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Cologne Vs Perfume: 10 Things Your Probably Didn’t Know About Fragrances

Different cologne bottles
Cologne Vs Perfume | This article contains affiliate links for Amazon and Mr. Porter

Cologne vs Perfume – What’s The Difference?

Ah, the eternal question: Cologne Vs Perfume.

We certainly live in interesting times.

In an age of equality and inclusiveness, it can even be offensive to deem something as feminine or masculine. When it comes to fragrances though, there are so many misconceptions and lack of knowledge (usually from men). Of course, that spurred me to write an article about them.

Some love, others hate them, but there is no denying that a man or woman that smells nice is very enticing and pleasant.

Before we understand fragrances as a whole though, it is important to settle this Cologne Vs Perfume argument. In today’s article, we will talk about some of the different kinds, names and characteristics that exist.

Read on and find “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Fragrances” (but you should!).

1. The Name Debate

Search around the web and you will find a dozen different names for the scents we spray around our necks.

Arguably, the correct way to name them is either Fragrances or Perfume (Parfum in French) which derives from Latin.

Let’s make a list shall we?

  • Perfume: Comes from the Latin word Perfumare which means “to smoke through“. People wrongly associate it only with women and femininity.
  • Cologne: Often named “Male Cologne “in the western world, most men think it is the masculine way to say perfume. In fact, in Greece we say Ανδρική Κολώνια which is a direct translation of that. However, it is a town in Germany that gave the name to “Eau de Cologne. More on that later.
  • Fragrance: A chemical compound with smell or odor. Essentially, a perfume.
  • Aroma: Another Greek word to describe scent. Gave birth to aromatherapy and in my home country usually is a feminine perfume.

2. The Power Of Smell

Out of our 5 senses, smell is one of the most important to us. It can affect our mood, our levels of hunger, our perception of the situation and compliment moment or a scenery.

It is a fact that when you smell good, you feel good. You have higher levels of confidence, people perceive you as more attractive and people will want to sit next to you.

On the contrary, have you ever wanted to sit next to someone that smells like a wet sock every day?

Back in my army days, I had to sleep on the bunk bed under someone with smelly feet. Initially I thought it was a one time thing but it kept repeating. Eventually, I dragged him to the shower and told him to wash himself.

These days, almost 40% of men between 18-64 admit to never wearing fragrance [source]. A very big mistake for the above reasons and much more.

It is worth investing in a good perfume appropriate for your situations. Additionally, they make for a fantastic gift. Make sure to read our Holiday Gift Guide with Christmas fast approaching.

3. There Are 5 Different Types Of Perfume

Remember the debate we had earlier about how to name everything?

There are 5 main types of fragrances and basically, the difference is how much perfume oil content they contain. This impacts their duration and how light or heavy the scent is.

How? Natural and synthetic oils blend with alcohol to create a scent that stabilises and regulates what the concentration and smell is.

Cologne Vs Perfume: Fragrance Charts
Quick overview of different categories of fragrances | Photo by Dapper Confidential

i) Eau Fraiche

The weakest from all 5 (if you exclude aftershaves) is the Eau Fraiche.

With just 1-3% of alcohol concentration and diluted with water, it is no wonder that they have very short duration. Fraiche is a french word that means “fresh” and this is what it is. Something you use to freshen up for a little while.

Versace Man Eau Fraiche By Gianni Versace For Men Edt Spray 3.4 Oz
Versace Man Eau Fraiche | Browse on Amazon

Personal Opinion: Having a short duration of 1-2 hours, I would not recommend you to invest in an Eau Fraiche.

ii) Eau de Cologne

Commonly referred to as EdC, Eau de Cologne was created in the homonymous city in Germany in 1709.

As aforementioned, nowadays Cologne is strongly associated with masculine scents, which is very ironic considering it’s measly alcoholic content of 2-4%. It is colloquially acceptable to call them cologne, but at least now you know the difference!

The result? A light perfume that will last a little longer than Eau Fraiche but not more than 3 hours.

Baldeššarini Concentree eau de colôgne
Baldeššarini Concentree Eau de Colôgne | Browse on Amazon

Personal Opinion: I would still not purchase something from this category unless budget is really an issue.

iii) Eau de Toilette

Here things begin to get more serious.

Eau de Toilette, or EdT is one of the most popular fragrances for men and women alike, because it offers a good compromise in duration and cost. They contain 5-15% perfume essence, something that allows the scent to remain olfactible for a maximum of 5 hours.

Don’t get confused by the “Toilette” in the name, since it has nothing to do with toilet water. The word means dressing or grooming in French so it was something that complimented evening outfits. If you want to show off even more to your peers, tell them it means “getting ready” from the phrase “faire sa toilette”.

The One EdT by D&G is absolutely one of my favourite fragrances. It as a great smell and lasts for a decent amount of time.

