Fragrance Concentrations Explained

We’ve all come across phrases such as Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, and Eau de Parfum on fragrance bottles and wondered what these terms actually mean.

In the past, many of us believed that cologne was for men, and perfume (or Eau de Parfum) was for women. As you will see, these terms only refer to the fragrance concentration within the bottle and do not indicate a gender association.

In this article, we’ll explore the various fragrance concentration categories and then delve a little deeper into their nuances. I will also share my findings from a personal fragrance concentration comparison. 

Fragrance Concentration Defined

Fragrances consist of:

  • Essential oils: These are derived from natural aromatic plant extracts or synthetic aromatic chemicals.
  • Solvents: The fragrance oil is dissolved in a liquid called a solvent, typically made up of 98% ethanol and 2% water.
  • Fixatives: These are natural or synthetic substances that help reduce the evaporation rate of the fragrance, making the scent last longer. [1]

Fragrance concentration refers to the amount of oils in a fragrance, and it can be a useful guide when evaluating the strength and longevity of a fragrance.

Read on to learn about the following fragrance concentrations:

  • Eau Fraiche
  • Eau de Cologne
  • Eau de Toilette
  • Eau de Parfum
  • Parfum

Fragrance concentration guide

Eau Fraiche

Eau Fraiche has the lowest concentration of fragrance oil, at 1 – 3%. Its longevity is typically 1 – 2 hours. 

Eau Fraiche is often enjoyed as a daytime fragrance during the summer. It is sometimes preferred by those who are sensitive to scent as it is light and subtle.

Some refer to Eau Fraiche as a body mist, and in some cases, Eau Fraiche does not contain any alcohol at all; instead, it is mainly composed of water.

Eau de Cologne (EDC)

Eau de Cologne has a fragrance oil concentration of 2 – 5%. The longevity of Eau de Cologne averages 2 – 3 hours.

Eau de Colognes are often light and fresh fragrances, well-suited for daytime use. Traditionally, Eau de Colognes contain refreshing scent notes, such as citruses, neroli, and lavender.

The first ever Eau de Cologne was created in 1709 by Johann Maria Farina, an Italian perfume maker. Farina described it to his brother, writing, “I have found a fragrance that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain.” He gave the fragrance the name Eau de Cologne in honor of his hometown, Cologne.

Eau de Toilette (EDT)

Eau de Toilette has a fragrance oil concentration of 5 – 15%. Eau de Toilette tends to have a longer longevity of 3 – 6 hours.

In some fragrance lines, the Eau de Toilette has greater longevity than all of the other concentrations.

Eau de Toilette is very versatile, and its light composition makes it appropriate for almost any occasion or season. 

In Eau de Toilette, the top notes tend to be the most pronounced, which can make it project more than other concentrations and give it a lighter feel.

Being less expensive than Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette is one of the most popular fragrance concentrations due to its longevity, versatility, projection, and affordability.

Although the exact origin of Eau de Toilette remains unclear, it dates back to 14th-century Europe, with claims of being created for Queen Elisabeth of Hungary.

The term “toilette” originates from the French term, “faire sa toilette,” which refers to the routine of preparing yourself for the day ahead, from washing to carrying out your daily beauty rituals. Eau de Toilette translates to “water of the toilette,” historically denoting scented water used to perfume the body and hair. 

Eau de Parfum (EDP)

Bottle of Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum

Eau de Parfum has a fragrance oil concentration of 15 – 25%. Its longevity usually ranges from 4 – 8 hours. 

In Eau de Parfum, the middle notes tend to be more pronounced, leading to a stronger scent and performance compared to Eau de Toilette. Due to its higher concentration of fragrance oil, it may not project as much as an Eau de Toilette, but it will typically last longer on the skin. 

The emphasis on the middle notes can provide a more rich and robust experience compared to Eau de Toilette.

