The Difference Between Perfume, Cologne & Toilette

When you hear the word “perfume” it’s likely that you think of one thing: expensive scent in a fancy crystal bottle. But there are other scent formulations for both men and women that differ in price, concentration, and staying power. Here’s a primer.

Perfume

Perfume is the most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance choices and is traditionally for women. It contains between 20% to 30% of pure perfume essence mixed with water and alcohol. It’s slightly oily and can stain clothes, but if you place it carefully to prevent staining, a single application can last up to 24 hours. Perfume usually is applied with the fingertips or “tipped” from the bottle onto pulse points.

Eau de Parfum

Eau de Parfum or EdP is generally unisex. EDP contains between 15% to 20% of pure perfume essence mixed with water and alcohol. A single application can last from five to eight hours. As with perfume, it normally comes in non-spray form and is applied with the fingertips or “tipped” from the bottle.

Eau de Toilette

Toilette (Eau de Toilette or EdT) is generally a lighter scent in spray form for women. It contains 5% to 15% of pure perfume essence mixed with water and alcohol and will last for up to three hours.

Eau de Cologne

Cologne (Eau de Cologne or EdC) is a lighter scent for men that contains from 2% to 4% pure perfume essences. EdC lasts up to two hours.

Eau Fraiche

Eau Fraiche is the lightest fragrance, sporting only between 1% and 3% of pure perfume essence combined with alcohol and water. It lasts for up to one hour.

When you apply a fragrance, be aware that it will go through a series of scent changes. The more pure a perfume, the more evident these changes will be. An Eau Fraiche, for example, is so light that you’ll have to have an expert nose to detect scent changes; whereas with a perfume or EdP, the transitions will be more obvious.

Top notes are the very first scent you smell and they include light floral and fruity scents, spices and aquatic tones. Top notes can last from 15 minutes up to two hours.

Medium/middle/heart notes settle in after about 30 minutes and can last up to five hours. These notes can include heavy floral or oriental scents.

Base notes last from five to 10 hours and evolve after you’ve worn the scent for a few hours. Heavier scents, such as vanilla, leather, musk and sandalwood show up as base notes.

In terms of price, consumers are paying first for the brand name. A high-end brand such as Hermes or Chanel will pull a pretty penny not for the raw ingredients but for the prestige of the designer’s “house” and the perceived value in the market. Secondly, the levels of scent concentrate in a fragrance will up its price.

Choosing a scent that’s right for you is a highly personal decision. You can try testers at a brick-and-mortar store (one on the inside of each wrist and on the inside of each elbow will be a four-for-one trip!), and discover how the scents change throughout the evening and overnight.

You can also order sample scents from online fragrance companies that are really affordable. Some charge around $6 per sample (samples have around 20 spritzes) so you don’t have to be rushed into a decision.