THE ONE By Dolce And Gabbana
D&G The One EdT | Browse on Amazon

Fun Fact: Eau de Toilette was first discovered by Queen Elisabeth of Hungary in the 14th Century!

iv) Eau de Parfum

Parfum is the french word for “perfume“, wrongly associated strictly with women. This is however the best way to describe a fragrance for both sexes.

It got its name from the larger amount of perfume essence which is in the range of 15-20% concentration. Depending on your skin and conditions it can certainly last for up to 8 hours.

THE ONE By Dolce And Gabbana
D&G The One EdP | Browse on Amazon

In my opinion, when it comes to duration this is the sweet spot. I use The One EdP by D&G and It often lasts until the end of the day, with a subtle yet very pleasant smell.

Personal Opinion: For a little more than an EdT, you can get a significantly better performing fragrance. EdP is where value lies.

v) Parfum

Parfum or Pure Perfume is the big daddy of fragrances. Built over a deceptive name, it has the highest concentration range of perfume essence amongst all fragrances (15-40%).

Why deceptive? Because it is not 100% pure perfume, which would actually irritate your skin and have a very unpleasant smell.

In any case, Parfum has a very strong scent and duration. Some of them can last for up to 24 hours! Not only that but they also usually have an impressive “sillage“, which is a term to describe how far the scent can extend.

Terre d'Hermès Pure Perfume
Terre d’Hermès Pure Perfume | Browse on Amazon

Such properties though come with a high price tag, so this is truly the gold standard of fragrances.

Pro Tip: The higher % of alcohol means it’s better for people with more sensitive skin.

4. Perfumes Have Three “Notes”

Essentially what that means is that perfumes have three distinct phases (or layers) after application. Each of those layers is called a “Note” by creators and they have their own unique properties and scents.

Yes, that’s right. A single perfume can have three different scents.

Confused? Let me explain.

Fragrances have top, middle and base layers and smell differentiates when the weaker smells evaporate from your skin. Let’s look at them more closely.

Cologne Vs Perfume: Different Notes
Pyramid of Fragrances | Photo by Dapper Confidential

i) Top Layer – The Selling Point

Whenever you spray a perfume and try it in a store, you get this very strong, potent smell that can influence your opinion. It can be enticing or overwhelming and essentially is a sales pitch.

It is your first impression and it matters for the companies. The want to draw you in into an impulse buy.

However, the Top Layer is also the weakest one and evaporates after 15-20 minutes and fading completely after about an hour.

These layers usually include lighter oils such as citrus and light fruits.

ii) Middle Layer – The Heart

When Top Notes begin to evaporate, they pass the mantle to the Middle Notes of the fragrance. Commonly referred as the Heart of the perfume, these notes are the core of the perfume. They serve as a connection between the Top and Base Notes and last a considerable amount of time.

You will being to smell these around 30 minutes after spraying, so it is advisable that you wait at least 30 minutes when trying a new perfume.

Middle Notes will last for a few hours depending on the fragrance and have mostly floral scents.

iii) Base Layer – The Marathon Runner

As soon as the Middle Notes start to evaporate, the Base Layer will make its full appearance. They last the longer and will linger on your skin for quite a while.

You will certainly spot them after 30-60 minutes, working in tandem with the Heart Notes to create a well balanced package. Around 20% of the fragrance includes them and has a more woody scent.

The next time you are at the mall trying perfumes, spray a bit, make your shopping or walk around and then check how the real smell is.

5. There are 4 Main Families Of Scents

The handy pyramid above deserves its own section. Why?

Take a closer look and you will spot many familiar names in each box, which pertain to different categories of scents.

In older times the traditional classification included a lot of different categories, that expanded after 1945 to accommodate advances in technology and the creation of new scents.

To make things easier, in 1983 Michael Edwards created the Fragrance Wheel. This Wheel divides fragrances in 4 main categories, while each has their own sub-groups.

Fragrance Wheel
The Fragrance Wheel | © Michael Edwards

i) Floral

Floral scents are overwhelmingly the base of most feminine perfumes. They have a scent from one or more particular flowers such as jasmine or lily.

Some floral mixes exist for men, but I would personally avoid them and choose more masculine notes.

For reference, some of the sub-categories include Floral, Soft Floral and Floral Oriental.

ii) Oriental

A gender neutral category, Oriental can be worn by both men and women.

These compositions create unique and rich scents by drawing inspiration from spices, animal notes and precious elements such as amber.

iii) Woody

If you are the masculine type or like to project that along with some authority down the road, Woody scents are a fail-safe option.

These fragrances typically include woody scents such as sandalwood or cedarwood. Additionally, they often blend well with patchouli.

sandalwood example - Misiu Academy Fragrances
Example of Sandalwood

Some of the sub-categories include mossy and dry woody notes.

iv) Fresh

When I think of the word fresh, my mind usually goes to fresh fruit, or the refreshing effect of the ocean.

