How to Make Evergreen Skin Oil

How to Make Evergreen Skin Oil

I’ll be honest—I really don’t like artificial fragrances. I must’ve burnt out in high school on body sprays and boys with cologne, because these days I have no tolerance for synthetic smells, especially in a world ripe with so many intoxicating natural ones.

I do like the ritual of anointing one’s self with a special fragrance as much as anyone, though, so my version of perfume is a botanically infused skin oil. I like to make a handful of seasonal skin oils throughout the year with my favorite smelling plants or a suite of plants from my favorite smelling places, and for the holiday season, nothing beats the smell of the winter woods.

I sometimes use a combination of fir, pine, and spruce, but sometimes I just want the pure essence of balsam fir, the hallmark scent of winter in Maine, all on its own.

While I like to forage for evergreen tips for food and flavor in the spring, I collect the needles for skin oil any time of year. It’s especially timely now, in the fall, to make a fresh batch to use all winter and to give as gifts.

Evergreen oil is more than just a fragrance though. The phytochemicals of evergreens that we perceive by smell are well-documented to improve both our physical and mental health. As an added bonus, not only do smelling evergreens do us good, but they are renowned for their topical skin healing abilities. The oil can be applied to small wounds, burns, bites, and irritations for faster healing. It can be slathered onto dry winter skin and rubbed into an itchy scalp for relief, massaged into the beard for a lustrous glow, or just dabbed onto the wrists and neck for pure, unadulterated, pleasure.

When you gather with friends and family over the winter and make the rounds for hugs, you’ll be spreading palpable olfactory cheer, and you won’t be competing with the smell that everyone is really there for—the tree.


  • 1 glass pint jar with lid
  • 2 small boughs of fir, pine, spruce, or any combination of the three
  • 1 pint of oil (I like organic jojoba or rosehip seed oil, but any good quality organic oil that you feel good about putting on your skin is great.)
  • Fine mesh sieve
  • Fermentation weight (optional)


  1. Collect two evergreen boughs roughly the length from fingertip to elbow. You can even use trimmings from your holiday tree if you’re sure they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.
  2. Beginning at the tips of the branches, snip ½- to 1-inch sections directly into the jar. You can go smaller if you like; the more cut surface area is exposed to the oil, the stronger your infusion will be. When I get to the larger, woody main stem, I don’t include that in the jar, but I’ll snip its needles in half into the jar. Do this until your jar is full, leaving 1¼-inch headspace.
  3. Pour your oil into the jar until all the needles are submerged. This should leave you with about an inch of final headspace. I like to use a stone or a glass fermentation weight to keep all the needles submerged, but this isn’t essential if you remember to shake the jar regularly.
  4. Put a lid and label on your jar and place it on a dark, cool shelf for 3 to 6 weeks. Take the jar out every few days and shake gently by turning it over a few times.
  5. Whenever you love the smell, strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve into another clean, glass pint jar. You can do a secondary strain through a coffee filter or something comparably fine, but this isn’t essential. You can store this as is, on a cold, dark shelf. Personally, I like to funnel it into a 2-ounce brown glass bottle with either dropper tops or pump tops for easy application and for gifting.

Alternative Method

If your oil isn’t infusing as quickly as you’d like, or you’d like to really speed the process up and skip the cold infusion altogether, this can be done with heat, but with caution.

After the second step, instead of pouring the oil into the jar, you can pour your evergreen needles from the jar into the top of a double boiler and cover them in the oil there. This can be done on the stovetop, woodstove, or slow cooker on the very lowest setting. You only want to warm the oil and the needles, not cook them, or you’ll lose the fresh evergreen scent. Check your oil often and as soon as you really smell the bright fragrance coming through, remove it from heat. This usually takes about 1 to 2 hours on the very gentlest heat.

Sign In or Create a Free Account

Access the newest seasons of MeatEater, save content, and join in discussions with the Crew and others in the MeatEater community.
Save this article