Perfume vs. Cologne: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Choose?

Perfume vs. Cologne: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Choose?

Do you know the difference between perfume and cologne? Many people think the difference is that perfumes are designed for women, while colognes are meant for men. However, that’s not the case. 

The difference between perfume and cologne actually comes down to how much perfume oil they contain–and these two types of fragrances are very different in that department. 

Let’s go over the exact difference between perfume and cologne, as well as why you might want to wear one versus the other. 

Perfume vs. Cologne: What’s the Difference? 

Fragrances are made of fragrance oil that has been diluted in alcohol and water. The name given to the fragrance–like perfume or cologne–tells you how much fragrance oil it contains. 

These are the five main fragrance concentrations, ordered from most to least concentrated:

  • Extrait de Parfum: 20% to 40%
  • Eau de Parfum: 15% to 20%
  • Eau de Toilette: 5% to 15%
  • Eau de Cologne: 2% to 4%
  • Eau Fraiche: 1% to 3%

As you can see, the two types of parfum, or perfume, are the most concentrated, while cologne is much more diluted. Because of that, perfumes are generally much more potent, projected, and long-lasting compared to colognes. 

If someone calls a fragrance a “perfume” rather than using one of the French terms, it’s important to consider that they could be talking about either an extrait de parfum or an eau de parfum. Still, whichever they’re referring to, all types of perfume have a much higher concentration of oils than cologne. Even the lightest eau de parfum is over three times more concentrated than the strongest cologne. 

Perfume vs. Cologne: Who Is It For? 

If the main difference between perfume and cologne is oil concentration, why do many people think perfume is for women and cologne is for men? Essentially, it’s due to marketing. 

Perfumers tend to market perfumes and colognes as being either feminine, masculine, or unisex. And it just so happens that perfumes are more often marketed as feminine scents, while colognes are more often marketed as masculine scents. 

Yet, either of these fragrance concentrations can have traditionally feminine or masculine scent profiles. A perfume might smell quite masculine and a cologne might smell quite feminine. And whether a fragrance is a perfume or a cologne, or feminine or masculine, anyone of any gender can wear it. Perfumes and colognes are simply for whoever wants to wear them. 

Perfume vs. Cologne: Which Should You Choose? 

There are five main fragrance concentrations. But which should you choose?

The fragrance you should choose depends on what you’re looking for–and how sensitive your nose is. People with very sensitive noses may want to exclusively stick to cologne and eau fraiche fragrances. Those who like to only wear stronger scents will want to choose one of the perfume options. Then, others may want to choose their strength depending on their mood or their plans for the day. 

Let’s go over how strong these concentrations tend to be, how long they usually last, and who may want to wear them. 

Extrait de Parfum

Also known as pure perfume or perfume extract, extrait de parfum is the most concentrated type of fragrance. With a perfume concentration of 20% to 40%, extrait is a potent option that can last for 24 hours with a single application. 

Pure perfume is a good choice for fragrance fans who enjoy very strong scents–and don’t mind paying more for it. Having the maximum concentration of fragrance oils comes with a higher price tag. Furthermore, extraits often feature more expensive ingredients in general. Many perfumers who create extraits view them a luxury option that should be made with particularly rare or especially high quality ingredients. 

Extrait de parfum can also be excellent for those who have more sensitive skin. Because it has a higher concentration of fragrance oils, this type of perfume has a lower alcohol content. 

Eau de Parfum

Eau de parfum, also simply called perfume, is one of the most popular types of fragrances. Featuring a fragrance oil concentration of 15% to 20%, eau de parfums tend to last for around 6 to 12 hours after application. 

Eau de parfum is a great choice for those who appreciate long-lasting scents, yet don’t want to pay a premium for an ultra concentrated extrait. Eau de parfums are a crowd-pleasing option that will generally last all day without the need for reapplication. 

Eau de Toilette 

Eau de toilette is another immensely popular type of fragrance. With a fragrance oil concentration of 5% to 15%, eau de toilette fragrances are a medium-light option that will last for around 3 to 8 hours. 

Eau de toilette fragrances are perfect for those who love a lighter fragrance experience. Eau de toilettes are less concentrated than eau de parfums and they tend to feature lighter fragrance notes overall. Eau de toilettes are also generally more affordable than parfums, so they can be a great choice for those with a smaller budget. 

Eau de Cologne

Eau de cologne, also simply called cologne, is a light type of fragrance. Featuring 2% to 4% fragrance oil, colognes typically last for 1 to 3 hours. 

Eau de cologne fragrances are ideal for those who enjoy light, fresh scents and those who don’t mind needing to reapply their fragrance for all-day wear. They’re also an affordable option and a good choice for warmer weather, which can cause strong fragrances to feel overwhelming. 

Keep in mind that eau de cologne has quite a high alcohol content, so it isn’t always ideal for those with sensitive skin. If you want a lighter fragrance but your skin is irritated by alcohol, you will probably prefer an eau fraiche over a cologne. 

Eau Fraiche

Eau fraiche, meaning “cool water,” is a very light type of fragrance. This airy formulation features 1% to 3% fragrance oil, giving it an average duration of 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

In addition to having a low fragrance oil concentration, eau fraiche fragrances tend to contain either little alcohol or no alcohol. The base of an eau fraiche is primarily water. This makes it a better option for those with sensitive skin or dry skin compared to colognes. 

Eau fraiche fragrances are lovely for those who prefer subtle scents in general. They’re also a wonderful option to have on hand even if you also enjoy strong fragrances. An eau fraiche can provide a refreshing experience after a morning shower or a long day. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a fragrance that will give you a boost, without sticking around all day or night. 

Perfume vs. Cologne: A Note on Fragrance Notes

Fragrance concentration has a major impact on strength and longevity, but it’s not the only factor. A fragrance’s blend of notes will also impact its potency and duration. 

Fragrances feature a blend of top notes, middle notes, and base notes. Top notes tend to dissipate more quickly, while middle notes linger longer and base notes last the longest. 

Specific notes will fall into these categories based on longevity. Some common top notes include herbal and citrus notes like bergamot, lemon, lavender, and basil. Common middle notes include aromatic and floral notes such as jasmine, neroli, cinnamon, and pine. Common base notes include ambery or woody notes like sandalwood, cedarwood, amber, white musk, and patchouli. 

So, each fragrance has top, middle, and base notes in its fragrance oil blend, but the ratio of these can vary depending on the specific scent–and sometimes that can have a substantial effect on longevity. For example, say you have an eau de parfum that’s mostly made of light citrus and floral scents. An eau de toilette that mostly features woody notes could outlast that eau de parfum, simply because woody scents are longer lasting in general. 

While more concentrated fragrances are stronger overall, notes also play a role in longevity. Therefore, if you want a shorter or longer-lasting aroma, keep your fragrance’s notes and fragrance category in mind as well. 

Final Thoughts 

We hope this guide to cologne vs. perfume has been helpful as you consider which would be the better option for you. If you still have questions about fragrance concentrations or if you have a specific question about one of our scents, feel free to send us a message

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