Which is exactly what this family is about. Grassy, oceanic and fruity notes dominate these fragrances and can be found in both male and female versions.

Fruity Essential Oils - Fragrances
If you would eat them, you can spray them

Citrus is a really well-known component of perfumes that belong in the Fresh family.

6. Don’t Overapply

Do you remember that time when you were on the bus? The door opened and before anyone comes in you felt this absolutely overwhelming scent of perfume. A few seconds later, a beautiful woman comes in, but you are gasping for air.

Meme about smell
We all have been there

Want another story? I was 15, waiting for my best friend at the time to get ready in his room. Just before we were ready to go out, he started spraying himself with cologne. On his chest, on his arms, on his wrists, hair and even shoes.

He ended up smelling like a Bantha (Star Wars reference for you nerds).

Star Wars Bantha
A Bantha | Star Wars

Don’t be that person. Be reasonable. You want a subtle, signature scent that produces a pleasant smell, otherwise you end up no better than the smelly person you try to avoid.

Lastly, you should apply less amounts and lighter fragrances during the summer.

7. What Works For Me, Might Not  Work For You

Picture this.

Last Friday, you meet your friend for an after-work coffee to catch up. He is wearing a really nice perfume that you feel would suit you well. After coffee, you go to the local mall and buy the same fragrance. On Saturday night, you wear proudly your new perfume and…it smells terribly different. Why?

To avoid all the technical details, the reason is chemistry. Your body’s own scent and the perfume react chemically and this reaction can alter the result, since every person is unique. Dietary habits, lifestyle choices and oily skin can further amplify this change.

TLDR: Chemistry of your skin can cause the same perfume to have two different smells on two different people.

8. Ingredients Are Protected By Law

According to the FDA in the US, fragrance ingredients can be labelled as “fragrance” and the reason behind this is the same as with many other industries. It is a trade secret and therefore protected by law.

For you as a consumer this means that if the label says “fragrance“, it can include a list of unknown ingredients. It is quite a funny attempt to protect businesses, since there are many cheap knock-offs of famous perfumes around the world that were made through mixing and lab analysis.

If you want to read more on the subject, you can start here.

PS. Many of these ingredients have never been tested. Check the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics here.

9. Spray Correctly

Remember my best friend that sprayed perfume even on his shoes? If it sounds familiar, you are probably doing it wrong. Here are some tips:

  • Spray only once: You do not need to re-apply unless the scent has completely faded and 1 good spray per area ensures maximum efficiency.
  • Apply on dry skin: Preferably after a shower. Why? Because your skin pores are open and they can trap molecules easier for longer duration.
  • Spray on pulse points: We all have heat points that help diffuse and amplify scents. These include lower neck, armpits and shoulders. One good spray on the neck or chest is a good start.
  • Don’t spray your crotch: For the sake of you and your peers.
  • Hold the distance: Hold the bottle between 3-6 inches and press the nozzle for maximum efficiency. If you notice squirting, you need to replace the nozzle.
  • Don’t spray the air and walk through: It is a colossal waste with most of the perfume falling in the floor and you looking like a sitcom star.
  • Do not rub it on your skin: You will break the molecules faster and kill the notes (and the duration).
  • Avoid spraying your clothes: Do you really want to spray chemicals on that expensive Cashmere Sweater? It can stain your clothes.

10. Perfumes Have Expiry Dates

Even water has an expiry date so it comes to no surprise that perfumes do too.

The average shelf life of perfumes depends on many variables, but the general consensus is that they will last 3-5 years before creating irritation on your skin and change significantly in odour.

That being said, perfumes will break down much faster if left in direct sunlight, so store them in a cool, dark area.

Your average 50 ml bottle will generate approximately 735 sprays and about double that amount for a 100 ml product (source). What that means is that the first will last you for about 1 year if you spray twice each day and the latter 2 years.

Cologne Vs Perfume – Long Read, But Worth It

So much information to take in, but hopefully an easy read. If you were brave and made it to the end of this article you are probably able to begin your fragrance journey.

Man Spraying Cologne

Only this time, you are equipped with much more knowledge in order to make the correct choice for you and the people around you.

You now know more than 99% of men regarding perfumes and if you are uncertain about something, you can always come back to this article or leave your question in the comments down below.

This brings us to the end of the “Cologne Vs Perfume Guide“. I hope you enjoyed it and have a much clearer idea about the different types of fragrances!

Upcoming content: I have a lot of fun writing these and I hope you learn a bit more about me in the process! Stay tuned for upcoming Cashmere knitwear reviews and a custom handmade wallet. I have also some interviews lined up with some amazing people!

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy

Comments (1)

[…] extends to much more than a good fitting suit and shoes. Much of it is in the little details that many men tend to ignore or pay less attention […]

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