How to Tell the Difference Between Perfume, Cologne and Eau de Toilette

The perfume and toilette difference explained

Fragrance specialist Samantha Taylor from The Powder Room says the major difference between eau de toilette and perfume and an eau de toilette has to do with the perfume concentration in each scent. Basically, an eau de parfum is a stronger perfume than an eau de toilette because its concentration of oils is higher.

“The only difference between an eau de parfum and an eau de toilette is the amount of ‘juice’ or perfume concentrate mixed with alcohol,” explains Taylor. “There can be a very subtle difference in the scent, but that is just because one has more or less ‘juice’ in alcohol; the actual [smell of the] ‘juice’ is the same.”

In a nutshell, a high fragrance concentration means there is a higher percentage of essential perfume oils and less alcohol. 

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Other Types

Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Vase Petrovski

Other fragrance products, such eau de cologne, aftershave or scented hand lotion, are often used by men who prefer a less-potent scent. These typically contain around one percent or two percent essential oils.

Do Eau de Parfums Last Longer Than Eau de Toilettes?

For the most part, eau de parfums should last longer, says Shapiro, who also warns that different notes carry different patterns of longevity. "You can't compare, let's say, a fruity, very fresh eau de parfum with a very woody eau de toilette," she explains. "Fruity and fresh notes tend to be top notes and evaporate faster, even at higher concentrations."

But maybe the coolest whimsy of all types of perfumes is that each wearer's experience of a fragrance is different, depending upon how the formulation reacts with their skin's specific oils. In other words, don't blindly buy the perfume that smells divine on your best friend, because it might smell less than savory on you.

Fragrance adheres to oils, says Shapiro, and those with drier skin may need to wear a higher concentration of fragrance in order to have an impact.

Above all, you must obey the golden rule of scent, according to Valadez, who steadfastly proclaims: "Never judge a fragrance until you try it on your own skin."

Eau de Toilette (EDT)

Eau de toilettes have a lower concentration of perfume oils, usually 5 to 15 percent, 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. When in doubt, do whatever you want.

Although many successful fragrances start off as eau de parfums and are then released in lighter, eau de toilette versions, they may not always share the same notes as their parfum counterparts. Some of the heavier notes, like woods and patchouli, can be removed to make the fragrance lighter; others, like florals or citrus, may be added to boost effervescence.

Some suggest switching your fragrance after the eau de toilette fades away completely. But even though the oils seem to have faded, they typically reignite when they come in contact with moisture. Do you ever smell your fragrance again when you wash your hands or get caught in the rain? If you are still going to spray another scent, make sure it is complementary, as the new scent might breathe new life into the older one.

When should I apply EDP or EDT?

Since toilette is a lighter fragrance, it’s recommended to make it your day-to-day scent and to use it more during the warmer months. Since parfum can have an intense scent and high concentration, you should use it at night or during cooler weather.

What is Eau de Perfume?

Eau de perfume comes after perfume when it comes to the amount of fragrance concentrates used. It contains up to 15% essence. This is the percentage of aromatic oil present in eau de perfume. Lower percentage of aromatic oils in the formulation has connection with scent life, and as such, the same amount of eau de perfume can keep a place fragrant for a less time when compared with perfume. The bathroom or the clothes on which you spray eau de perfume stay fresh for long, making it a preferred choice of the people. You can see people using eau de perfume on clothing and even on hair. It is cheaper than perfume.

Knowing that compounds will break down when such exposure to light or heat takes place, manufacturers add up number of ingredients, totaling tens to hundreds, in the solution. When one of the aromatic compounds breaks down another takes its place and the fragrance stays. Eau de perfumes are renowned for two notes that work in tandem to hold the fragrance. The top note is released when one applies eau de perfume and lasts for only a few minutes to an hour. As it goes off, another note is released which is also called the heart of the scent. This note lasts after the top notes have faded away.

3. Eau de Toilette

Eau de toilette (EDT) has a fragrance concentration of between 5% to 15%. It is cheaper than the EDP and is one of the most popular types of fragrance available. It will normally last two to three hours and is considered by some as daywear (while EDP is considered nightwear).

The term eau de toilette came from the French term “faire sa toilette” which means getting ready. If you wear this on a daily basis, I would suggest that you have a small container where you can bring it with you most of the time.

And how long do parfum and toilette each last?

Eau de parfum actually lasts longer than eau de toilette. Toilette can last about three to five hours while parfum lingers for more like five to eight. In terms of shelf life, EDP can last up to five years longer than EDT. (A tip to maintain the shelf life is to try storing your product in a cool, dark place.)

What are the dilution classes?

  • Parfum / extrait. In English, this is usually called perfume, or sometimes perfume extract. This is your top-quality fragrance, with the ingredients making up around 15-40% of the total fluid content. That means it’s long-lasting, noticeable and complex.
  • Esprit de parfum. This dilution class isn’t very commonly used, but we’ll run you through it just so you know it exists. It’s slightly less potent than perfume, with around 15-30% ingredients to 70-85% solvent. It’s still excellent quality though.
  • Eau de parfum. This is the most commonly available class and is a good all-rounder. Sometimes referred to as ‘parfum de toilette’, the strength of this dilution class is typically between 10-20%. That means it’ll last well throughout the day, but won’t be quite as potent as a pure parfum.
  • Eau de toilette. Eau de toilette (also quite common) is another solid choice, and is usually a little bit more reasonably priced. Expect the ingredients to comprise roughly 5-15% of the fluid.
  • Eau de cologne. This is usually just called ‘cologne’; and this is where things often get muddled, as cologne is often used to describe any male fragrance, regardless of the strength. Traditionally, an eau de cologne is 3-8% ingredients, 97-92% solvent; so it’s meant to be a more diluted, less powerful option. This makes it a good choice for spritzing on during the day.

You’ll also encounter various other terms, like ‘mists’ or ‘sprays’. These are very weak in terms of potency and are really just for freshening up, or adding a bit of scent while you’re at work.

How long does perfume last?

Not only does the concentration of fragrance affect the intensity, but it also impacts how long it will last. “Perfume concentrations dictate how long the perfume lasts on your skin, although the individual skin type and fragrance family can also play into this,” says Taylor.

Since an eau de toilette is made with a smaller dose of perfume oils, it typically only lasts for a few hours. The top notes – the first scent released by a perfume – are dominant, making it refreshing when it is first applied, however due to the alcohol content it evaporates from the skin quite quickly. An eau de toilette is the perfect type of fragrance to use day to dayas the fragrance notes are less intense; even if you do go overboard, it’ll lighten up fairly quickly.

An eau de parfum, on the other hand, lasts longer. Unlike an eau de toilette, after the top notes have faded, the middle notes or heart notes of an EDP become noticeable. Since it’s more intense than an eau de toilette, it’s a great option for a night-wear.

“I don’t like ‘rules’ in fragrance, I think you should wear what you want when you want, but do be aware of your surroundings and your schedule,” says Taylor, adding that typically lighter concentrations are best suited for day-wear, and heavier concentrations are best worn at night

If you’re looking to add a new perfume to your scent wardrobe, these are some of our all-time favourite women’s fragrances.

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