Melt and Pour 101: Fragrance & Essential Oils

Fragrance & Essential Oils in Melt and Pour Soap

I have been very much looking forward to writing this post of our Melt and Pour 101 Series! Our goal with this series is to provide a comprehensive beginner’s guide to melt and pour soap. If this is your first time tuning in, make sure you check out our prior posts in the series about Choosing a Soap Base and How to Color Melt and Pour Soap.

Today we will be talking about one of my favorite things Bulk has to offer (yes, a shameless plug) are fragrance and essential oils! Did you know we offer a variety of over 600 different oils? With so much selection, it’s no wonder it can be difficult to pick where to start.

What is IFRA?

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) is a self-regulated organization that maintains specific usage rate recommendations for fragrance & essential oils that are to be used not only in melt and pour soap, but other personal care applications as well. IFRA is broken down into 11 main categories. These categories help determine the appropriate usage rate of fragrance/essential oil based on the application in which it will be used. When working with melt and pour soap, remember that we will always be dealing with Category 9 for fragrances and essential oils.

IFRA Categories

Category 1 – Lip products

Category 2 – Deodorants/Antiperspirants

Category 3 – Hydroalcoholic products for shaved skin; eye products, men’s facial cream/balm

Category 4 – Hydroalcoholic products for unshaved skin, hair styling sprays, body cream

Category 5 – Women’s facial cream, facial makeup, wet wipes, hand cream, face masks

Category 6 – Mouthwash, toothpaste

Category 7 – Baby wipes, intimate wipes

Category 8 – Nail care, makeup remover, hair gel/pomade

Category 9 – Rinse-off products such as soap, shampoo, conditioner

Category 10 – Detergents, hard surface cleaners

Category 11 – Products that do not make skin contact such as candles, air freshener, etc.

Understanding Usage Rates

Our Aruba Coconut fragrance oil has an IFRA Category 9 usage rate of 16.67%. Ok, great. So, what exactly does that mean?

This means up to 16.67% of your total recipe volume can safely consist of this fragrance oil.

Let’s say I want to make 1 lb. of soap using this fragrance oil and I would like to use the maximum rate IFRA suggests of 16.67%. The easiest way is to break the pound of soap down into ounces and go from there. You will notice that it is standard in the personal care industry to measure recipes and ingredients by weight, not volume. This allows for much greater accuracy because some oils weigh more than others due to their viscosity.

1 lb. soap = 16 oz.

16.67% of 16 oz. = 2.67 oz.

This means that I can safely use 2.67 oz. of Aruba Coconut fragrance oil in my 1 lb. of melt and pour soap. Believe it or not, adherence to IFRA rates is totally optional, but by abiding by their suggestions will help you keep the fragrance oil in your soap from causing skin irritation symptoms.


IFRA & Essential Oils

It is especially important to stay mindful of IFRA usage rates when using essential oil in your soap and other applications. One of our favorite resources is This handy interactive tool allows you to plug in the essential oils you would like to use in your soap and it will generate the appropriate IFRA usage rates. Essential oils hold best in both cold process and melt and pour soap when “anchored” by using about 1 tsp. of clay in the recipe.

Creating Your Own Fragrance

The fragrance wheel below is such a helpful tool in concocting your own mixture of fragrance. Even master perfumers use this reference tool! The ideal fragrance would consist of a bottom, middle, and top note. When I first began soapmaking, creating my own fragrances was one of the best parts. If you do this, make sure you are measuring your oils and keeping a record of how much goes into each recipe. This will help you maintain a consistent scent batch to batch.

How to Use the Fragrance Wheel

To utilize this handy reference, the goal is to make a triangle of notes. For example, let’s say I want to concoct my own custom blend. I am trying to achieve a fragrance that would remind me of an oriental Jasmine after a fresh spring rain when you can really smell the rain outside. To create this fragrance, I would make a triangle out of the Green, Soft Floral and Woody Oriental notes.

For more information on how to use the fragrance wheels in different ways, check out our article Combining Scents on the Fragrance Wheel.



Vanillin-Containing Fragrance Oils

Vanillin is the compound responsible for giving vanilla its taste and smell. Since vanillin is naturally-occurring, it’s unavoidable in certain fragrance oils, especially those that have sweet, sugary notes. The soap pictured here was made using a vanillin-containing fragrance oil and has been freshly sliced. As you can see, the outside of the soap has already been exposed and has darkened. When vanillin meets the air, it oxidizes and becomes darker. Within time, be it days or weeks, the rest of the bar will darken as well.

What lingering questions do you have about IFRA usage rates or fragrance oils? Drop us a note in the comments below!

Author: admin

2 thoughts on “Melt and Pour 101: Fragrance & Essential Oils

  1. i ve been told that I have a natural musk scent. So I like to blend the african, blue, and agave musks with rebatch soap base. like your site says, I shave it with my mom’s lemon zester and then melt it in a pot over a pot of boiling water and add a couple drops of each. it goes a long ways.

  2. I would like to know how much neem oil I would use to make a insect repellent . example: 1 ounce neem oil per gallon of water ? thank you

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