Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

The difference between perfume, cologne and other fragrances


You’ll see all sorts of names in the fragrance section: perfume, eau de toilette, parfum, eau de cologne. What makes them different — and in many cases, more expensive?

Top perfumier, Chioma Ogbonnah of Lexis Perfumery explains the different classes of perfumes.

“When buying a fragrance, there can be a lot to decipher — brand, price, type — and you’re given a few clues as to what the bottle actually holds. You will probably recognize categories of fragrances, but you may not know what those terms mean.

“Now finding the right concentration is just as important as choosing the perfect scent. If it is too light, it is going to fade away too quickly. If it is too strong, it is going to choke you (and everyone near you) out, which is a quick way to ruin an otherwise lovely scent.

“First you have to understand how these fragrances are made. Manufacturers blend the natural and synthetic oils that give fragrances their scent with a carrier like alcohol. This stabilizes the scent and dilutes the oils to create what you smell on your skin. The alcohol is just as important as the oils because it controls the concentration of the scent and how long it lasts. The common categories below tell you how concentrated the oils are, allowing you to know how light or heavy the scent will be.

Pure Perfume, Parfum or Extrait De Parfum

These names may be a little deceptive because they are not referring to pure perfume oil, which would both smell unpleasant and irritate your skin.

How far the fragrance extends from your body in the air around you is always very noticeable with pure perfumes. They are so highly concentrated that you can almost taste it. When you hug someone who is wearing a pure perfume, chances are that you will smell like them for hours after. Just like lipstick, they can transfer. They have the highest concentration of perfume oil, 15 to 30 per cent.

Eau de Parfum (EDP)

Eau de parfums have the next-highest concentration of perfume oils, between 15 and 20 per cent. They are made to last on the skin all day without transferring onto someone else’s neck after a hug. They are the most common fragrance category and typically how all new fragrances are released. Many perfumes are eau de parfums. The scent will be prominent from morning to evening, and should still be detectable when you undress at night.

Eau de Toilette (EDT)

Eau de toilettes have a lower concentration of perfume oils, usually 5 to 15 per cent, and are made to have a lighter wear on the skin, not necessarily lasting until the end of the evening. Some posit that eau de toilettes are made for daytime wear while eau de parfums are made for nighttime, but with all things in beauty, it is all about what you prefer.

Eau de Cologne

Cologne is usually an umbrella word for masculine scents, but eau de cologne is actually the term for a very light concentration of perfume oils, usually 2 to 4 per cent, that is cut with more alcohol and lasts only for a few hours. These are great to spritz on and freshen up, but not for all-day, lasting wear.

Eau Fraiche

Like eau de cologne, eau fraiche also has a very low concentration of alcohol, sometimes 1 to 3 per cent. The difference is that colognes are mixed with alcohol like traditional fragrances. Eau fraiches are mixed with mostly water and serve as a quick refresher without a long-lasting scent.