Understanding Notes of Essential Oils


Basic Notes of Essential Oils

A pleasant essential oil’s aroma is an important part of creating a positive experience. If the smell does not agree with the nose, It will not matter if the benefits of each oil used works, you will throw it out the minute the scent hit your nose! Having a basic understanding of the different notes of essential oil will help you create a blend that you will love and maybe unique to you.

Follow us in our series of curated articles from well know Aromatherapist and publishers that will bring you to the next level of exploring the wonderous scents & benefits essential oils.

There are three categories that all the essential oils fall into.


Top notes, Middle notes & Base notes

Some oils fall into all three, others in two, but every essential oil will always fit into at least one

note level. The classification of these three note levels is very subjective. It is based on how long the natural scent lasts.

The ultimate test is to place a few drops of any essential oil on a clean, unscented cotton ball, place it in a a closed room that is at room temperature (20.5 degree Celsius – 22.8 degree Celsius) and leave it for 24 hours, checking it every 6 hours for the intensity of the aroma. Obviously, this is impractical and unlikely to be accomplished by each individual beauty professional.

Essential oil note classifications are listed below.’ The reader should use these as a guide and let their own noses be the final judge for themselves.

Sweetcense Lavender Essential Oil – (Top/Middle Note)

Top Notes

Essential oils in the top note category are all:

    • deep penetrating,
    • sharp smelling,
    • stimulating,
    • uplifting, and
    • volatile in nature.

The aroma can last up to 24 hours, however, the impact is truly in the first moment of contact. This is the strongest group of essential oils. When they are placed on the surface of the skin, the client experiences either a cold sensation or a hot one. These essential oils do not feel warm.

As a rule of thumb, use fewerdrops of top notes in the formula. But not all top notes need to be handled in this manner, some of the exceptions are lemon and petitgrain.

Sweetcense Geranium Essential Oil – (Middle Note)

Middle Notes

As the name implies, middle notes are the essential oils that make up the bulk of the formula. They round out the sharpness of the top notes. These aromas can last up to three days. In the formulas, these act as equalizers, being able to control the intensity of the more active essential oils. These essential oils have fragrances that people really like, and therefore they often make up at least 50% of the formula.

Sweetcense Sandalwood Essential Oil – (Base note)

Base Notes

Base notes make the most lasting impression since their aromas can last as long as one week. In the formula, the depth and intensity of the base notes deepen and enrich the blend. Many of the essential oils that fall into this category could penetrate the skin far more thoroughly than the others. Upon initial contact with the nose, the aroma may not be particularly noticeable but left on the skin results in a very strong smell. Like the way a musk perfume takes a while to unfold when worn, once it mixes with the chemistry of the skin, it can last longer than other perfumes.” 

–  SalonOvations’ Guide to Aromatherapy by Shelley M. Hess

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