Lavendar field

The mention of “fragrance” on a product label may seem innocuous, but this one word is likely to encompass a handful — if not dozens — of harmful chemical compounds that don’t have to be listed individually.

Manufacturers are not required to disclose the exact components included in fragrance due to the risk of other companies copycatting their formula. Unfortunately, it has become commonplace to stash any number of questionable ingredients under the vague mention of “fragrance” on ingredient lists.

One way to neatly sidestep this scent conundrum is to skip artificial fragrances altogether. You can build your own collection of essential oils and use them to make your own fabulous gifts.

Here are five easy DIY projects using essential oils that make great holiday gifts.

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1. Aromatherapy Playdough

Whipping up this naturally scented homemade playdough might be the best gift in the world to give to the energetic children in your life (and their parents!). Using scents like lavender or sweet marjoram can add a soothing aromatherapy component to an afternoon of tactile, nontoxic play.

DIY aromatherapy playdough
DIY aromatherapy playdough. Photo courtesy of The Prairie Homestead

2. Low-Tech Car Air Freshener

Some felt, string, and essential oils are all you need to create this simple felt and essential oil air freshener. After you cut the felt in your desired shape, punch a hole and loop through some ribbon or string. Then just add 10 drops or so of your favorite essential oils to the felt, and the air freshener is ready to hang from the rear-view mirror. Adding a few drops of essential oils to the felt every week or so will keep your loved one’s ride smelling good, naturally. Bonus points if you use an essential oil like pine that gives a nod to the old air pine freshener classic — but naturally.

3. Soothing Bath Salts

Epsom salt is a traditional remedy for easing sore muscles and replacing depleted magnesium stores. These scented bath salts are easy to whip up and they make a fabulous gift for the teachers in your life — or anyone who could use some relaxation. Simply stir 10 to 15 drops of essential oils — like peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, or vanilla — into 1 cup of Epsom salt and 1/2 cup baking soda (to soothe skin irritations and soften water). Package the salts in a Mason jar or other nice glass jar.

eucalyptus leaves
Eucalyptus essential oil is a refreshing addition to DIY bath salts. Photo courtesy of LauraLisLT, Pixabay

4. Gardener’s Hand Scrub

The perfect gift for the green thumb in your life, this homemade hand scrub combines white sugar and gentle dish soap (substitute an eco-friendly brand for Dawn) to gently lift dirt while softening tired hands. Add an essential oil like wild orange or grapefruit for a refreshing and invigorating scent. Put the scrub in small Mason jars and decorate with a ribbon or piece of jute twine.

The sugar in this simple hand scrub works like an abrasive to remove dirt and dead skin. Photo courtesy of One Good Thing

5. DIY Essential Oil Cologne

Don’t feel like the men in your life have to be excluded from the essential oil party. Whipping up a custom scent for your favorite dude is simple with essential oils, witch hazel, and water. Combine oils like sandalwood,  cedar, or vetiver to create a perfectly masculine signature scent. If creating your own scent sounds daunting, never fear: The has a variety of masculine oil blend recipes for your DIY cologne.

Feature image courtesy of kennysarmy

Editor’s note: Originally published on December 11, 2014, this article was updated in November 2018.

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.