When I first started using perfumes, I had no idea how to determine whether a perfume will perform well or not! I simply put 1 or 2 spritzes either on a piece of paper or on the hand, took a whiff, and took a call. Over the years, I’ve learned that just by merely understanding 2 words written on the bottle, you can know a lot about the type of perfume, and its performance!
Generally speaking, there are 5 types of perfumes. These are Parfum Extrait (or Parfum), Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Eau Fraiche. The key difference between the various perfume types is the concentration of fragrance oils used and their longevity.
Additionally, a few other types of fragrances are also available, such as deodorant, antiperspirant, aftershave, perfume mist, etc. Knowing which perfume is the right choice for you hinges on primarily your understanding of these various types of fragrances!
So, in this article, we shall take a look at all these different fragrances in complete detail. By the end of this article, you shall have a clear understanding of all the different confusing terms that are used on fragrances.
My goal with this article is to share everything that I’ve learned over the years and help you avoid the wrong decisions when choosing your next fragrance.
So, let’s get started!
5 Types of Perfumes (Based on Dilution Classes)
The classification of perfumes is commonly done primarily on the dilution classes. Meaning, how diluted is the fragrance in the perfume. In other words, how concentrated are the essential oils used in making the perfume.
Based on this categorization of dilution classes, there are mainly 5 types of perfumes. As mentioned before, these are Parfum, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Eau Fraiche.
Let’s understand each of these perfumes in further detail.
1. Parfum (Extrait de Parfum)
Parfum or Extrait de Parfum actually goes by many names. It is also known as pure perfume, perfume extract, parfum extrait, or simply perfume!
Parfum or Extrait de Parfum is the most concentrated form of perfume. It usually contains about a 20%-40% concentration of essential oils. It is usually the most expensive type of perfume but it also lasts the longest!
Most perfume brands mention that Extrait de Parfum will usually last about 6-8 hours. However, in my personal experience, I’ve seen that most “Parfum” variants of a perfume tend to last more like 8-20 hours on the skin. Some perfumes can last 24 hours or even longer depending on the ingredients used and the composition.
What’s interesting about this type of perfume is that it uses the most quantity of natural ingredients amongst all 5 types of perfumes. This also means that the price of the perfume is quite high.
In fact, the prices are usually so high that the demand for this type of perfume has been diminishing for the last century. Furthermore, only a handful of major perfume brands provide this variant of perfume due to its exorbitant prices. It is considered more of an aspirational luxury than an everyday perfume.
I’ve actually written a complete article on Extrait de Parfum which provides more in-depth information on this topic. Make sure to check that out to learn more!
2. Eau de Parfum
Eau de Parfum contains a lower concentration of essential oil in comparison to Parfum Extrait. It is a type of perfume that typically contains about a 10%-15% concentration of essential oil. Eau de Parfum usually lasts about 6 to 12 hours on the skin.
Eau de Parfum is more easily available than Parfum. It is also a lot more affordable than pure perfume. Due to its affordability and accessibility, it is often a go-to choice of perfume type amongst consumers when looking for a strong fragrance!
Related Topic – Parfum vs Eau de Parfum: 9 Key Differences You Should Know!
The higher concentration of essential oils or fragrance oils than most of the other types of perfume also makes it last longer. Some Eau de Parfum fragrances like Dior Sauvage and Acqua Di Gio Profumo are known to last well over 12 hours! Even certain budget perfumes such as Club de Nuit by Armaf and Versace Eros can last quite long and give a similar performance to the more expensive Eau de Parfum fragrances!
To learn more about Eau de Parfum, check out my other article in which I cover this topic in further detail, and also provide a few perfume recommendations that you may want to consider!
Eau de Parfum is generally blended in an 80-85% alcohol concentration. Thus, although this type of fragrance provides a good lastingness, it usually is not a good choice for people with sensitive skin as higher alcohol content makes the skin dry!
3. Eau de Toilette
The third type of perfume based on the dilution class is called “Eau de Toilette”.
Eau de Toilette is a type of perfume that contains about a 5%-15% concentration of essential oil. It is a slightly weaker fragrance than Eau de Parfum and usually lasts about 4 to 8 hours upon application.
Interestingly, Eau de Toilette is actually a French term that directly translates into “Toilet Water” in English! You can rest assured, this perfume is not made of water from the toilet or urine (as some amateurs tend to believe which is gross by the way!)
