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Perfume, Eau de Toilette, Cologne. What's the Difference?

Eau de cologne Eau de parfum Eau de toilette Perfume

With Christmas approaching faster than a speeding bullet your attention is probably turning towards pressies. Scents make for a thoughtful gift especially if you spend time choosing the right fragrance but, smell aside, what type of perfume should you get: perfume, eau de perfume, eau de toilette, eau de cologne? To help you choose we’ve put together this short blog to guide you through fragrance terminology

Perfume, Eau de Toilette, Cologne. What’s the Difference?

Whichever you choose they will all be a blend of natural and synthetic aromatic oils to give the fragrance its scent with a carrier such as alcohol. But they’re not all created equal and each perfume house will categorise their perfumes differently based on the amount of aromatic oils in comparison to alcohol. So here’s our guide to help you choose. Note that if you’re looking at an Italian fragrance you may find it’s called “acqua di…” rather than “eau de…”.


Perfume sits right at the top of the tree with anything between 20% to 40% aromatic oils, which is enough to make the scent potent and last all day. The fragrance of perfume will extend from your body and will hang in the air like a dense cloud of scent. If you’re using perfume only a tiny dab on the skin is required, which is just as well as you’ll only find perfumes in very small bottles with a huge price tag. Perfume should be applied to your pulse points, like behind the ears and on the wrists and it’s best to avoid applying to your face as the high aromatic oil concentration can cause irritation. Note synthetic essence provides stability to a fragrance, natural oils vary too much. and people are usually more allergic to natural oils than synthetic.

Gifting perfume really does scream “you’re special” and it’s certainly not a scent for everyday use.

Acca Kappa black pepper and sandalwood eau de parfum


With between 15% and 20% aromatic oils, eau de parfum is the most common fragrance category. They are designed to last all day long but their scent won’t extend as far from your body as with perfume (great news for your colleagues and dining companions!). Eau de parfum tends to have heavier notes like wood and spice making them ideal for the cooler months and evenings.


Expect anything between 5% and 15% aromatic oils in an eau de toilette. At the lower end don’t expect the scent to last the whole day. Eau de toilette tends to be lighter in smell than eau de parfum making them more suited to daytime wear and the summer months.

Pino Silvestri Classic eau de toilette
Proraso Azur Lime eau de cologne


Eau de cologne takes its name from Cologne, Germany where it was first concocted by an Italian barber in the 18th century. Cologne (not just for men) has between 3% and 8% aromatic oils making it the lightest of the scents so far. They only last a few hours so you’ll need to keep spritzing on throughout the day if you want the scent to remain.


Aftershave isn’t really a category of perfume but it is often used as a generic expression to represent a scent for men so we’ve included it here purely for illustrative purposes. Aftershaves come with between 1% to 2% aromatic oils but are also packed with other ingredients to help soothe the skin and reduce irritation after shaving. Their scents are typically delicate and don’t last long. Aftershave is usually applied to the face only.

Pinaud Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum aftershave


We’re now into the realm of splashes, mists, and veils. These typically have less than 3% aromatic oils and are mixed with water rather than alcohol. Great for a quick freshen up without it lasting long.

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