difference between perfume and eau de toilette

What is the difference between perfume and eau de toilette?

What do different perfume concentrations mean, and which should you choose?


Almost all fragrances are sold as one of  four concentrations: parfum, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and eau de cologne (or some other name that basically means the same thing).

Many perfume houses will even create different concentrations of the same scent, each with its own unique characteristics and price tag.

There’s usually a noticeable difference in the intensity and persistence of a scent in its different concentrations. It all comes down to the relationship between the fragrant essential oils and the other ingredients, such as alcohol, in which they’re suspended.

So what is the difference between perfume and Eau de Toilette or, say, Eau de Parfum? And why should you choose one or the other?

parfum concentration

Parfum / Extrait de Parfum

This is the most potent form available for most scents, and might contain anywhere from 15 to 40 per cent fragrant oils. At this level of concentration, you only need to apply a teeny amount for it to linger all day and into the evening.

This high level of quality ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean a more powerful scent overall; because of the lower alcohol content, parfums often stay closer to the skin rather than, say, throwing themselves around a room when you enter it.

Because of this, Parfum can be a very intimate experience, and for this reason (and the price tag) is usually considered the most luxurious option.

eau de parfum concentration

Eau de Parfum

Usually coming in around 12 to 20 per cent fragrance oils, Eau de Parfum is still high quality stuff, but slightly easier to find and less costly than a parfum. Most EdPs will easily offer four or more hours of lasting power.

A lot of mainstream fragrances offer eau de parfum as their most concentrated version, so it’s still a fairly luxurious option and you should expect high quality from any EdP.

Eau de Parfum is perfect for when you have chosen a fragrance whose heart and base notes you love and want to have last for many hours.

eau de toilette concentration

Eau de Toilette

The most common option, this concentration can vary wildly in terms of lasting power, depending on its notes. An EdT will typically contain around 4 to 12 per cent essential oils, and is normally within an affordable price range due to its lower concentration of expensive ingredients.

EdT is popular formulation with both perfume makers and customers, because it usually offers a good balance of value and quality. You don’t have to feel as bad about applying it every day as a signature scent, for instance.

eau de cologne concentration

Eau de Cologne / Eau Fraiche

The least concentrated formulations, these may last for only an hour or two (or less!), and contain very little actual essential oil. This makes them great for a little kick of scent to get your day started, and fun if you love those fresh, light top notes… but don’t expect them to win any marathons. You’ll have to re-apply often if you want to keep enjoying it all day.

In summary

Having said all this, there’s really no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to concentrations. It is not necessarily the most expensive perfume that will last longest. Perfume blogger Angela Sanders notes on NowSmellThis, “expensive raw materials don’t necessarily last longer than cheap raw materials.”(If you want to know why perfumes are so expensive, read here.) Basically, an eau de cologne with strong notes can kick a soft, subtle parfum in the butt. (If you want to know more about perfume notes, read here.)

Ultimately, many fragrances come in only one concentration, maybe two, limiting your choice. But understanding the different formulations can help you to select the product that will satisfy your nose and make the most sense for your budget and lifestyle.

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