We often use the term ‘perfume’ for all fragrances not knowing that they are different based on their strength which comes from their content compositions.
You might think that the difference between “perfume” and “cologne” is who the bottle is intended for, or which counter it’s sold at—the reality is a little more subtle than that. Simply, all fragrances are largely the same, but they’re given a name based on the concentration of oil in alcohol and water.
The graphic above, from Real Men Real Style, explains that “fragrance” is generally a unisex term for, well any smell that’s a certain amount of fragrance oil diluted in alcohol and water. Depending on the concentration, it gets a different name. Here’s the rundown:
Parfum, also known as extrait de parfum or pure perfume, has the highest fragrance concentration. Parfum will contain anywhere from 15% to 40% fragrance however concentration is generally between 20% to 30% for most parfums. Of all scents, parfums last the longest; usually six to eight hours. Parfum generally also commands the highest price of all the fragrance types due to the high concentration of fragrance. People with sensitive skin may do better with parfums as they have far less alcohol than other fragrance types and therefore are not as likely to dry out the skin.
Eau de Parfum
After parfum, eau de parfum (EDP) has the next highest concentration of fragrance. Eau de parfum generally has a fragrance concentration of between 15% and 20%. On average, eau de parfum will last for four to five hours. It is also generally less expensive that parfum and while it does have a higher concentration of alcohol than parfum, it is better for sensitive skin than other fragrance types. Eau de parfum is one of the most common fragrance types and is suitable for everyday wear.
Eau de Toilette
Eau de toilette (EDT) has a fragrance concentration of between 5% and 15%. It is cheaper than eau de parfum and is one of the most popular types of fragrance available. EDT fragrance will normally last for two to three hours. Eau de toilette is considered by some to be for daywear while eau de parfum is considered nightwear. The term eau de toilette came from the French term “faire sa toilette” which means getting ready.
Eau de Cologne
Eau de cologne, or EDC, has a much lower concentration of fragrance than the above types of perfume. EDC generally has a 2% to 4% percent concentration of fragrance and a high concentration of alcohol. It is cheaper than other types of fragrance however the scent generally only lasts for up to two hours. EDC generally comes in bigger bottles and more of the fragrance needs to be used. Originally eau de cologne referred to a traditional recipe that used herb and citrus notes with little anchoring with base notes.
With this information, now you know why fragrances dive into different prices, why some of them are bargain basement while others seem insanely expensive and why some last longer while you’re out and socializing all day or night long.