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Perfume vs Eau de Parfum: What’s the Difference?

Humans have been using perfume to alter the way they smell almost since the dawn of civilization. Archaeologists have found perfumes as old as 4000 years old, or around 1000 BCE. Nowadays, there are a wide variety of scented substances we can spray on ourselves. From body sprays to deodorants to perfume to eau de parfum, you can make your body smell however you want it to.

“But wait,” you may ask, “aren’t perfume and eau de parfum the same thing?” Au contraire, mon frere. While they are similar substances, they are not the same thing. Between perfume vs eau de parfum, what’s the difference? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Perfume?

First things first, let’s clarify some terms. What is perfume, exactly?

Perfume, from the Latin “per fume” for “from smoke”, is a substance made from a combination of various scented oils and alcohol to create a specific scent around its user. Perfume has its origins in ancient times and is most likely descended from the use of incense and other scented substances during religious rites.

Perfume has come to be used as a catch-all term for any spray-on substance used to create a scent for a person. However, actual perfume or “pure perfume”, as it’s sometimes known, only refers to the most concentrated products. The highest-quality perfumes will contain as much as 40% scenting agents within them.

What Is Eau de Parfum?

Many may think that eau de parfum is merely a “fancier” way of saying perfume if you want to sound classy. Most ads for fragrance-based products try to appeal to the desire to appear (or at least smell) upper-class. For this reason, eau de parfum advertisements can be quite expensive, with one even topping the list of the most expensive commercials ever made.

However, eau de parfum is its own substance. What is eau de parfum? It’s a lighter version of perfume that uses less scent and more alcohol. This makes it evaporate faster than perfume, and also makes it more suitable for daily wear than perfume’s more heady scent.

Understanding Other Fragrance Types

Perfume and eau de parfum alone do not corner the fragrance market. There are many other types of fragrances, such as:

  • Eau de toilette
  • Cologne
  • Eau fraiche

While many of these also have similar compositions to eau de parfum or perfume, they all differ in key ways. Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these other fragrance types below.

What Is Eau de Toilette?

If you have a passing knowledge of French, you may find yourself a bit confused by this name. “Eau” means water, so wouldn’t “eau de toilette” translate to “toilet water”, or something equally crass? Well, yes and no. It does literally mean “toilet water”, but those words have a different connotation in French.

The term comes from the way the French say “getting ready” or “washing up”, which is “faire sa toilette”. (Literally, to “make the toilet”.) As you might guess from this, eau de toilette is a much less concentrated version of perfume that gets used to freshen up a scent after a long day, or in preparation for a hot night out.

What Is Eau de Cologne?

Most folks nowadays think of cologne as the male counterpart to standard perfume. However, cologne differs from perfume both in its concentration of scent products and the types of scent it usually uses. The very first cologne, crafted in the 18th century in, well, Cologne, was created with strong notes of citrus.

This gave it a much stronger and “cleaner” scent than some of its musky counterparts. Since it was much lighter than other scents on the market, using it became a marker of nobility. Now, it’s become one of the classier types of fragrance products available to most men. (As long as you don’t cheap out on it. No one likes the scent of cheap cologne.)

What Is Eau Fraiche?

Again, to those with a passing knowledge of French, this name for a scented product might seem bizarre. How can “fresh water” offer anything in terms of fragrance? As it turns out, that’s exactly the point. Eau fraiche is the least concentrated variety of perfume. Its scented oils make up less than 3% of its total volume, with the rest being either alcohol or, yes, water.

As such, the scent will only last for an hour or two, making it functionally useless outside of adding an extra dimension of fragrance to your scent scape.

Perfume vs Eau de Parfum vs Other Fragrance Types: What’s the Difference?

Now that we’ve defined what perfume, eau de parfum, and many other fragrance types are in general, let’s take a closer look at the major differences between them. These differences include but are not limited to:

It’s All About the Concentration

The first major difference between perfume vs eau de parfum and other fragrance types is their concentration. Fragrance products get made from a mixture of scented oils and alcohol or water. The concentrations of these ingredients affect their classification. From most concentrated to least, you have:

  • Perfume, which contains between 20% and 40% scented oils by volume
  • Eau de parfum, which contains between 15% and 20% scented oils
  • Eau de toilette, containing anywhere from 5% to 15% scented oils by volume
  • Eau de cologne, which has around 2% to 4% scented oils in it
  • Eau fraiche, which has 3% or less scented oils in it

The more concentrated the scent, the longer it’s likely to last. We’ll touch more on the longevity of the scent a bit later.

