Shopping for a signature fragrance can be a daunting task. Not only do you have to pick a scent, but you also have to decide which form you’d like it in. Cologne, parfum, eau de toilette, oh my!
It can be confusing—and that is why we’re so thankful for Lifehacker‘s handy fragrance concentration guide.
To start, you’ll need to wrap your head around the difference between “perfume” and “cologne.” Gender is not a specifying factor for these products’ intended use. Instead, it relates to the concentration of perfume oil in alcohol and water. Names like toilette and cologne indicate the strength and longevity of the scent. Here is a more detailed description of each fragrance descriptor to help make your new scent shopping experience easier:
The most diluted version—containing 1 to 3 percent perfume oil—these fragrances usually last for less than an hour.
Eau de Cologne (Cologne)
In North America, these are often masculine scents. But don’t let their association with men fool you: they are light, fresh, and fruity. Typically these scents contain between 2 and 4 percent perfume oils and last about two hours.
Eau de Toilette (Toilette)
Here lies the middle of the fragrance road. Eau de toilettes have a relatively light spray composition—5 to 15 percent—of pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol. Expect these to last for about three hours.
Eau de Parfum (Parfum)
These concentrations are historically genderless and are second only to their cousin perfume in strength. As Reader’s Digest pointed out, Princess Diana’s favorite fragrance was an Eau de Parfum—Hermès 24 Faubourg, to be exact. These contain between 15 and 20 percent pure perfume essence and can last up to eight hours.
Lifehacker points out that these are the most concentrated and expensive fragrance options. Slightly oilier than its lighter relatives, perfume comprises 20 to 30 percent pure perfume. A single application of perfume can last up to 24 hours. Maybe go a little easy on the application of these fragrances.
Perfumes and colognes are a collection of scents. Specifically, these fragrances are a compound of ingredients. The primary components distinguish the various scent categories, which are more subjective as everyone’s memories, feelings, and interest in a particular scent vary. Here are some of the most common scents used in fragrances:
Aquatic smells evoke beachside scents like sea salt and ocean breezes. This scent is often associated with summertime, marine life, coastal destinations, or immersive shore and sand memories.
Flower petals and other botanical oils emit floral scents, often used in fragrances or perfumes. Common flowers used for these types of scents include rose, jasmine, gardenia, lavender, violet, and lily of the valley.
Fruity scents can radiate exotic, calming, or sweet fragrances. Soaps and lotions use fruit scents, such as lemon or citrus, for their fresh and therapeutic associations. Other fruits, such as coconut or kiwi, have a more tropical distinction.
Sweet and Spicy
Sweet scents combine oils from vanilla, chocolate, burnt sugar, coffee, and caramel for a gourmand fragrance. This indulgent fragrance represents many of the foods it is derived from and can be polarizing based on your preferences. Spicy scents can also originate from popular food sources, such as cardamom, mint, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Spicy aromas are typically long-lasting and highly fragrant.
Bottle the scents of trees, nature trails, and outdoor adventures for a woody smell. Woody scents use trees, roots, moss, leaves, and grasses to exact oils for these fragrances. Popular sources include cedar, amber, sandalwood, balsam, and other wood.