soap Naturally
This is a great list of essential oils to choose to scent your natural soap. If you want to find out how to blend them, along with a great instruction book for how to make hot process soap, you'll want to take a look at my eBook, "Creating Natural Hot Process Soap."
Anise essential oil is quite strongly scented and will give you a licorice scent. So if you are a person who enjoys the scent of black licorice or star anise—this is for you!
Mmmmm….Sweet and vanilla scented, Benzoin is so good for your skin. However, it can be difficult to use because it is highly viscous. You’ll have to warm the bottle in hot water to get it to flow reasonably enough to use.
Bergamot is a citrus oil and has a relaxing scent. There’s a tinge of floral in bergamot. I don’t use this much because I find it to be on the expensive side.
Pretty much everyone knows what cinnamon smells like! :-) As stated earlier, just be aware that some people are sensitive to cinnamon. Go easy on this oil.
Here's a recipe for my Peaceful Warrior soap---It's a great favorite of many of my friends and family. Men and women both love this soap!
Clove is an oriental scent, quite strong, and should be combined with other oils. It’s another oil that may cause skin sensitivity, although medicinally, it is used as a numbing oil for tooth and mouth pain.
A clean, uplifting, and refreshing scent! Eucalyptus also has some terrific medicinal qualities, and if you experience allergies or sinus issues, using Eucalyptus soap in your shower can really help!
I have heard some folks say you should be careful about using this essential oil on children under the age of 12. In soap, it is highly diluted, and shouldn't be a problem. However, just be aware and do your research first. Best thing, as always, is to check in with your medical doctor.
Oh, my gosh: You've got to check out this recipe for Spearmint-Eucalyptus-Frankincense soap. It's amazing!
Frankincense is an expensive oil, but I’m including it here because it is just so wonderful! It has a piney/turpentine -ish scent, and has long been used as a healing oil. It’s truly an oil that benefits your skin, especially mature skin.
Here's a great soap recipe for Christmas: It's my Frankincense & Myrrh hot process soap---I love this one so much!
Grapefruit is a super uplifting and happy essential oil! It’s also thought to help with fat deposits and cellulite. Used with Rosemary, it is a great combination for acne or especially oily skin.
Here's my recipe for Cellulite Soap that uses Grapefruit & Rosemary essential oils.
Lavender is arguably one of the most used essential oil scents in soap making! It’s inexpensive (relatively), and it smells wonderful. It is highly relaxing and soothing to the skin.
You might like this recipe for Lavender-Rosemary-Vanilla hot process soap!
Hey! I've Got to Tell You Something!
I know I'm in the middle of this wonderful list, but I'm so excited because my eBook on How to Make Hot Process Soap and directions for how to customize it for YOUR tastes is ready in the shop! It's 90 pages of everything you need to know to make your very own moisturizing, natural hot process soap! I hope you'll check it out!
Now, back to the list!
Lemon is another common scent that most people really love. Lemon, like many of the citrus oils, will not last long in soap. Using a touch of Patchouli in the blend helps ground the scent, keeping it in the soap longer.
My Citrus Bliss Soap is incredible---and this blend is a favorite with most women because it really enhances your mood.
Lemongrass has a lemony scent, and is very helpful for emotional balance. I like to use lemongrass along with lemon essential oil because the scents are similar, and I’ve found it helps the lemon fragrance go a lot further in the soap. Lemongrass has a pretty strong scent, too--much stronger than regular Lemon. Keep this in mind when blending because there is a difference between the two.
I use Lemongrass essential oil in my Sexy Wild Man hot process recipe, along with Cinnamon. Mmmm...
This oil is calming for people, especially children. If you’ve smelled a mandarin orange, then you know what this scent is like. It’s not quite orange, and it is lighter and sweeter. I love using Mandarin Orange with a grounding spicy essential oil, like Cinnamon.
You'll find Mandarin used in my Fall Spice hot process soap recipe.
I’ve used Blood Orange and Sweet Orange. Both are good! Orange essentialoil has a joyful citrus scent! As in other citrus oils, it will not last as long in soaps, so using another oil to help “ground” it, like Patchouli or Lemongrass will help.
This is one of those love it or hate it oils! Personally, I love Patchouli. It starts out strong, then fades into a lovely exotic scent. It helps weaker essential oils to last longer in the soap. So, even if you use a bit in your Pine or Citrus soaps, it will smell just fine! It blends well with these scents.
Like orange essential oil, you'll find Patchouli in a lot of my soap recipes because it is a great essential oil to ground other scents, while not overpowering the overall smell of the soap.
