Thursday, January 5, 2012


A Femme's Guide to Improvement: Solid Perfume

I think the first American Girl book I read as a child was Meet Samantha (the cover was a thousand times better than the illustration they’re currently using on Amazon), and it got me hooked on two things: American Girl books and lockets. Every monthly book order was whichever new American Girl books were available, and every birthday/Christmas present was, it seems, judging from the surplus of them in my jewelry boxes, a locket.

Ideally, things would have been set up like Samantha had them, with a perfectly sized photo of one parent on each side. But it turns out it’s practically impossible to find a locket-sized photo, even when you have lots of lockets in various sizes. I coped with this difficulty (first-world problems: not just for adults) by putting secret notes inside them, or strands of horsehair from my favorite horse (the stable’s, not mine; the horse craziness is another story). (And thanks for never getting me the pony, Mom.)

Fast-forward twenty years, and those pesky lockets are still hanging around, frustratingly empty. And wearing a locket is basically a guarantee that someone at some point will ask you to see what’s in it, and then you’ll have to say “Nothing,” or “Um, horsehair from this horse Snowflake I used to ride when I was in elementary school.” Either answer is, for the record, disappointing to all audiences. So today, I’m filling all my lockets with solid perfume. Here’s how to make it.

  • Beeswax. (Available for a dollar or so at craft or fabric stores. You can buy it in bulk, but those places sell small pieces for less, so it’s easy to just get a couple tablespoons for small batches.)
  • Any kind of relatively unscented vegetable oil (grapeseed, olive — virgin, not extra, something like that).
  • Essential oil.

In a small double boiler — I used a Pyrex ramekin in a saucepan with an inch of simmering water — melt equal parts beeswax and oil together.

Then add the essential oil of your choice, drop by drop. (It’ll take between 8 and 20 drops, depending on the amount of perfume you’re making and how concentrated you want it to be.) I get mine from (ahem) Makes Scents, a Missouri-based perfumer, but lots of bath and beauty shops have them. Or you could go to the grocery store and get some peppermint or lemon oil, or even try vanilla extract, maybe. Though then you’d smell like birthday cake all the time. But that would be awesome.

Once you have it all melted together and smelling amazing, take it off the heat and pour/spoon it into whatever you want to pour it into (lockets! Pocket watches! Empty lip balm pots! A tiny Altoids tin! One of those hollow rings for poison and/or pills!) and let it cool until it sets. Scrape off any excess with your fingernail/spoon/credit card, and remember you can store the extra (yes, you were keeping that takeout sauce container from the Indian place down the street for a reason) to refill when your supply runs low: simply reheat it and top off your locket/Altoids container.

"What's in your locket?" "A photograph ... of my solid perfume!"

Previously: A Femme's Guide to Improvement: Very, Very Serious Ornaments.

Lucia Martinez reads too many old poems and tries to be a lady.

91 Comments / Post A Comment


I bothered my mom for the heirloom locked I knew just HAD to exist somewhere in my family line over and over after reading the Samantha books. Sadly said locket did not exist.

Tragically Ludicrous

WHAAAT I am going to make this all the time.


Ohhhh this is the best. My granny had solid perfume in a little carved stone box and I thought it was so glamorous.


This is so brilliant that I kind of want to weep.

The Lady of Shalott

Why did they have to go and change all the covers for the American Girl books? I liked the old ones. And frankly, why did American Girl have to go and change, anyhow? They have a doll from the 70s now! As much as I love their new dolls (they have a Native American girl! They have a Jewish immigrant girl! They have a black girl and a white girl from New Orleans in the....1850s I want to say?), they went off the rails introducing friends for the dolls, because I don't think that ever went anywhere.

Also I greatly dislike the Girl of Today.

This has been a production of Your Aggrieved History Nerd Girl.

oh, disaster

@The Lady of Shalott And getting rid of some of them? BAD IDEA. Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha- all gone.


@andrea disaster whoa whoa whoa wait a minute: what?

The Lady of Shalott

@Lucia Martinez It's true, Lucia. They are no longer for sale.

brb, crying


@andrea disaster FELICITY ;( RIP GIRL
@The Lady of Shalott I agree with everything you're saying.


