Cologne vs. Perfume: What’s the Difference?

May 11, 2020
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By: Makeup.com | Makeup.com by L'Oréal

Do you know what the difference between cologne and perfume is? You might not even notice these fragrance labels when you’re shopping for a new signature scent.  Are they interchangeable? Are colognes just for men? To find out, we spoke with two fragrance experts.

The Difference Between Cologne and Perfume

First, the idea that colognes are masculine and perfumes are feminine has nothing to do with the formulation. “This is a very American thing,” says Gerard Camme, the president of Atelier Cologne. “In places such as France and Europe, this is not the perception. There is an understanding that cologne refers to an olfactive style.”

He explains, “all colognes are perfumes. Cologne is an olfactive style — transparent, fresh and very citrusy.” An example is the Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée Cologne Absolue Pure Perfume. “When a perfume is referred to as an eau de cologne, it means it’s very light in concentration.” 

The main difference between the two is the concentration of oils and alcohol that it contains. 

According to Matthew Milèo, fragrance expert and founder of Milèo New York, perfume (including parfum and eau de parfum) contains between 15 and 30 percent of fragrance oils and cologne (including eau de cologne and eau de toilette) contains between 2 and 15 percent. 

“The concentration will affect the scent’s tenacity, which is how long the scent will last on your body; as well as the silage, which is how far the scent will extend from your body so that others will be able to smell it too.” 

He continues, "choosing the right concentration is essential when determining your ideal scent." If you prefer a light and fresh smelling fragrance, cologne may be the way to go. For a long-lasting and robust fragrance, perfume may be for you.

If you want a perfume, Milèo notes that parfum is the strongest of the style, followed by eau de parfum. For cologne, eau de toilette is the strongest, followed by eau fraiche. “You can’t go wrong with starting with an eau de toilette and then going up or down from there,” says Milèo


Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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