You may wonder – “Then, why is this type of perfume called Toilet Water?”. It may surprise you to know that “Toile” in French refers to a cloth, and the term “Toilette” has references to the cloth that was often kept on the shoulder when shaving or grooming.
Gradually, the aromatic water that was used during the shaving process came to be known as Toilette Water or Eau de Toilette (check out my other article on “Why is Perfume Called Toilet Water” to know the full history and more interesting facts)
Eau de Toilette, along with Eau de Parfum, is usually the most sought-after perfume type since these deliver the best performance and sustain the longest amongst the rest of the perfumes mentioned below. They also usually provide the best value for money.
Related Topic – Eau de Toilette vs Eau de Parfum: 7 Key Differences Explained!
You can read more about Eau de Toilette and its performance by checking out my article on this topic where I share who this perfume is meant for and whether you should purchase Eau de Toilette or Eau de Parfum!
4. Eau de Cologne
The next type of perfume that we should know about is Eau de Cologne!
Eau de Cologne (also known as Cologne) is a much weaker type of perfume that usually contains about 2-5% concentration of essential oil. It typically lasts about 3 to 4 hours upon application.
One thing to note is that the range of essential oil concentrations varies from one brand to another. There is no legal obligation on part of the perfume brand to stick to these ranges. Thus, you shouldn’t be surprised to see if an Eau de Cologne actually contains a lower percentage of oil in it.
That said, the ranges that I’ve mentioned are generally accepted by most perfumers and mentioned by “The International Fragrance Association”.
Eau de Cologne is a weaker fragrance than Eau de Parfum in that it contains a much lower concentration of fragrance. It is more top-note heavy which is one of the primary reasons why it doesn’t last as long as Eau de Parfum. It is also the key reason why it may pack a punch to your olfactory senses in the beginning.
This type of perfume may open really strong but won’t sustain the same fragrance strength after the first 30 to 40 minutes or so once the top notes fade away. To read more about Eau de Cologne, check out my other article that goes more in-depth on this topic.
One other thing that you should know here is that most people believe that cologne is meant for a man whereas perfume is meant for a woman. This typically stems from the fact that in certain countries, such as the USA, “Cologne” is a wider term used to describe fragrances marketed towards men.
The reality is that cologne is just one type of perfume. While there are differences between a Cologne and a Perfume, men’s perfume is not restricted to just Eau de Cologne. Likewise, even perfume designed for a woman can come in the Eau de Cologne variant.
5. Eau Fraiche
The last type of perfume as per the dilution classes is Eau Fraiche.
Eau Fraiche is the weakest form of perfume. It usually contains 1%-3% essential oil concentration. The fragrance in Eau Fraiche is mostly blended with water instead of alcohol. This makes Eau Fraiche a unique perfume option for people with sensitive skin.
Eau Fraiche fragrances are often sold under multiple names such as perfume mist, splash, etc. Although the usage of names may be imprecise, the principle of the perfume composition and its purpose remains the same.
Also Read – Perfume vs Body Spray: What’s the Difference?
Since this type of perfume is highly diluted and contains a really low concentration of fragrance, it doesn’t last all that long. An Eau Fraiche fragrance can last about 30 minutes and up to 2 hours upon application.
There are several reasons why you may want to choose an Eau Fraiche instead of other fragrances. Lower costs is definitely one of the reasons. You may want to check out my other article on Eau Fraiche that provides detailed information on its uses and whether you should consider this type of fragrance.
Types of Fragrances Based on Purpose of Use
Apart from perfumes, there are other fragrance products that you should also be aware of. The reason I’m covering it in this article is that often they are confused with perfumes and are used interchangeably.
You’d actually be surprised to know that fragrances are used in almost all major household items. Right from brushing your teeth in the morning, to washing your face with soap, cooking your food with aromatic substances, driving your car, and even at the office (for cleaning floors and as air fresheners), fragrances are present in every aspect of our lives today.
That said, for the purpose of this article, we shall focus on perfume alternatives that are commonly used and misunderstood.
The main goal of using perfume is to make you smell good. Interestingly, some of the other types of fragrances listed below don’t share the same goal and yet are often confused with perfumes! (more on this below)
We have already looked at perfumes in the aforementioned section. If you also read through the content along with the details provided in the links, you will definitely get all the basic information that you need to know about perfumes.
