Perfume, Parfum, Toilette & Cologne

Here’s some interesting stuff I found over the internet. I have always wondered the difference and googled it today. And here’s what I found.. Just in case you are also curious 😉 …

There are several categories of fragrances today: perfume is at the top, followed by eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and eau de cologne, each containing a lesser degree of aromatic oils, respectively. The lower the concentration of aromatic compounds, the shorter the scent life. Perfume is highly prized precisely because it lasts from morning until night. Additionally, perfume wears well, meaning the scent stays fresh as the day wears on. In fact, good perfume is designed to smell nice throughout its various stages of wear.

From highest concentration to least, the different forms of perfume are:

Perfume, also called extract or extrait perfume, can include 15-40% perfume concentrates. This is the purest form of scented product and is the most expensive as a result.

Eau de parfum contains about 7-15% perfume concentrates. This is the most popular and common form of perfume. It provides a long-lasting fragrance and generally doesn’t cost as much as extract perfume.

Eau de toilette has around 1-6% perfume concentrates. This makes for a light scent that doesn’t linger as long as the more intense versions. It was originally intended to be a refreshing body splash to help people wake up in the morning.

Eau de cologne is sometimes used interchangeably with the term eau de toilette. However, the concoction began as the name of a light, fresh fragrance mixed with citrus oils and was made popular by Napoleon. Some perfumers today have a version of this called eau fraiche.

Aromatic compounds used in perfumes have complex chemical interactions. While we might imagine a group of corporate executives sniffing bottles of various mixtures to see what smells best, the truth is far more complicated. Fragrant compounds tend to breakdown quickly when exposed to heat, light and air. In order for a scent to last throughout the day, tens or even hundreds of ingredients are used so that the perfume continues to ‘bloom’. Essentially, as one group of compounds is spent, another re-enlivens the scent and adds its own tone. Perfume is said to have three notes that work together to form the lasting fragrance.

The top note is the initial scent when applied. This scent lasts only a few minutes to an hour, and may be somewhat strong. As it diminishes it reveals the middle note of the fragrance, also called the heart or body of the scent. The aromatic compounds that make up the heart last longer, but eventually give way to the base note, or underlying tone of the perfume. The optimal scent of the base note takes time to develop, so initially this tone isn’t as pleasant, but is masked by the top and middle notes. By the time they soften, the base note of the perfume is fully developed, and ideally helps to bolster the other notes. This is the scent left at the end of the day.

Understanding this symphony of interactions makes it easy to see why a perfume might smell nice when first applied, but can take on a stale or heady note by the end of the day. In this case the base note of the fragrance is not to your liking. Conversely, a perfume might smell better as the day wears on if your olfactory senses prefer the base note to the top and middle notes. When you find a perfume that really appeals from morning until night, you’ve discovered a love for all three notes that compose the scent.

With all we associate with perfume, it might seem counter-intuitive that fragrant chemicals are generally caustic irritants in concentrated form. For this reason perfume is made with diluted essential oils and compounds. Generally, the concentration is bout 20-40% for perfume, 10% less for parfum, 20% less for eau de toilette, and cologne only contains between two and five percent aromatic oils.

While flowers make up the largest source for chemical compounds used in perfumes, bark, wood, resins, leaves, tobacco and citrus also contribute to the different categories of scents. Synthetic chemicals have also become popular and are more reliable from an industry standpoint, as they are consistent to work with, unlike natural products. However, the use of synthetic compounds is a new arena with an untested history in terms of health and the environment. Synthetic musk, for example, has been found in the Great Lakes due to nearby chemical processing. It has also been found in human fat cells and breast milk.

If you prefer to buy perfume that is made from natural compounds, look for the words, “all natural ingredients.” It will likely be more expensive and may be harder to find. Ingredients listed as “imitation” or “natural synthetic compounds” refers to synthetic chemicals created to copy real-world chemicals. The synthetic version(s) might have a much stronger odor than their more expensive, natural versions. However, synthetic compounds are made from different elements than naturally occurring compounds, and are not “natural.”

While synthetic chemicals are increasingly used in traditional fragrance categories, they have also given rise to a new category of fragrances, grouped together under the heading of Ozone or Oceanic. This joins the existing categories of Floral, Fruit, Green, Wood, Amber and Leather, and Oriental.

Selecting a new fragrance can be a complicated proposition with so many options on the market today. However, with some basic guidelines under your belt, you can shop for those perfumes with the fragrance savvy necessary to pick the perfect new scent to match your personality and mood. Most fragrances will come in a variety of potencies, which will affect the cost of the fragrance as well. The key is in knowing how potent each type of fragrance is; so that you can pick the one that will best meet your needs.

All fragrances are created with a mixture of essential oils and alcohol. When the scent is applied to your body, the alcohol will burn off into the air, while the essential oils will be absorbed into your skin. The difference between an eau de parfum and an eau de toilette will be in the concentration of essential oils. This means that those fragrances with a higher concentration of the oils will smell stronger, last longer, and generally come with a higher price tag. These are often the fragrances of choice for special occasions and evening wear. On the other hand, lower concentrations of the essential oils will result in a more affordable product that might be preferable for daily wear, or for fragrance layering.

The most potent type of fragrance that you can buy is the straight perfume, which will contain at least 22% essential oils, and come with the highest price tag. This type of fragrance is a good choice for special occasion wear, but should be used sparingly since the scent can be fairly strong. Eau de parfum is the next concentrated mixture, coming in with anywhere from 15% to 22% essential oil. The lighter fragrances tend to be the eau de toilette, with 8% to 15% oils, and the eau de cologne, with 4% oil. This lower concentration makes these fragrances nice to use as splash on scents and for everyday wear, although they will not last nearly as long as the fragrances with the higher oil concentration. You can make these scents last longer with a bit of layering, such as using a scented body lotion before splashing on the cologne.

No matter what type of fragrance you choose to wear, there are some tips in applying your scent that will help it to last longer and smell sweeter. First, find a fragrance that matches your personality and mood, since a fragrance that you like is one that you will enjoy wearing. Try a perfume on before purchasing it, to ensure that the scent will blend well with your own body chemistry. Finally, always dab or spray your fragrance on, since rubbing it into your skin will crush the scent. Fragrance is a part of a woman’s style just like clothing and jewelry. Wear it well.

Sniffing around for "types of perfume" turned up the sweet smell of eau de toilette and eau de parfum, as well as other versions of scented luxury. Most perfumes are complex combinations of natural materials, such as essential oils from plants, and synthetic products that increase the lasting power and heighten the smell. Alcohol is used as a liquid base for perfume, and the ratio of alcohol to scented perfume concentrates determines what the final concoction is labeled.

While these are the main classes of perfume, other products are frequently scented with perfume concentrates too. Lotions, creams, powders, body splashes, aftershaves, soaps, and other cosmetic products may contain variable (though usually small) amounts of fragrance.

Now that you have your scents straight, we’re sure you’ll smell like a rose all day!


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  1. #1 by Saneef H Ansari on May 5, 2009 - 6:15 am

    That was a very informative write up on fragrances. Especially for first time, I got to know what are the differences between ‘Eau de parfum’, ‘Eau de toilette’ n’ all.

  2. #2 by Sai on May 6, 2009 - 11:15 pm

    Very informative. I would need to look through many pages to find all this information.

    It would be good to cite the source pages or at least list them.

  3. #3 by anita on November 20, 2009 - 5:33 am

    That was really imformative.


  4. #4 by CHOI, Keith on September 15, 2010 - 2:04 pm

    add oil!!!

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