Some Use Lighter Scents Than Others

Another major difference between the types of fragrance products, aside from their concentration of oils to alcohol/water, is the scents that they use. Typically, the higher the concentration of oils, the heavier and headier the scents that get used will be. So, while it might be common to see a perfume with strong, musky notes, lighter perfumes will usually use crisper or softer notes.

This is part of the reason why a floral perfume might seem overwhelming, but a floral eau de toilette seems appealing. Cologne, in particular, is known for cleaner, more citrusy notes. This helped it to become the scent product of choice among upper-class gentlemen back in the day.

Now that perfumes have become the ‘feminine’ scent products and colognes the “masculine” ones, you’ll see very different oil mixtures used between each one.

Look for Longer-Lasting Scents

As we mentioned above, the concentration of oils within a fragrance product affects its longevity. Perfume and eau de parfum have very different time-frames as far as how long it takes for them to wear off. From the shortest lifespan to the longest, the longevity of fragrance products runs as follows:

  • Eau fraiche lasts for less than an hour, making it best for last-minute applications
  • Eau de cologne lasts for about two hours at the most, making it a good choice for a short night out
  • Eau de toilette can last for up to three hours, which makes it a better choice for dinner dates
  • Eau de parfum keeps going for up to eight hours, which makes it a solid choice for daily wear
  • Pure perfume’s scent can remain for up to 21 hours, making them the most set-and-forget fragrance

As you might expect, the longer a scented product lasts, the heavier its scent may be at the outset. So, you don’t want to apply too much pure perfume in one sitting. Better to dab it onto your pulse points and let it evaporate through the day.

Less Alcohol Means Less Dry Skin

One last thing to note when it comes to the differences between perfume vs eau de parfum: The varying concentrations of scented oil and alcohol mean that some fragrance products can dry out your skin. As the pandemic illustrated, overuse of alcohol-based products can wreak havoc on your skin, especially if you’re sensitive to alcohol in any way.

For those with sensitive skin, pure perfume or an eau fraiche made from water might be the best bet. In the interest of avoiding dry skin, you should also take care to examine the scented oils used for the fragrance itself, as you may be allergic or sensitive to one of them and not even know it.

Where to Buy Perfume or Eau de Parfum

Now that you have a complete understanding of the types of fragrance products and all the differences between them, you may wonder where you can buy perfume or eau de parfum. There are a wide variety of places you can purchase these products, including but by no means limited to:

Buying from a Fragrance Store In-Person

One of the best places you can buy perfume from is a dedicated fragrance store. There, you can find employees that are knowledgeable in what scents work best for what people, and which type of fragrance you really need for your life. However, the ambient scents within the store itself can prove rather overwhelming and could prevent you from getting a clear smell of the product you wish to buy.

Plus, unless you know for a fact that the store is a verified seller, you may come across fakes and dupes of the more famous and expensive scents. Make sure you do your research before you decide to visit one of these stores.

Department Store Fragrances

Department stores in shopping malls are one of the primary sources of fragrance products for the upper-middle class. These stores often host fragrances from various high fashion houses, models, and celebrities. While the quality of these fragrance products is usually quite good, you may well wind up paying a premium for getting it in the department store itself.

Plus, if you go there for your fragrances, you have to deal with commissioned salespeople trying to get you to buy their package deals or other things that you don’t need. No one needs that kind of stress these days.

Drug Store Fragrances

The fragrances from the drug store have a bit of a reputation for being low-quality. While some of this is due to straight-out classism, there is a kernel of truth there. Many drug stores offer dupes or fakes of higher-end fragrances. Or else, they offer their own cheaper scent blends.

These can offer the scent of class to those who otherwise could not afford it. However, they are by no means intended as a substitute for a shower or to cover other bad scents. Which is, unfortunately, how some people tend to use these cheaper scents.

Buying Perfume Online

When you hear about buying perfume online, you might feel like it’s a bit sketchy. After all, how can you test the actual scent you’re buying if you order it through the internet? That seems about as risky as buying clothes online, where you can’t verify the fit. Thankfully, most reputable sellers offer a no-hassle return policy. That way, if the scent isn’t to your liking or doesn’t last as long as you’d hoped, you can send it back with no issues.

Perfume vs Eau de Parfum: Let’s Review the Differences

In the battle of perfume vs eau de parfum, you might find yourself wondering, “Is perfume better than eau de parfum?” The answer is that, frankly, it depends on your needs and desires. If you want headier scents that last for a longer time but tend to cost more, then perfume should be your go-to. If you want something more suited to daily wear, then eau de parfum might be better for you.

Whichever option you choose, you’re sure to find a fragrance that works for you and lasts as long as you need it to. If you found this article helpful and would like the read more like it, then check out the Lifestyle section of our blog for more content like this!

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