Eau de Toilette, Eau de parfum, Cologne…what are those fancy French terms that you come across when shopping for perfume, you might have wondered more than once.

Our short guide is meant to clarify these terms used in perfumery to denote concentration. Concentration of a fragrance refers to the percentage of aromatic compounds in the solvent. In fine fragrances you put on your skin, this is typically ethanol, or a mix of water and ethanol, as denoted on the list of ingredients/allergens on the fragrance’s box as requested by law.

The oldest and rarest format is extrait de parfum, sometimes shortened to parfum, or affectionately called pure perfume. This is a solid formula of between 15% and 40% aromatic compounds, depending on the brand. Predictably this is also the costliest format, as it utilizes higher percentages of the costly essences that comprise the core of the fragrant formula. Extraits are therefore usually sold in smaller bottles. They are thus often glamorized in old films, seen used drop by drop, sometimes with a fancy dropper or small wand, behind pretty ears and on delicate wrists.

Eau de Toilette is probably the most widespread type of fragrance concentration, containing between 8% and 15% of aromatic compounds. The term comes from the French, la toilette being the process of grooming. In the times of Louis XIV, the famous “sun king” and a true perfume fanatic, a piece of cloth, i.e. toile in French, was laid out on the dresser, on which the servants put all the necessary equipment in order to dress and groom their masters and mistresses. Eau de Toilette is therefore the type of scent most often associated with taking care of one’s appearance in the morning or before going out.

Eau de Parfum indicates a higher concentration of 15% to 20% aromatic compounds. This is a relatively newer format, which came out in the 1980s when fragrances needed to be bolder to follow the requisite flashy fashions. Typically eau de parfum lasts longer than eau de toilette and projects in the room in an adequate way that makes it quite perceptible. We therefore recommend that you use an eau de parfum in the evening, when its tenacity and wake will be appreciated more adequately.

Finally, the term Eau de Cologne refers to two things. On the one hand, the term derives from the German town of Cologne, where the therapeutic blends of fresh citruses and herbs with alcohol were first popularised thanks to an Italian recipe. Cologne therefore suggests a fresh smell for rejuvenating, akin to a bright summer’s day mood. On the other, the term may refer to a lighter concentration of around 5% to 8% aromatic compounds, meant for dabbing or spraying, as a light feel good experience that is rather fleeting and non offensive. In the USA “cologne” is also the term used for masculine fragrances, though that use has become rather obsolete in more progressive circles.

Although received knowledge suggests fragrance concentration to be synonymous with the lasting power and "strength" of a given fragrance, largely influencing selling price as well, the truth is a little more complex. Because there are differences from brand to brand and from fragrance to fragrance, you might find yourself preferring this concentration in that scent and another one in another. No big deal, surrender to pleasure and just enjoy!

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