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What Are Fragrances?
A fragrance is a complex mixture of what people in the perfume
industry refer to as raw materials. These raw materials can be
extracts from natural sources or synthetic raw materials.
Perfumed oils are dissolved in a solvent (usually alcohol) to
preserve a pleasant concoction of scents. A higher concentration of
oils usually means a stronger fragrance. The strength of the
fragrance determines how long an application lasts on your skin.
It’s important to note that every fragrance smells different on
every person. It’s this uncertainty and complexity that intimidates
many men, but if you look at it as a process of discovery, it can
become an enjoyable journey.
What is the Difference Between Fragrance, Perfume, Toilette, and
Fragrance is a unisex, generic term used for perfume. It comes in
many forms and is called different names but generally falls into
- Eau Fraiche. The most diluted version of fragrance, usually with 1-3% perfume
oil in alcohol and water. Usually lasts for less than an hour.
- Cologne (Eau de Cologne). Oldest term for perfume, used in North America for masculine
scents. Light, fresh, and fruity, typically composed of 2-4%
perfume oils in alcohol and water. Tends to be used in fragrances
for younger people. Usually lasts for about 2 hours
- Toilette (Eau de Toilette). A light spray composition with 5-15% pure perfume essence
dissolved in alcohol. Usually lasts for about 3 hours.
- Perfume (Eau de Parfum). Historically genderless, used to describe both men’s and women’s
products, and is the best term for describing a fragrance. (I’ll be
using cologne more in this post though, simply because that’s the
term most readers associate with fragrance.) Contains 15-20% pure
perfume essence and lasts for about 5 to 8 hours.
- Parfum. A corruption of the Latin phrase per fumum (through smoke). The
most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance options. Slightly
oilier, parfum (or perfume; you can see how these terms get
confusing!) is composed of 20-30% pure perfume essence. A single
application can last up to 24 hours.
The Life Cycle Of Fragrances
Fragrances have a three-part life cycle; think of an evaporating
pyramid where the top slowly disappears until you reach the base.
Each of the three sections contain individual scents, or notes,
that are belted together into what you smell.
There are three different types of notes that comprise the scent of
most fragrances: top, medium, and base notes:
- Top note. The top note is the initial, lighter smell of the fragrance that
hits the nose immediately after application to the skin. The top
note lasts from 15 minutes to 2 hours. Typical top notes are
various light floral scents, citrus, fruity scents, powdery scents,
marines and aquatics, and spices such as cinnamon.
- Medium note. Also referred to as the middle or heart notes. The middle note
showcases the main element of the fragrance. Middle notes develop
after the top note clears and can last 3-5 hours after being
sprayed. This is in addition to the top note; they build off each
other. Heart notes most often include heavier floral scents such as
jasmine, or green scents such as grass or stone. Spice scents such
as cinnamon and clove can appear here, along with fruity scents as
- Base note. The last to develop, these scents are often the bolder notes of
the scent which become more noticeable later in the day. Base notes
lay the foundation and will determine how long the fragrance lasts
on your skin. They tend to last from 5 to 10 hours. Typical base
notes are sandalwood, moss, vetiver, vanilla, tar, leather, smoke,
tobacco, and musk.
Below you can see just a sample of the wide range of scents
available. The four main families are a general guide — you’ll want
to explore each and find the scents within them that you enjoy and
want to make your own.
As the notes dry up, the scent will change, allowing for the
fragrance to evolve and become more interesting. Typically, the
mark of a low-quality fragrance is if it remains monotone
throughout its life. Although this isn’t always the case…