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The Difference Between Perfume, Cologne and Eau de Toilette

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An illustration of many perfume bottles of different shapes and sizes

Illustration: Nadia Interints (Shutterstock)

If you’ve ever been stuck in an airport with a duty free shop or explored the makeup and beauty section of a department store, chances are you’ve perused their selections of fragrances. And you probably noticed that they come in a lot of forms, including perfume, cologne and eau de toilette. Great, but what’s the difference between these products? All fragrances are largely the same, but they’re given a name based on the concentration of oil in alcohol and water. Here’s how to figure out which one is right for you.

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This graphic, from Real Men Real Style, explains that “fragrance” is generally a unisex term for, well any smelly substance made up of a certain amount of fragrance oil diluted in alcohol and water. Depending on the concentration, the result gets a different name. Here’s the rundown:

  • Eau fraiche – The most diluted version of fragrance, usually with one to three percent 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 two to four percent perfume oils in alcohol and water. Tend to be used in fragrances for younger people. Usually lasts for about two hours.
  • Toilette (eau de toilette) – A light spray composition with five to 15 percent pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol. Usually lasts for about three hours.
  • Perfume (eau de parfum) – Historically genderless, used to describe both men’s and women’s fragrances. The best term used to describe a fragrance. Contains 15 – 20 percent pure perfume essence and lasts for about five to eight hours.
  • Perfume – A corruption of the Latin phrase per fumum (through smoke). The most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance options. Slightly oilier, perfume, or parfum, is composed of 20 to 30 percent pure perfume essence. A single application of perfume can last up to 24 hours.

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That’s all useful to know, and can certainly help you make a better shopping decision if you’re looking for something to wear that’s a little lighter and won’t stick as long during those hot summer days, or something you want to linger just a touch (or a lot) longer.

The full introduction to fragrance also makes a few suggestions and explains some of the “notes” you’ll smell when you’re shopping for one, and outlines how long various types of scents last on your skin. It also dives into how fragrances are priced, and why some of them are bargain basement while others seem insanely expensive. Hit the link to learn more. Despite the URL, which targets men, the guide includes information useful to everyone.

This story was originally published in February 2016 and was updated on October 22, 2020 with new links and a new header image, and to align the content with current Lifehacker style.

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

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Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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