Inside Perfume

Concentrating On Concentration

Posted on: September 22, 2008

Have you ever wondered about the French terms you always see on a fragrance bottle? Eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau de cologne. I always thought it was a fancy way of labeling what’s for men and what’s for women. Now that I work in the industry, and I’m getting to know more about perfume, I learned something about these terms that really made me step back. They actually refer to the concentration of perfume oil, or aromatic compounds, in the product. Intensity and longevity of a fragrance is increased by creating it with a higher concentration of perfume oil.

Perfume oil, in it’s fully concentrated state, is too intense to enjoy at all. It can also cause an allergic reaction unless it is diluted. Perfume oil is most commonly diluted using ethanol, or ethanol and water. Perfume oil can also be diluted with neutral-smelling lipids like jojoba, coconut oil or wax.

I always thought eau de cologne was simply “men’s fragrance.” It’s actually just a fragrance with the smallest concentration of perfume oil. Eau de Cologne was originally a fragrance and trademark of a low level concentration fragrance made in Cologne, Germany. The term became a generic reference to fragrances with a low level of perfume oil concentration. Aromatic compounds make up only 2-5% of a cologne. An eau de cologne could be a men’s or women’s fragrance, though it is a concentration rarely made for women. 

An eau de toilette typically has a 10% perfume oil concentration, but can range from 5-20%. It’s concentration range overlaps that of eau de parfum, 15-30%. Though eau de parfum is typically a 20% concentration of aromatic compounds, it is not always more intense than eau de toilette. An eau de toilette is usually considered a lighter and fresher version of a fragrance. It’s formula can actually be tweaked for this reason, still holding a similar perfume accord though.

Next time you’re shopping for a fragrance, pay attention to these terms. If you don’t like a strong fragrance try an eau de toilette. If you see a line that offers both an eau de toilette and an eau de parfum, test them both and see if you notice the lighter, fresher scent of the eau de toilette. Tell me about your discovery.

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