Eau de Parfum, alongside Eau de Toilette, is the most popular fragrance concentration. Some consider Eau de Parfum to be more of an evening fragrance. However, many opt for Eau de Parfum as their regular daytime scent, especially if they like to make a statement with their fragrance.

The term “parfum” has its origins in the Latin word “per fumum,” which means “through smoke.” Perfumes were initially created by burning aromatic materials, such as resins, herbs, and spices, to produce fragrant smoke.

Parfum / Extrait de Parfum

Parfum has a fragrance oil concentration of 25 – 45%. It can have a longevity of 8 – 12 hours, with some lasting up to 24 hours.

The highly concentrated Parfum (also known as Extrait de Parfum, or Pure Parfum) is generally the best-performing and longest-lasting of all the fragrance concentrations. It is also the most expensive of the fragrance concentrations but requires less quantity to be effective.

Parfum is popular with those who want the most complete, full-bodied fragrance experience possible, as the full profile of top, middle, and base notes is on display. 

Parfum is a great choice for those who want their fragrance to last all day with no need to re-apply, although some people can find it too intense or harsh.

The high concentration of fragrance oils in Parfum can cause it to take a long time to dry on the skin and can stain clothing if not careful. 

How Do Fragrance Concentrations Actually Work?

The above-noted fragrance concentration classifications are broad generalizations, with a wide range in each category, as there are no rules or regulations that require perfumers to all use the same standards. [2] Perfumers usually stick to a concentration somewhere within these ranges, but results can vary between designers.

These guides can give you an idea of a fragrance’s strength and longevity, but there are other factors to consider as well.

It All Comes Down to the Notes

Fragrance performance and longevity can also depend on the actual materials and ingredients used, rather than the oil concentration alone.

Most fragrance lines have slightly different formulations from Eau de Cologne up through to Parfum. The emphasis and ingredients of the notes change in each formulation. These formulation changes have an impact on the projection and longevity of the fragrance. For example, woody, vanilla, and floral notes tend to be longer-lasting compared to citrus notes. [3]

Each fragrance material and ingredient has its own unique chemical properties as well, with varying rates of evaporation and varying thresholds of detection.

Add to this the human aspect, with each individual’s skin chemistry impacting fragrance performance and longevity, and each person perceiving the same scents in different ways, and it all becomes extremely complex!

Test Them for Yourself!

With fragrance concentration categories only acting as a rough guide, and the variation in each person’s perception of the notes composing each fragrance, the best option is to get some samples and try them out for yourself!

Sampling fragrances is always the best way to experience scents, discover how they interact with your unique body chemistry, and find the ones that suit you best.

Bleu de Chanel – Eau de Toilette vs. Eau de Parfum

While writing this article, I tested Bleu de Chanel Eau de Toilette vs. Eau de Parfum, applying the fragrances directly to my skin.

The results surprised me, with the Eau de Toilette having greater longevity than the Eau de Parfum. The formulations also showed noticeable differences in their notes. The Eau de Toilette had light and fresh citrus top notes on opening, and the Eau de Parfum had noticeable pepper notes, and deeper citrus notes. 

After 5 hours, both the Eau de Toilette and the Eau de Parfum were still lingering lightly on my skin. By this point, the Eau de Toilette had a stronger presence, while the Eau de Parfum was barely noticeable. The Eau de Toilette retained its freshness with a light woody musk dry down, and the Eau de Parfum’s dry down exhibited smoother, deeper woody notes.

Many people report the opposite experience, finding better performance from the Eau de Parfum, although it is often noted that the Eau de Parfum lasts longer when sprayed on clothes in addition to the skin.

This experience emphasizes the importance of testing fragrances for yourself, as the way they interact with your individual skin chemistry can lead to surprising outcomes. Exploring the intricacies and nuances of different scents adds to the pleasure of finding the perfect fragrance that truly resonates with you. 

What Next? 

Now that you understand the differences between fragrance concentrations, delve deeper into the notes of fragrances!

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