@The Lady of Shalott BUT I NEVER EVEN GOT A DOLL. and I remember when felicity was the new one.


@andrea disaster My dad thought it important to mail me the article from the newspaper about them getting rid of Kirsten. Worst news ever.


@emilylouise first thought: WHAAAAT?!?!

second thought: ooh, I wonder if that means my (coveted-for-years, much-begged-for, then received-too-close-to-puberty) Felicity doll is worth something now?

third thought: probably not, since surely the small braid I put in her hair 14 years ago (when I dressed her up as a "hippie"--an outfit she retains to this day) has damaged her titian tresses irreparably.



@The Lady of Shalott The retiring of various dolls is utter bullshit, but I beg you to reconsider your position on Julie. Julie's parents are divorced and it is dealt with in a very realistic but appropriate way that is actually useful for the six year old with divorced parents I babysit. BUT the best part is Julie is a tomboy, and allowed to be one in a way Felicity was not, who fights for a spot on the boys basketball team with her knowledge of TITLE IX. Yes, the modern AG books now teach girls about Title IX! Totally awesome. Plus of all Julie's stuff is awesome and her friend Ivy is a badass gymnast.


@andrea disaster I like to tell myself it's some contrivance like the "Disney vault" and they'll eventually be re-released.


@andrea disaster Whaaaaat?!


@highjump The other incredibly depressing piece of information that supports Julie/the 70s doll's existence? That a 1944 doll in the late 80s/early 90s represents only a slightly longer time lag than a 1974 doll in 2012.
Commence "I'm so old! The 70s are as far away from 11-year-olds today as the 50s were from me!" freakout.

oh, disaster

I swear I didn't set out to be the American Girl Debbie Downer.


@The Lady of Shalott My original Kirsten is shaking her fist in agreement with you. No she's not, that would be creepy. But I surely am. 1854 forever!

Dirty Hands

I had been all outwardly tough as a sixth grader, like "I'm too old for a locket, I'm a tomboy anyways," but now that I'm a grown-up I need one! For this! Genius!


Lucia, I too was obsessed with the idea of lockets because of American Girl!

I complained and complained until my mom finally bought me a gold heart-shaped locket, but sadly it was too tiny to hold anything. I complained more about how I wanted a big one to put pictures in, and she was like, "Pictures of WHO?" ...ugh, good point mom, since I'm like 7 years old with no lovers and also not an orphan or anything.


Maybe you ladies can help me with this-
A little while ago I spent HOURS searching on etsy for a locket ring that could hold a small birth control pill. It would be the best way for me to remember to take it when I'm out somewhere and don't have pockets. I ended up buying a necklace that was too small to fit it. :( I would prefer a classy ring anyway. Any suggestions?
At least I know what to do with the too-small locket I already bought! Hello lavender perfume!

apples and oranges

@cootiebreath Holy crap I looove this idea.

Emma Peel

@kangerine I carried my whole pack in a key-wallet thing for a long time, because I couldn't ever leave my house without my keys and thus ALWAYS had to have it with me. Something like this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vera-Bradley-Zip-ID-Case-Key-Purse-Wallet-9-Patterns-/170673799983

Porn Peddler

@cootiebreath I love love love my poison necklace from ragtrader on etsy- my friend got it for me for my birthday a couple years ago. Fact: it also causes men to fall in love with me (i keep my baby teeth in there, though, not pills. Before the teeth, clove buds!)
Poison Necklace


@cootiebreath Good idea! What you want goes under the unfortunate/awesome name of "poison ring." Etsy has a million, and I'm sure you can find one that'll fit a tiny pill.


Hey, look! At the top of the page! It's what everyone I know is getting for their birthdays this year!

Are They Biting Ducks?

All I could think while reading this article was OMG IT'S AN ACTUAL WEE RAMEKIN :DDD


@Are They Biting Ducks? for you and wee_ramekin

the wee-est ramekin


@Lucia Martinez @Are They Biting Ducks?

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That ramekin is SO WEE!


This is a fun project, I have made a few solid perfumes, and I love them in lockets and old compacts.