Oh, my goodness—this is one of my favorites. Peppermint is cooling (literally) on your skin, so it’s a great summertime scent. It is very stimulating, so take care using on children (always see a doctor and ask if it’s ok) or for people with heart issues. If you are creating soap for a menopausal lady (like me), then this is a wonderful essential oil to use!
You may like to try my Hard Hunk o'Man hot process soap recipe that uses Peppermint and Pine. It's great for Saint Patrick's Day, too, as it's a lovely green colored naturally with herbs.
Rosemary has a woody-green scent, and it is also stimulating. Rosemary essential oil is great for those with acne or very oily skin because it is highly astringent and antimicrobial.
It should be used with caution or not at all around people with heart issues, for young children, or people with nerve issues. Seek advice from a doctor any time you use essential oils.
Spearmint is sweeter than Peppermint, and much more mild. I love using spearmint in my soap making. If you’ve ever tasted a spearmint leaf, then you know what I’m talking about!
One of my favorite soap recipes uses spearmint, and you can find that link above, under Eucalyptus.
What can I say? Tangerine essential oil just flat out makes a person happy. It really does. Like the other citrus, you’ll need to ground it using a stronger oil, like patchouli or lemongrass.
You can find Tangerine essential oil used in my Tangerine-Cocoa & Oatmeal Hot Process Soap!
Tea Tree Oil:
One of my favorites, I used to think Tea Tree was stinky! But blended the right way with other oils (like Eucalyptus, the mints, and patchouli), it is lovely. Tea Tree essential oil is an antiseptic, antifungal, and all-around anti-microbial. In fact, it can be used to treat stubborn toenail fungus! In soap, it’s beautiful.
I don't have a recipe for this blend that one of my friends created (yet---I'm dabbling), but she combines Tea Tree, Patchouli, and Lemongrass essential oils. Honestly, it smells divine. But again, keep in mind....tea tree is another love or hate it essential oil.
**Find out about the benefits and uses of tea tree essential oil.
Wintergreen has analgesic properties, and may help with joint pain relief, especially when used in salves. In soap, like most essential oils, it is mainly for the scent. It as a strong and powerful kind of “icy-hot” scent. If you’ve tasted wintergreen gum, it’s the same scent!
How Much Essential Oil Do I Need to Use in My Handmade Soaps?
This was a question I had when I first started making soap that was SO HARD to find an answer to! Different oils have different strengths, obvs, so you'll need to take that into account.
Cinnamon essential oil, for example, is STRONG, while Lemon essential oil is not so much. If you are blending oils, go light at first, then make adjustments. You'll soon find the right combinations for you. I am really big on experimenting, I'm sure you can tell.
Based on my own experiments, I'm going to give you some very general guidelines here, because scent is such a personal thing. I tend to go heavy on my scents because I just like it that way. Also, in terms of using oils like Eucalyptus in my soaps, I'll get the benefits on my sinuses in the shower with a more heavily scented bar.
I have never gotten into the "perfume" aspect of blending oils with the top, middle and base notes because what I smell is not going to be what you smell, right? I can hand a bar of soap to one person, and they LOVE it, while another just says, "Meh." So experiment and find out what YOU like!
The best thing to keep in mind, in my opinion, is how a strong scent can potentially overpower a lighter scent. And go from there. Also, I use essential oils in my soaps to help support body functions, like my cellulite soap or using eucalyptus to help clear my sinuses in the shower.
My basic guideline for my own soaps is to use an ounce of essential oil per pound of soap.
So, if you want a lightly scented bar of soap, I'd cut that amount in half to start, then play around with amounts from there. If you are blending, pay close attention to how strong the essential oil smells. Go light on strong scents like Cinnamon, Clove, Patchouli, Peppermint, etc. You can go a little heavier on lighter scents like Lavender, Lemon, Orange, and Tangerine.
Final Thoughts on Using Essential Oils to Scent Soap
There is an incredible difference between soaps scented with artificial fragrance oils and soaps scented with essential oils. Your brain can pick up the benefits from the plant compositions in the natural essential oils, without any doubt. If you want to make truly natural soap, you'll have to opt for essential oils!
I hope this list is helpful to you! Please let me know if you want more information! Leave comments in the comments section---and I'd love for you to share your own favorite combinations with us!
Here are some related articles about making soap you might be interested in:
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. In no manner, stated or implied, is any statement in this article, elsewhere on the blog, or in any product meant to cure, treat, diagnose, or prevent any illness. Please seek medical advice from your doctor. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. All statements herein are simply my personal opinion based on study and experience in my own life.
P.P.S. Take a look at my newest eBook on How to Make and Customize Hot Process Soap! It's 88 pages of detailed instructions, photos, recipe ideas, and important information!