Have you ever wondered why some fragrances are labeled parfum, while others are called eau de parfum, eau de toilette or cologne? You’re not alone. It can seem confusing, but there's a simple principle that lies behind the lingo: the difference between perfume types is the amount of perfume concentration they contain.
The perfume concentration is the percentage of aromatic materials (aka the "juice") in a fragrance. For example, an Eau de Parfum generally contains between fifteen and twenty percent perfume concentration, while a Parfum (also known as an Extrait de Parfum) contains between twenty and forty percent. This difference in percentage is what makes an Eau de Parfum somewhat lighter in character, and also less costly, than a Parfum.
The amount of perfume concentration affects a scent's longevity as well. An Eau de Parfum will typically last four to five hours on the skin, while a Parfum will last for six to eight hours or longer.
See below for a list of perfume types, their aromatic concentrations and average longevity.
One thing a fragrance’s type does not indicate is who can wear it. Many of us were brought up to think that colognes are for men and perfumes are for women, but those designations are essentially gender-based marketing concepts that came into use in the early twentieth century and are thankfully becoming outmoded.
Generally I'm not a fan of rules in perfumery. I don't subscribe to the notion that certain fragrances should only be worn at certain times, or only by specific genders. My philosophy? Scent is a beautiful, vital part of life, so why limit yourself? Wear what you want, when you want to, and enjoy!
Not all "juice" is created equal. To best understand what you’re getting when you buy a perfume, it’s important to know that not all "juice" is created equal. For example, conventional perfumers mainly use synthetic fragrance molecules to compose their fragrances. These are petrochemical-derived ingredients which are engineered in a lab to mimic the scents of nature.
Botanical perfumers, on the other hand, create their fragrances exclusively with pure plant essences. Unless a perfume is specifically labeled as being one-hundred percent botanical, what you’re getting is most likely not the real thing.
I’m a botanical perfumer, a wellness devotee and a purist when it comes to using only healthy, renewable plant ingredients. Inspired by the desire to bring both beauty and well-being to others through scent, I compose my fragrances from a palette of over three hundred sustainably sourced essential oils, absolutes, resins, tinctures and CO2 extracts. Synthetic fragrance molecules, aroma chemicals, isolates and petrochemicals of any kind are all taboo in my studio.
Read on for the rundown on the five basic perfume types.
Parfum — Twenty to forty percent perfume concentration. Known interchangeably as Parfum, Extrait de Parfum or Pure Perfume (just to keep things confusing!), it is the most concentrated, most costly and longest-lasting type of fragrance. CUSANI Parfum contain a minimum perfume concentration of thirty percent and will stay on the skin for six to eight hours, depending on body chemistry, with base notes lingering for twelve hours or longer.
Eau de Parfum (EdP) — Fifteen to twenty percent perfume concentration. Eau de Parfum tends to be a popular fragrance type due to its good longevity, and price points that are lower than Parfum. CUSANI Eaux de Parfum contain twenty percent perfume concentration and will stay on the skin for four to five hours, depending on body chemistry, with base notes lingering longer.
Eau de Toilette (EdT) — Five to fifteen percent perfume concentration; they typically stay on the skin for about three hours.
Eau de Cologne (EdC) — Two to four percent perfume concentration; cologne scents are typically light and airy, and stay on the skin for one to two hours.
Eau Fraiche — One to three percent perfume concentration; the lightest type of fragrance, it literally means "fresh water." These deliver a spritz of refreshing scent that lasts for five to fifteen minutes, depending on fragrance composition. CUSANI's aromatherapeutic Luxury Room Sprays contain an eau fraiche concentration of three percent pure botanical essences in distilled water.
Happy sniffing! — Claudia
Great post, thanks for shedding light on a topic that’s always been a bit of a mystery to me.