BUT- you should know that what you have there from Makes Scents is a fragrance oil, not an essential oil. Essential oils are natural, and taken from plants, fragrance oils are possibly plant, more likely petroleum. Fragrance oils are cheaper, and can be synthesized to make scents like "cotton blossom" and "rain". Names like that, and the low prices they list are a big tipoff that they are dealing in synthetics. To their credit, Makes Scents do not claim these are natural essential oils, they call them perfume oil fragrances. Some companies are not as honest about this.

That might still be ok with you, not everyone prefers to spend more on naturals, but I think it's important to be aware of the difference and make sure it is clear when you talk to others.

PS- vanilla is awesome with lavender, still sweet, but less cake like.


@ixchel they also carry essentials, ftr...myrrh, stuff like that.


@ixchel correct! that is not an essential oil, but perfume oil. we do have a huge selection of essential oils though, the honey absolute or blood orange would be super yummy. sorry guys. regular old perfume or cologne won't work because it is mostly alcohol. those samples they hand out only have about 1 drop of actual scent in them. This is an absolutely brilliant idea- jealous I never thought of it myself. Guess what everyone is getting for a pressie this year!


@makesscents I wore your myrrh exclusively until I was 17, and since then I've been using your version of Angel, which I prefer to the Mugler...it's less sugary. (and it's the oil I used for this project!)


@makesscents That's great- maybe you could specify which is which on your site, so as to be more clear for those with a preference? Perhaps at your in-person store you do, I don't know.


Do you think this would work using perfume perfume as the fragrance? Like dribbling in a little bit from the bottle or better yet, a FREE SAMPLE?!


@marisajane you know, this occurred to me (solid chanel no. 5!) but I'm not sure how it would pan out, since most of those are alcohol-based. you could definitely try, though! (and report back?)


@marisajane Ooh, I'm glad you asked that. Maybe I would try this with my favorite one (Bobbi Brown's Beach -- though it is pretty light to start and I have never actually seen a sample of it...)

Oh, squiggles

I would also like to try this...D&G Light Blue foreva!


@Awesomely Nonfunctional I'm a D&G Light Blue girl too! But then my mom started wearing it too? :( So then I was a Moschino I Love Love girl until they discontinued it. Luckily I got some extras so I still have some but if you find it, smell it, it's delish! I use my D&G for every day and my I Love Love for special occasions.


@Hellcat If it would work to use samples, I bet you could get one pretty easily - I always get samples of anything interesting I find at Sephora or even mall counters. Just use this script:

"I've been thinking about buying ___insert fragrance here___ but want to really make sure I like how it wears on me. Is there any way I can get a sample to take home and try for a couple days?"

Mall counters will give it to you if they already have samples behind the counter (they often do) but sephora actually keeps mini bottles and will MAKE a sample for you of any fragrance you like upon request. They even label it for you, and will make two if you are torn between what to get next. Basically, I <3 Sephora FOREVER.


@MissMushkila YES!! I do this a few times a year and it is amazing. I always have little samples so that I don't have to take my entire perfume bottle on trips with me and the little samples are perfect for that. I also have an this weird obsession with finding the right perfume and believe that you have to leave it on for a few hours to see how one will blend with your own natural scent so getting a sample is a great way to do that without committing to purchasing an entire new bottle of perfume. Sephora FTW (except for the occasionally pushy sales girl)


@MissMushkila I'll try this. I am positively laden with Sephora gift cards, you guys! And I love it even though I am not a diehard makeupper (and two of the three makeups I have on now were suggested by our own punkahontas -- Dr. Jart's Beauty Balm and Urban Decay F-Bomb lip stuff). But ever since I discovered this Beach scent, I am ruined for anything else (though I do like that DKNY green apple one too).

I have two lockets but the one I want to try this with is kind of little (the other is an antique silver heart that I struggled like a maniac to get a photo of my late cat in -- it is so hard to properly get a picture into these things, man)! Maybe another look in my box of Grandma's old costume jewelry will yield something...

(And I hope it doesn't sound too odd to put a photo of a cat in an antique locket! TMI?)


@Lucia Martinez There's a place on Nantucket island where I designed my own perfume that uses only perfume and essential oils (no alcohol). They can copy any and all designer fragrances, if thats your thing- they are pricey, but I bought a half ounce bottle of my stuff (they keep the scent I designed on file, and can replicate it when I buy more), and it lasts over a year. They ship, too- you can buy over the phone. https://nantucketnaturaloils.com/. I imagine you could make the perfume last even longer if you bought a little bottle and used a bit to make solid perfume.


