What is Eau de Cologne? [Here’s What You Should Know!]

The term “Cologne” is often one of the most misunderstood words in the modern-day world of perfumes. You may wonder if Cologne is even the same as Eau de Cologne? And, what exactly does Eau de Cologne stand for?

Eau de Cologne is a type of perfume that usually contains lower concentrations of fragrances than other perfumes. Eau de Cologne typically contains 2%-5% concentration of essential oil blended in 70%-85% alcohol, and lasts about 3 to 4 hours.

But, there is a lot more to it than just the definition. So, in this article, we will understand some of the basics of Eau de Cologne, what it means, and how it compares to other perfumes. 

So, let’s get started!

What is Eau de Cologne?

Eau de Cologne is a French term that literally translates to “Water from Cologne”. Eau de Cologne originated from the German city of Cologne. Thus, this perfume was termed as Eau de Cologne.

Today, Cologne is often a term given to fragrances that are designed for men. Since Eau de Cologne also contains a far lower concentration of fragrance extract, Cologne is also a term used to represent a less concentrated and a more affordable version of a successful perfume!

A Brief History of Eau de Cologne

Eau de Cologne was originally created by John Maria Farina in 1709 in the city of Cologne, Germany. John Farina was an Italian perfumer and he discovered a perfume that reminded him of his hometown in Italy. So, in the honour of his new hometown (Cologne, Germany), he named his fragrance as “The Original Eau de Cologne no. 4711”.

An image of the Farina Fragrance Museum in Cologne
A view of the still standing Farina Fragrance Store and Museum in Cologne, Germany (Image CreditLina Kivaka)

Eau de Cologne created by John Maria Farina was a sensation at the time, and was used by nearly all royal houses in Europe. Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly consumed over 40 litres of this perfume each month on himself, and his clothes, apartment and horses!

Gradually, as free trade was established in the late 1700s in Cologne, several other perfumers marketed their fragrance also as Eau de Cologne due to the success of the original Cologne.

Later Cologne was also traded and brought to the United States of America. Since then, Eau de Cologne has only grown in popularity and is now a common household product. 

Interestingly, the 4711 in Farina’s original perfume indicates its location in Glockengrasse No. 4711, in Cologne. Today, the Farina Fragrance Museum exists on the original property, and Eau de Cologne 4711 is one of the oldest fragrances that is still produced to this day.

Is Eau de Cologne the same as Cologne?

Although the two terms Eau de Cologne and Cologne technically mean the same thing, the modern-day use of the term “Cologne” often creates confusion amongst perfume beginners. 

This is primarily because all scents targeted towards men are labelled as Cologne particularly in the United States of America! However, the reality is that Cologne is only a type of perfume determined by the concentration of essential oils and alcohol.

Uses of Eau de Cologne

Eau de Cologne has been known to have several uses ever since it was developed. Some of which are mentioned below –

  1. As a Fragrance – The most obvious use of Eau de Cologne has been as a fragrance. It has been used as a light refreshing fragrance. Eau de Cologne is usually top note heavy and contains citrus flavored scents. Since it is heavy on the top notes, it doesn’t last that long.
  1. Treatment of High Fever – Eau de Cologne was also supposedly used to treat high fever. A few drops of Eau de Cologne were added to ice cold water. A piece of cloth dabbed in this mixture was then applied to the forehead of the patient. It was believed that since alcohol evaporates faster, it helps in bringing down the fever faster. 
  1. Prevention of Bacterial Infection on Cuts and Wounds – Eau de Cologne has also been known to be used on cuts and wounds. The alcohol present in the Cologne kills any bacteria that form on the wound thereby preventing the individual from bacterial infection.
  1. Treatment of Headaches – Specially created Eau de Cologne has also been known to treat headaches and migraines. Empress Eugenie, who suffered from persistent migraine issues, supposedly asked Pierre Francois Pascal Guerlain to create an Eau de Cologne to treat this issue. Guerlain created a Cologne with the essential oil of the Orange blossom that has calming properties. This treated the ailment of the Empress. 

    This Eau de Cologne by Guerlain is sold even today in a bottle that bears a constellation of 69 bees – a symbol of the Napoleon Empire!
  1. Eau de Cologne was also believed to have the power to ward off the Bubonic plague! The citrus oil scents supposedly oozed out of the skin pores and repelled the fleas.

Eau the Cologne was initially also termed as the “Aqua Mirabilis” which means “Miracle Water” in Latin!

At a time when medicines were so sparsely available, an alcohol based liquid that had so many different properties was perhaps correctly called the “Miracle Water”!

Is Eau de Cologne for Men or Women?

Eau de Cologne, as a perfume type, is unisex. It is designed and used by both men and women. The term “Eau de Cologne” only signifies the potency of a specific perfume. You need to look at the perfume notes to determine the gender a perfume is meant for. Check the packaging to be certain.

Although a Cologne is mostly designed for men, Eau de Cologne is also actually used by women! 

How Long Does Cologne Last?

Man holding a Jo Malone Cologne bottle

In general, Eau de Cologne usually lasts about 3 to 4 hours on skin. However, some Eau de Cologne fragrances can last as long as 6 hours depending upon their composition and ingredients used while making the perfume.

The longevity and performance of a particular perfume depends on several different parameters including the quality of the ingredients used. 

Furthermore, the performance of a perfume can also vary from person to person as the same perfume can react with different people in a different manner!

Thus, it is quite difficult to predict the exact duration of Eau de Cologne. That said, most Eau de Colognes should be able to last about 3 to 4 hours.

Cologne vs Perfume: What’s the Difference?

The key difference between Cologne and Perfume is that Perfume is the term assigned to all types of fragrances whereas Cologne (or Eau de Cologne) is only one type of perfume.

In continuation to what was mentioned in one of the previous sections, oftentimes people confuse perfume and cologne as two independent products designed with two distinct purposes. However, the reality is that cologne is just a type of perfume. The process and the ingredients used in making a cologne do not vary significantly from that of a perfume!

Contrary to the popular opinion, cologne is not just meant for men and perfume is not just meant for women! 

Perhaps, a more pertinent question would be what is the difference between Eau de Cologne and Eau de Parfum! So, let’s understand that.

Difference between Eau de Cologne and Eau de Parfum

The key difference between Eau de Cologne and Eau de Parfum is in the concentration of the essential oil used. Eau de Parfum usually contains 15%-20% oil concentration whereas Eau de Cologne typically contains 2%-5%. Eau de Parfum also tends to last longer between the two.

Another major difference between the two is also in the cost. Eau de Cologne usually costs much lower than an Eau de Parfum from the same brand due to the lower amount of fragrance used in Eau de Cologne.

Eau de Cologne vs Eau de Toilette

The key difference between Eau de Cologne (or Cologne) and Eau de Toilette is the concentration of essential oils used. Eau de Cologne usually contains 2%-5% oil concentration whereas Eau de Toilette typically contains 5%-15%. Eau de Toilette also tends to last longer between the two.

Cost of Eau de Cologne also tends to be cheaper than Eau de Toilette. This is because often perfume brands want to ride on the success of certain well-known fragrances by making it more accessible and affordable.

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