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How to Tell the Difference Between Perfume, Cologne, and Eau de Toilette

When standing in a boutique and choosing a fragrance, most people don’t usually pay attention to a particular type of perfume and just buy what they like. And a vast majority of people don’t know what “eau fraiche” stands for. Finding the right type of scent is just as important as choosing a suitable fragrance — it could choke you and everyone around you if it’s too strong! And it’ll fade away in the blink of an eye if it’s too light.

Here at Bright Side, we love getting lost in complicated concepts and then explaining them in simple terms. Here’s how to easily distinguish between 5 of the most popular kinds of scents in the big and complicated world of perfumery.


Mankind has been familiar with perfume since ancient times when salves and balms were made with the help of essential oils. Nowadays, perfume has the highest concentration of essential oils, about 20% to 30%, resulting in a creamier fragrance that makes it a more persistent, long-lasting scent.

The scent might stay on the skin for approximately 6 hours and fabrics can keep it for more than a day. This makes perfume the most high-priced of all perfumery options and clearly isn’t intended for everyday use.

Eau de parfum

Many confuse eau de parfum with regular perfume. However, the keyword here is “eau” (from water), which emphasizes that the essence is more dissolved. The portion of oil substances in eau de parfum or perfumed water is a bit lower at about 15% to 20%. These fragrances last for about 4 hours on the skin and compared to perfume, they’re relatively light and can be used during the day.

Eau de toilette

Eau de toilette was first produced in the 14th century and was also called “heavenly water”. Today, it’s a light type of perfume that contains 5% to 15% pure perfume essence softened with alcohol. It usually lasts for about 2 to 3 hours and has a discreet trail of scent which makes it appropriate for hot summer days. This is the most popular choice of perfumery nowadays.

Eau de cologne

Meaning “water from cologne”, this type of perfume was used in North America for scents for men. Today, eau de cologne usually means light, fresh or fruity scented fragrances, composed of 2% to 4% essential oils with alcohol and water, usually lasting for about 2 hours. This light aroma is often used by younger people.

Eau fraiche

“Eau fraiche” translates to “fresh water” and represents the lightest perfume option — the concentration of the oil component is approximately 1% to 3%. The fragrance lasts on the skin for less than an hour, making its aromatic notes practically indistinguishable. Its scents are typically simple and refreshing. Eau fraiche usually is lower in price and can be used at any time of the day, including during active sports.

We didn’t know that perfume and eau de parfum were different things, did you? What types of fragrances do you prefer? We’d be happy to hear from you in the comments below.

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