Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eau de Parfum and other fragrance terminology

Recently I was asked a question based on this one "What is the difference between perfume, parfum extrait and an Eau de Parfum?" I thought I'd address it here at the journal so that in the future I can send peeps to this source.

Perfume is a generic word, the origin comes from the Latin, per “through” and fumus “smoke”, thus “through smoke”. This verbage most likely alludes to the use of gums and resins as incense or herbs strewn over fires to impart a pleasant aroma.


Most perfumes are a combination of a base material, like alcohol for example, and fragrance. The alcohol in beverages and perfume is ethanol also called ethyl alcohol. There are many types of ethanol alcohol with a proof varying from 90 to 200. Alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine and spirits begin as raw plant matter (grains, fruits, etc.) that get fermented or distilled. For example if we ferment barley we get beer, where as if we distill barley we get scotch.

Main stream perfume uses "denatured alcohol" as their delivery system of choice. The term "de-natured" means that the alcohol has had several chemical additives such as: methanol, pyridine and methyl violet to make it unfit for drinking.1 This type of alcohol is considered toxic and in my opinion shouldn't even be applied to the skin.

Most natural and botanical perfumers who are creating their own perfumes, not lab created, are using a high proof, pure ethanol. Although one should never make assumptions, after all "natural" can mean many things these days.


The fragrance portion in perfume is what will determine whether it is a perfum, eau de parfum, cologne, toilet water etc. These terms have to due with concentration of fragrance to base material. Unfortunately many "crafters" entering the perfume industry are using the term cologne to mean a mens parfum extrait which has added a new level of confusion to the consumer.

Historically a "Parfum extrait" is from 15% to 30% or more of fragrance to alcohol. All other percentages under 15% are classified as Eau de Parfum, Toilet Waters and Colognes. The reason an extrait will be more expensive than the other formats is because the final product contains a higher percentage of fragrance. A perfume extrait is usually dabbed on, often sold in stopper bottles or flacons. Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilet are pump spray type fragrances that are meant to be atomized onto the skin. Toilet waters, colognes and other formats such as Eau fraiche and splash cologne are yet more terms used to describe lighter versions than a Parfum extrait. In traditional and conventional perfumery water is added to the alcohol and fragrance equation, the amount of H20 varies.

Generally the lighter the concentration the weaker the potency of the fragrance. However, this is not always true...particularly with the fragrances I create. I've been having many of customers inform me that the Eau de Parfums seem to perform better in terms of longevity than the Parfum extraits and the solids. I believe the reason is because when aromatic molecules get sprayed into the air and land, the diffusion of the molecules is over a larger surface and thus evaporate differently. Specifically creating better silage (scent trail).

Fragrances in a cream-like base and oil perfumes will, in general, follow the Parfum extrait model of 15 to 30% or more concentration. In some instances people apply an essential oil full strength (100%) to the skin, so you can see how these are only a general guidelines.

1 Wikipedia

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