Another type of fragrance is a deodorant. People often confuse the purpose of using a deodorant with that of a perfume.
The key difference between a perfume and a deodorant is the purpose of use. Deodorant is used to suppress body odor whereas perfume is used to make you smell nice.
It is easy to get confused between the two. After all, both come as spray and as a roll-on, and both carry a nice scent upon application. However, perfume and deodorants are quite different.
In addition to the key difference mentioned above, I have covered all the specific differences between perfume and deodorant in another article previously. Be sure to check that out!
Another type of fragrance that is commonly used is an antiperspirant.
Some may argue that antiperspirant is a deodorant. While that is true, not all deodorants are considered antiperspirants. There is a distinct difference between the two and it is primarily the purpose of its use (as you may have guessed).
The key difference between an antiperspirant and a deodorant is that deodorant is used to suppress foul smell arising from the body sweat whereas an antiperspirant is used to prevent the sweat production itself.
Antiperspirants work slightly differently than deodorants. Antiperspirants actually form a layer on our skin and block our skin pores temporarily so that perspiration doesn’t take place. Whereas, deodorants act upon the odor-producing bacteria thriving on sweat produced by the body.
Aftershave is a fragranced product that is applied to the skin after a shave. It usually has antiseptic properties and contains a 1%-3% concentration of fragrance oils blended in alcohol.
Aftershave can technically be considered as a type of perfume. However, the purpose of the use is quite different.
An aftershave is primarily used to prevent infection from cuts and wounds while shaving. Most aftershaves also contain fragrance or essential oils where some aftershaves even contain moisturizing capabilities that supposedly protect and maintain soft skin.
Aftershaves are commonly sold as a splash liquid, lotion, gel, or even a paste.
People mistakenly refer to aftershave as an Eau de Cologne (or Cologne) due to the similar nature of the two. In fact, some aftershave brands even promote their aftershave as if it were a cologne! But, an aftershave indeed differs from a perfume in the purpose of use.
5. Hair Perfume
Hair perfume is a fragranced product specifically designed to be applied to the hair. Unlike normal perfume, hair perfume contains fragrance and essential oil blended in a specific type of alcohol that doesn’t damage your hair. Most hair perfumes also nourish the scalp and hair.
Hair perfume (also referred to as hair mist), does help with the fragrance. But, it also has an additional purpose of nourishing the root of the hair, conditioning the hair, and even supposedly giving a shine to your hair!
If you are interested in knowing more about hair perfume, check out my other article where I go in-depth on what is hair perfume, how it is different from a perfume, how to use it, and even provide a few recommendations on which ones to use!
Now that we have understood the various types of perfumes and fragranced products commonly used, let me answer a few additional common questions that you may have regarding perfumes!
Which Type of Perfume is the Strongest?
Extrait de Parfum (or Parfum) is the strongest form of perfume as it contains the highest concentration of essential oil (20% to 40% oil concentration). However, Extrait de Parfum often doesn’t have the strongest projection and the fragrance is mostly restricted to yourself.
As I had mentioned in the sections above, since Extrait de Parfum contains more essential oil concentration, the heavier oil-based fragrance molecules tend to stick to the skin. Thus, as a result, the perfume radius is usually quite small and the fragrance doesn’t travel as much as some of the other forms of perfume.
Which Type of Perfume Lasts the Longest?
Extrait de Parfum (or Parfum) lasts the longest amongst all types of perfumes. Not only does it contain the highest concentration of essential oils, but Extrait de Parfum is usually also base note heavy which makes the perfume last as much as 8 to 20 hours upon application.
That said, the Extrait de Parfum or Parfum variant of a particular perfume is usually quite costly! A better alternative would be to go with Eau de Parfum that contains certain specific ingredients that are known to last long. This will yield a better value for money.
Ingredients such as vetiver and oakmoss are known for their quality to last really long. Likewise, base notes of a perfume that contains ingredients such as frankincense, benzoin, or myrrh will usually last long as these ingredients not only release their own fragrance slowly but also tend to slow down the rate of evaporation of other ingredients present in the perfume!
Credit to Trung Do Bao (on Unsplash) for the Featured Image of this article