The difference between perfume, cologne and eau de toilette
If you’ve ever been stuck in an airport with a duty free shop or explored the makeup and beauty section of a department store, chances are you’ve browsed a few perfumes. And if you were confused, you are not alone – perfumes come in many forms, including perfume, cologne, and eau de toilette. So what’s the difference?
Basically all scents are largely the same, but their name is based on their concentration of oil in alcohol and water. Here’s how to figure out which one is right for you.
This graphic, from Real Men Real Style, explains that “perfume” is generally a unisex term for, well, any smelly substance made up of a certain amount of scent oil diluted in alcohol and water. Depending on the concentration, the result takes a different name. Here is the recap:
- Fresh water – The more diluted version of the perfume, usually with one to three percent perfume oil in alcohol and water. usually lasts less than an hour.
- Cologne (cologne) – Oldest term for perfume, used in North America for men’s fragrances. Light, fresh and fruity, typically made up of two to four percent scent oils in alcohol and water. Tend to be used in perfumes for young people. usually lasts about two hours.
- Toilet (eau de toilette) – A light spray composition with five to 15 percent pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol. usually lasts about three hours.
- Perfume (eau de parfum) – Historically genderless, used to describe male and female scents. The best term used to describe a perfume. Contains 15 to 20 percent pure fragrance essence and lasts about five to eight hours.
- Perfume – A corruption of the Latin phrase by fumum (through the smoke). The most concentrated and expensive of all the fragrance options. Slightly more oily, perfume or scent, is made up of 20 to 30 percent pure perfume essence. A single application of perfume can last up to 24 hours.
All of this is useful to know and can certainly help you make a better buying decision if you are looking for something to wear a little lighter that won’t last as long on those hot summer days, or something that you are looking for. want to linger just a touch (or a lot) longer.
Full introduction to perfume also makes some suggestions and explains some of the “notes” you will feel when you buy one, and describes how long the different types of scent last on your skin. He also explains how perfumes are priced and why some of them are sold at bargain prices while others seem insanely expensive. Hit the link if you want to know more. Despite the URL, which targets men, the guide includes information that is useful to everyone.
This story was originally posted in February 2016 and was updated on October 29, 2021.