What is the difference between eau de parfum and eau de toilette?

9 years ago - 09.02.2013

What is the difference between eau de parfum and eau de toilette in Perfumes?

In the perfume industry, marketers needed a way to explain to customers how much actual perfume, or fragrance, was contained in a bottle. Otherwise, how would the customer know if the scent would last? How would they understand whether or not the price was fair? After all, when you buy a bottle of perfume, you are mostly getting a mix of water and ethanol (alcohol) or non-fragrant solvents such as jojoba oil, liquid wax, or fractionated coconut oil.
As a result, the perfume industry created a concentrating categorization to which most perfume houses have adhered (there are notable exceptions, which can create confusion). Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette are two of these concentration levels. The title is telling you the total concentration of aromatic compounds in the bottle you are about to buy.

  • Perfume Extract (Extrait): The highest level of concentration, typically sold only in the top-of-the-line fragrance families such as Chanel No. 5. Concentration levels are between 15% and 40% fragrance, with 20% being typical.
  • Eau de Parfum or Parfum de Toilette: The next highest level of fragrance and perfume concentration, Eau de Parfum and Parfum de Toilette are sometimes confusing because the second term includes the words “toilette” and is used by only a handful of firms. At this level, fragrance concentration is between 10% and 20% with 15% being typical. This level is also sometimes called Eau De Perfume or Millesime. For example, the House of Creed releases almost all of its scents in Millesime strength. This is the strength level preferred by most upper class and rich households. The best brands typically release their fragrances at this concentration level.
  • Eau de Toilette: This is the strength of most fragrances you will find at department stores frequented by the middle class (think J.C. Penney). A typical Eau de Toilette may cost $65 to $95, making it affordable for the masses. Personally, we try to avoid any Eau de Toilette instead preferring Eau de Parfums (see above).
  • Eau de Cologne: Typically, these are citrus type scents that work well in low concentrations because they have no base notes. An Eau de Cologne has somewhere between 3% and 8% fragrance with 5% being common.
  • Splash and After Shave: Products sold as after shaves or splashes have very little fragrance and it will quickly fade because concentration levels of aromatic compounds stand at only 1% to 3%.

As a result, a 4 ounce bottle of Eau de Parfum is more valuable than a 4 ounce bottle of Eau de Toilette because you are getting more fragrance per ounce.

The problem with perfume concentration ranges is that some perfume houses overlap their definitions. This leads to an interesting dilemma where the Eau de Toilette of one perfume house can actually be stronger than the Eau de Parfum of another perfume house.
If you remember these two rules, though, you should be fine:

  1. The Eau de Parfum will always be a higher concentration and more valuable than the Eau de Toillette within the same fragrance line. For example, Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum will be more expensive and higher quality than Chanel No. 5 Eau de Toilette. You should expect to pay more money for it.
  2. The concentration levels between different perfume houses may vary so that a higher quality boutique firm’s Eau de Toillette may have more fragrance concentration than a competitor’s Eau de Parfum. Using our same example, it is possible that the Chanel No. 5 Eau de Toilette has more concentration than some cheap store brand’s Eau de Parfum.

The best way to understand Eau de Parfum vs. Eau de Toilette is to look at the two within a single fragrance family. We’ll use the world-famous Chanel No. 5.

Chanel No. 5 Parfum
This is a bottle of Chanel No. 5 in its most concentrated form, the Parfum. A 1 ounce bottle costs $260.00 in the United States. The parfum form is the longest-lasting, most powerful concentration so it would only take a few drops to stay scented for hours upon hours.

Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum
Probably the most popular version of Chanel No. 5, the Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum is the second most concentrated form of the classic fragrance. It will last for hours but can be sprayed out of a bottle instead of applied in drops, making it more convenient. A 3.4 ounce bottle of the Eau de Parfum costs $115.00 in the United States.

Chanel No. 5 Eau de Toilette
The Eau de Toilette version of Chanel No. 5 costs $90.00 in the United States for a 3.4 ounce bottle. It comes in a traditional bottle or in a convenient spray bottle. It scent will fade far faster than the Eau de Parfum version, which will fade faster than the Parfum version because it contains less aromatic compounds.

Chanel No. 5 Body Satin Spray
Comparable in many ways to an after shave or splash on fragrance, the body spray would have the lowest concentration of fragrance and would fade faster than the Parfum, Eau de Parfum, and Eau de Toilette versions of the scent. As a result, it is far more affordable on a per ounce basis. In the United States, a 4.2 ounce bottle costs $55.

Using the retail prices for each Chanel No. 5 product, we can compare the cost per ounce of Parfum, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, and the Body Spray.

  • Parfum: $260.00 per ounce
  • Eau de Parfum: $33.82 per ounce
  • Eau de Toilette: $26.47 per ounce
  • Body Spray: $13.10 per ounce

Amateurs and those not experienced in the world of high-end fragrance often make the mistake of thinking they paid a certain price for a bottle of their favorite scent. A somewhat popular novice reviewer of luxury scents on YouTube, for example, recently complained that Creed fragrances were too expensive, ranging from $270 to $300 per 4 ounce bottle. He failed to understand that almost all Creed fragrances are released in Millesime strength, which is Eau de Parfum. You cannot compare it to an Eau de Toilette at a mid-tier department store because it is comparing apples to oranges.
This is the reason products like the Chanel Les Grands Extraits Bottles are such a big deal to fragrance lovers and luxury collectors. These are 7.5 ounce to 30 ounce bottles of concentrated parfum – the real stuff. That is why they cost between $1,700 and $3,200!

There are two other major factors that determine how long a scent will last on you besides your choice of Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette. They are:

  • Scents tend to fade faster on dry skin because they are less hydrated. Those with naturally moist or oily skin will carry fragrance better because the scent can disperse on the body chemistry.
  • The mixture of top notes, middle notes (sometimes called heart notes), and base notes used by the perfumer in the fragrance itself.

There is no surer way to show you don’t know what you are talking about than if you refer to “perfume” as a fragrance for women and “cologne” as a fragrance for men. Although it is true that the perfume industry typically releases very few scents in Eau de Parfum or Parfum form for men because most scents are Eau de Toilette or Cologne, you cannot use the phrase as a generic indication of the gender to which a fragrance is marketed.

In fact, for most of the high-end perfume houses, scents are unisex. It wasn’t until the 20th century that marketers began to slightly tweak formulas and convince men and women that they shouldn’t wear the same fragrance. Creed, Bond No. 9, and many other creations such as those by famed designer Roja Dove, are unisex.

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