@Lucia Martinez I don't know if anyone will read this, but I asked my boyfriend because he is a chemist. He says that most fragrances have a higher boiling point than alcohol, so if you let it all simmer together on the lowest setting on your stove you could probably boil the alcohol off of actual perfumes and keep the scent. But it really all depends on the scent profile of the perfume in question as some fragrances would boil off before the alcohol (for example, vanillen which gives it a vanilla scent). Worth trying though!

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@yrouttasight There's a place like that in Montreal, or so I've heard, for those of you who live around here! It's on the ground floor of Complexe Les Ailes.


I inherited a locket with a picture of some distantly related beardo.

Thomas Smily - Beardo


@Xaxa Hold onto this one! (This refers to the locket and the beardo.)


@Xaxa Oh man I like that.


@Xaxa antiques roadshow fodder?


@Lucia Martinez The metal seems pretty cheap, I'm sure it's worth more to me because of the awesome picture. I got a bunch of costume jewellery because I am the only granddaughter (out of 7 grandkids). I also got a bunch of art nouveau belt buckles which need belts. this style


I managed to find pictures that would fit (after I cut them down), but I could never get the things you put the pictures in to open, so it never worked for me either. Though I only had one locket.


@Megan Patterson@facebook The few times I put pictures in mine, I just used a qtip to pop the pictures inside the lip. Never was able to get one out without wrecking it, though.


oh so good! a locket my dad gave me when I was 12 has...a photo of myself on one side and a photo of jesus on the other. what. the. f. I can't take the photos out because I feel it's a betrayal of my 12 year old self!? what to do.


@ohhnessness Why, you wear it of course! And when anyone asks what you have in the locket, you say "Oh just a picture of me and my boyfriend. He's Middle Eastern."


@ohhnessness I totally betrayed my 12-year-old self by finally removing the horsehair from one of those lockets and making it smell nice.

and then I put the horsehair in my makeup box because I'm still 12 years old.


@Lucia Martinez Snowflake lives on in our hearts!!!


@Lucia Martinez The horse thing, I ask you to discuss this in a post please.

[One time I was a 9-year-old and my mother did not approve of "riding", it was for snobs (forbidden love). My best friend's mom took me to the barn. Henceforth best friend and I (obviously named Meghann) worked at the barn aaaall the time in exchange for lessons, this is such a First World Children's Hard Luck Story, then I earned a lease on a horse named Princess Gayla (RIP, I wish I could brush you right now, so beautiful, you were a bitch) who was then purchased by a wealthy child and left, taking with her my tiny, child's, beating, weeping heart: my first heartbreak, second-worst one ever still to this day, Breyer horses will never heal these broken dreams. Gayla, I'm in your stall, my tears are in your long, gorgeous mane, girl! Forever. Get in my locket.]

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@photoalice True story: My big brother owes me a pony. Not from a stupid childhood thing, from a bet we made two years ago. He refuses to buy me the pony, though. BUT HE OWES ME.


I became obsessed with lockets after watching The Swan Princess. Anyone else?
My parents bought me the little picture book that came out after the movie because it came with a tiny faux- locket (it was a pendant that looked like a locket from the front, not the sides) and I loved it and wore it all the time. I was in kindergarten, and the girl in my class asked if she could try it on. As a kid who really, really took care of all her toys and "jewelry" (you know, the stick-on earrings and plastic bangles), I said no. So this girl RIPPED it off my necklace!! I was traumatized that my poor "locket" had lost all of its magic qualities. Sigh.


So great!

Though then you’d smell like birthday cake all the time. But that would be awesome.



I got my obsession with lockets from some book where a girl finds this locket and it turns out she’s the reincarnation of the previous owner, or there are ghosts or something? I think she falls in love with a guy in the past, and locket is magic. After spending most of my childhood scouring thrift stores for the locket that was obviously destined for me, I am convinced that the sort of lockets that exited on the covers of 80’s/90’s era YA fiction are lies.


Lucia! Or anyone else. Do you know if there is any way you could do a version of this with a few drops of your favorite perfume? I am feeling like alcohol-based 'fume would not mix well but perhaps you know of a way around it? I have a couple of scents I'd love to keep with me but not in glass bottles.


