The difference between perfume and eau-de-toilette

Many perfumes released by the fashion houses come in different versions: the main perfume, the eau de parfum version, and the eau de toilette version. But what’s the difference between a perfume and an eau de toilette (or an eau de parfum or eau de cologne, for that matter)?

The key is in the amount of distilled fragrance in each. Perfumes are blends of essential oils (or their chemical compounds), a solvent that the oil/aromatic compound is disolved in, and a fixative, which is designed to ensure the scent doesn’t evaporate too quickly.

The most expensive element is the essential oil or aromatic compound. The costliest essential oil is rose – it takes around 60,000 petals to make just an ounce of rose oil. Another very expensive oil is sandalwood – the true sandalwood tree is a threatened species and only grows in certain places in western India. It’s been protected by law to prevent extinction, so only a few trees (which take eight years to grow) can be harvested to provide the scent. Some related sandalwood species such as Australian sandalwood are used instead, but their scent differs a bit from true sandalwood. Even if the aromatic compound is manufactured in a laboratory rather than harvested in nature, it is expensive due to the amount of research that goes into producing something that smells natural.

Therefore, perfume companies produce a range of scents, with a range of concentration of essential oils or aromatic compounds. Eau de Cologne has the least amount of essential oils – about 5%, though this can vary by a few percentage points. The rest is solvent, and typically it comes in a fairly large bottle. It’s the least expensive version of a scent. Eau de Toilette is next with about 10% essential oils, and is more expensive than Eau de Cologne. Then comes Eau de Parfum, with 15% essential oils, and finally perfume, with 20% essential oils (though some perfumes have a higher concentration).

Depending on the strength of a scent, some women prefer to use the Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette versions as they have a lighter, fresher feel. But don’t spray it about like you would do an Eau de Cologne – you are using too much. If you do use full strength perfume, be sure to only dab a few drops (use the stopper to dot the scent on your neck and wrists) – that’s all you really need, due to the concentration of the scent. Anything more would be overpowering and wasteful.