At the 2016 Emmys, Kristen Bell divulged a budget-friendly beauty tip that made me sit up and take notice: Bell wears amber oil as perfume. She told Giuliana Rancic that she purchases the essential oil at Whole Foods for a mere four dollars. I immediately thought to myself, "I have to try that!" After all, my idol Kristen Bell said to go for it! Then reality kicked in as I realized that there was no way a $4 essential oil was going to replace my precious perfume collection.
I'll admit it: I have a raging perfume addiction. My collection of perfume has grown to include more than 30 fragrances ever since I started writing about beauty three years ago, and although I'm lucky enough to get some free samples I have also happily spent my own hard-earned money on Tom Ford and Diptyque fragrances. Yep: Not only do I like perfume (whether it's buying it, reading about it, or writing about it) but I also tend to have expensive taste in perfume. As much as my wallet would love for me to switch over to an inexpensive essential oil, I felt that there was slim chance of that happening. I love the complex notes of perfumes, the names and the stories behind them, and the beautiful bottles.
Still, I reminded myself that I do like a lot of perfumes that contain amber as a note, so perhaps it wouldn't be complete torture to wear amber by itself for a week. Always game for an experiment, I started searching for some amber oil that I could purchase and wear. Here's how it went down.
It was harder to find amber oil than I thought it would be. Bell said she bought hers from Whole Foods but I, sadly, do not have one near me. Instead I checked a few other nearby stores, but came up empty handed. So, I checked online.
Amazon, reliable as always, had a few options but after browsing them I realized that I wouldn't be able to pick one at random. More than one product calling itself "amber oil" had reviews complaining that it wasn't really 100 percent pure amber oil. Many of them were diluted or blended with other scents. In the end, I went with 100% Pure Amber Essential Oil from Silky Scents ($8, amazon.com). This was double what Bell paid for her amber oil (plus I had to throw down for shipping) and it came in a small 5 ml bottle — but compared to the majority of my perfumes it was still a total steal.
Reading some of the reviews, I got excited for my amber oil to arrive: Reviewers said it was "sweet," "musky," "smoky," and "incense-like." Those are all things that I enjoy in fragrances. So although I had a hard time finding the product and ended up spending more than I expected, I decided things were off to a good start overall.
2. Love At First Sniff
When my amber oil arrived a few days later, I wasn't initially impressed. The small, 5 ml bottle and simple label had a decidedly budget DIY feel, especially when contrasted with my collection of fancy perfume bottles. But hey: You get what you pay for, plus this little bottle is quite portable.
Once I sniffed it, I immediately knew amber oil was made for me. Since it's a 100 percent pure, undiluted essential oil, it has quite a strong scent when smelled directly from the bottle. Some might find it too strong; one Amazon reviewer called it "medicinal" and my sister compared it to bug spray. Personally, I found the scent — strong as it was — to be warm, spicy, and comforting. I decided to wait until the following day to test it out on my skin, but I was looking forward to it after that first sniff.
3. The Day-To-Day Experience
The next day I put a drop of the dark golden oil on each wrist and discovered that it smelled even better once it had spent a few minutes on my skin. Some people prefer to dilute the amber oil with an unscented carrier oil (such as argan or jojoba oil) but I don't shy away from strong scents so I didn't dilute it. The sillage (the scent's projection from my skin) was impressive: Just one drop was enough for me to be able to catch occasional whiffs of amber from my wrist as I moved around. This is a big deal to me because I hate when I like a perfume but have to have my nose right up to my skin to smell it.
It lasted for a long time, too. This is the kind of scent that you can dab on in the morning and still be able to smell a faint trace of on your skin before bed. Plus, like I pointed out earlier, the bottle is small enough to carry around with you for touch-ups if needed.
Besides being impressed by the longevity and sillage, I also really liked the scent of the amber oil. To me it smells like autumn and incense and bookstores full of old books and squashy leather armchairs. It smells cozy and a little sexy.
Be warned that not everyone agrees, however. I asked a few family members what they thought of the scent of amber oil and some of them wrinkled their noses. Some liked it, saying it smelled "sweet" or "spicy," but others said it reminded them of patchouli (which some like, but I do not) or Play-Doh. As you can see, reactions to this scent vary widely so the only way to know if you'll like it is to try it yourself.
4. My Conclusion
As much as I liked the scent of amber oil, it was hard going from being able to wear all of this:
To only using this:
I was able to do it for a week, but I don't think I could use only amber oil in place of regular perfume indefinitely. I get bored quickly so I like being able to switch up my scent often, plus I like the complexity of several combined notes in one fragrance. I also prefer to be able to spray a scent onto my clothes in addition to dabbing it on my wrist. It would probably be a simple solution to put the essential oil in a spray bottle if you want, but I don't know if amber oil would stain clothing (it is pretty dark-colored) so be careful if you try that.
In the end, I'm definitely keeping the amber oil around to wear regularly but it won't be the only scent I wear. I highly recommend trying it out, or perhaps a different essential oil if amber isn't your cup or tea — lavender, cedarwood, patchouli, jasmine, bergamot, and eucalyptus are just a few of the scented oils that you can wear. You can also mix and match scents, or combine one with lotion or an unscented oil to put on your skin or in your hair. The possibilities are endless (not to mention quite affordable), so be creative and have fun!
Images: Kelly Dougher