Does it matter if you use cologne instead of perfume? Yes, it does. Are they the same? Well, the answer is no. One might often see the terms perfume and cologne being used interchangeably — the reason being a lack of proper understanding of scents. However, the cologne vs perfume debate can be settled once and for all by noting a few simple yet significant differences between the two.

Factors that one needs to consider while understanding the difference between cologne and perfume are potency, longevity and concentration of the essential oils. While at the primal level, both cologne and perfume are responsible for neutralising body odour and keeping one fresh, it is always advisable to wear selected fragrances carefully, as they are safer and more persuasive. The fragrance you wear expresses who you are in an intimate way, and it is crucial that you choose the right bottle — one that lasts long and smells good.

Cologne vs perfume: What’s the difference?

cologne vs perfume

Furthering the cologne vs debate, while cologne is an umbrella term for fragrances that have low essential oil concentrations, perfumes are mostly formed from aromatic essential oils, absolutes or synthetic aromatic compounds and contain the highest concentration of essential oils in a scented product.

A cologne is mild, less potent and needs to be applied frequently and liberally for the scent to last long. That’s not the case with perfumes. The larger concentration of essential oils in perfumes makes them heavier than colognes. So, the lasting effect of perfumes is longer than colognes.

A cologne is marketed heavily towards men and perfume towards women. However, that’s the only difference between the two that doesn’t count. It is important to note that these scents do not follow any gender rules and are unisex. Women can use cologne just as much as men can use perfume.

Types of fragrances

cologne vs perfume
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Most fragrances have a water, oil or alcohol base. The difference comes with the concentration of essential or fragrance oils in their respective bases. Following are the five main types of fragrances.

Perfume or pure parfum

Also known as extrait de parfum, it is the purest and most potent form of perfume. Pure Parfum has the highest fragrance oil concentration of about 15 to 30 percent. It also comes with low alcohol content.

Although pure parfums may be on the pricier side due to their high fragrance oil concentration, they come with a strong smell and last the longest — usually six to eight hours a day.

In most of the cologne vs perfume debates, perfume is considered superior since it has a relatively low alcohol concentration and is often good on the skin, especially for people with sensitive skin.

Eau de parfum (EDP)

Eau de parfum has the second-highest concentration of essential oils, between 15 to 20 percent and longevity of four to five hours. However, these might leave stains on delicate garments like silk. So, one should be careful during application.

One of the most common fragrances, EDPs are less expensive than perfumes.

Eau de toilette (EDT)

Derived from the French term faire sa toilette (getting ready), EDT has a light spray composition and contains around 5 to 15 percent fragrance oil concentration. Relatively less pricey than EDPs, these fragrances are one of the most popular average-day wear and last up to two to three hours.

Eau de cologne (EDC)

Otherwise known as cologne, EDCs come with a very lightweight concentration of fragrance oils — usually 2 to 4 percent — but have a higher alcohol content. This makes the fragrance cheaper than EDPs and EDTs, giving it a longevity of only two hours.

Eau Fraîche

The most diluted version of perfume, Eau Fraîche has just 1 to 3 percent fragrance concentration. They also have a low alcohol content, are affordable and serve as a quick refresher with a scent lasting for about two hours.

How are essential oils used in each fragrance type?

cologne vs perfume difference
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Essential oils make for one of the most important components of a fragrance and are mostly found in its notes. However, essential oils are quite concentrated and only work well when properly diluted and blended with water and alcohol.

The fundamental difference that identifies each type of fragrance is mostly determined by the concentration level of aromatic ingredients in the oil and water blend.

Two important essential oils with therapeutic and medicinal qualities are:

Uplifting lemon essential oil: This essential oil having a Middle-Eastern origin is attributed with healing properties and carries the fruity citrus notes from a developed species — a cross between lime and citron. Used mostly as a top note in fragrances, the oil’s lemon aroma uplifts the mood and promotes productivity, as per experts.

Calming lavender oil: With 47 identified species, this flowering plant is one of the most frequently used essential oils in the world and is usually found in the middle notes of a fragrance. Cedarwood, rosemary, chamomile and eucalyptus blend well with their floral aroma.

What are fragrance notes?

Most fragrances have a three-part smell. One can smell its top notes (lemon) within the first 5 to 15 minutes of application, and they bring in a fresh and strong aroma. The middle notes (lavender) are the heart of a fragrance and start making an appearance after 20 to 60 minutes, while base notes (patchouli) last the longest, and one can smell them within five to eight hours of application.

How to choose between cologne and perfume?

cologne vs perfume difference
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Choosing between cologne and perfume can be difficult, but it all zeroes down to one’s individual preferences. However, the following points can help you select your favourite bottle.

  • The first step is to research and choose the fragrance you truly associate with or love, be it a cologne or a perfume.
  • Pay attention to the notes and the overall concentration of the scent. Do not buy without trying out samples.
  • Testing on the skin before buying is a must. If the high concentration of perfumes irritates your skin, cologne is a perfect choice for you. However, it is advisable to test the selected cologne on your skin as well.

(Main image: Courtesy Camille Paralisan/Unsplash; Featured image: Courtesy Saman Taheri/Unsplash)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: What lasts longer — cologne or perfume?

Answer: Perfumes contain the highest concentration of oil, usually 15 to 30 percent and last six to eight hours, which is quite longer than cologne. Colognes contain only 2 to 4 percent concentration and last for two hours.

Question: Is cologne the same as perfume?

Answer: Colognes and perfumes are both fragrances but are different from each other in relation to the potency, longevity and concentration of their essential oils.

Question: Is cologne just male perfume?

Answer: Although colognes are marketed heavily towards men and perfumes toward women, these scents do not follow any gender rules and are unisex. Women can use colognes just as much as men can use perfumes.

Question: Why do men use colognes instead of perfumes?

Answer: Both fragrances are great to make one feel fresh and smell good. However, colognes are typically considered more masculine. According to 'BBC Science Focus Magazine', one reason for that could be floral scents mostly being associated with women as flowers have been used "as metaphors of feminine fertility since antiquity, while the link between men and musky smells may come from the fact that men’s body odour is usually more musky than women’s."

Question: Where do you apply cologne?

Answer: The body heat warms the cologne fragrance throughout the day and diffuses it to blend with your skin. Hence, it is advised one uses cologne on the neck, chest, the creases of the arms (inner elbows), forearms and wrists.

Question: What are the three types of perfumes?

Answer: The three types of perfume are Parfum, Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette.

Question: Is cologne for clothes or skin?

Answer: Colognes are for the skin. Spraying cologne on clothes will prevent it from mixing with the body's natural oils and stop it from giving you your signature quality scent.

Question: How to wear cologne?

Answer: Apply cologne after showering to let it absorb better into your body. It is also advisable to hold the bottle three to six inches away from your body and then spray the fragrance.

written by.

Sushmita Mahanta

A PhD research scholar, Sushmita is a full-time writer and a part time poet. Clashing and colliding with words since childhood, there was nothing better than writing she could do to make a living. Notepads are Sushmita's one true love -- the unbothered victims drowned in the ink of her pen. An avid fan of K-pop and K-dramas, she mostly writes about Korean culture and entertainment. When not writing, Sushmita is dancing, reading, collecting books, learning about fashion, art, motion pictures, and appreciating BTS.
Cologne Vs Perfume: How To Tell Them Apart?