@hideously scroll up!


@Lucia Martinez How did I miss an entire chunk of comments?! I thought I scrolled through everything. Doh!


Given the current price of gold, it's not too late to trade in your lockets for that pony!


QuestioN! Do you think shea butter would work in place of beeswax? Any other recommendations? (At first I was thinking cocoa butter but don' think that would work because 1.) it melts too easily and may sorta ooze out on hot days and 2.) I don't want all my perfumes to smell like chocolate+whatever.)


@SarahP This page says unrefined shea butter "is quite odoriferous and may alter your products aroma, albeit slightly. It is also of a pliable nature and can be directly applied to the skin."


So it might add a bit of its own fragrance to whatever fragrance you were using. But if you used fragrances that worked well with its natural scent you'd be ok. Not sure about the meltiness though, especially since the locket would be laying against your skin and would heat it up a bit.


@SarahP yeah, it would probably be too soft, especially since you're adding oils to it. are you really, really vegan?


@Killerpants I've used shea butter before (to apply directly to my skin) and not really noticed a scent... at least, I never thought of it as "odiferous." Maybe I used refined? Is that even possible?

@Lucia Martinez Yup. But I also haven'y worn solid perfume since high school, though, so if I have to pass on this project, it's not going to be a huuuge loss.


@SarahP Ergh, sorry about the typos. My boss was coming so I hit "reply" fast.


@SarahP Good to know that there's shea out there that isn't so "odiferous." I wonder if it was refined, i'm sure that's possible.


@SarahP You can get soy wax online, maybe in big craft stores, too.


I have mountains (really, mountains) of pure essential oil blends from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and I think I might have to get ambitious and make one of these. They also have beautiful (expensive!) lockets that I covet. Coooooovet. Maybe this is my excuse to finally get one.


@Killerpants The Salome one! OMG. (Also the Ligeia pendant is gorgeous.)


@Killerpants Oh snap.I have some of those lying around, and should do the same. My personal favorite is Shub Niggurath (noo, not just because we're both Lovecraftian nightmare creatures from the deep. It's also because it smells like GINGER SNAPS!)


@Ialdagorth Another BPAL fan! I smelled Shub once long ago...tis lovely, but i'm on of those non-foodie scent peeps so I don't wear it myself. I can see it being perfect in a locket though. I have so many favorites my list would be a mile long. Al Azif, Lycaon, Schwarzer Mond, Blood Moon, Snow White...and on and on. Snow White would be a good one for a locket I think. Hm.

@SarahP The Salome is one of my faves too! and the clockwork, and the triple dagger...

Jillsy Sloper

@Killerpants I feel down the BPAL rabbit hole a few years back and also ended up with mountains of it. The BPAL.org forums have a whole board about crafting with the oils, with lots of recipes for solid perfumes.

My favorites are The Organ Grinder and Catherine. I dislike the foody ones, and can't wear vanilla AT ALL so that takes out like 3/4 of the collection for me.


Am I missing something? It looks like the book cover illustration is nearly the same, Samantha is just in front of a house instead of a garden gate.


@winniecooper it's too busy! the old one is classic, with the cream background. the new one's just...bleh.


PSA: Makes Scents now has an online store, complete with lots and lots of essential and perfume oils.


I was going through/tossing a lot of my high school "jewelry" while home for the holidays, and I found a locket in which I'd stuck one magazine cut-out photo of an EYE on each side. I was creepy.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

I suppose I should really Ask A Lady, but HOW DO YOU PICK A SCENT??? The "popular"/commercial perfumes I've spritzed gross me out and I do not know how to do this other than Buying All The Things and testing each one.


@Veronica Mars is smarter than me Unfortunately there's no way to know how something is going to smell on you without trying it on and wearing it around for a while. You can get samples from most perfume sellers, though! I like http://luckyscent.com/, but lots of other places offer them as well. Or you can ask one of the ladies in the perfume department of a department store--they're always trying to get me to take samples I don't want. :P


I just found this randomly, and MEET SAMANTHA! Yes. Thanks for the sold-perfume info!


What's Going down i'm new to this vigrx side effects

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