Eau de parfum; eau de toilette; eau de cologne. Despite the different labels perfume makers apply to fragrance bottles, many women assume these scents are all about the same. In reality, these terms provide important clues about the concentration of a fragrance, which can have a major impact on everything from the intensity of the scent to how long it will last. Virtually every perfume product on the market consists of fragrance molecules suspended in a solution of water and alcohol, and understanding the concentration of fragrance in each bottle can help you find a scent that's just right.
If you search hard enough, you can eventually track down "pure" perfumes made of virtually all fragrance oils, with very little water or alcohol. Of course, just because you can find these products doesn't mean you should wear them. Undiluted oils provide an incredibly dense scent, making it hard for your nose to decipher. These super-strong products overwhelm the senses and eliminate your ability to distinguish individual scents and tones.
Women who prefer strong scents should look for products labeled perfume, which generally contain about 25 to 40 percent fragrance oils. These scents tend to rank among the more expensive products at the perfume counter, but also last the longest after they are applied. Given their high fragrance concentration, you'll only need to apply small amounts, which means that even a small bottle should last a long time.
Looking for something a little lighter? Try an eau de parfum, which consists of about 15 to 18 percent fragrance oils. These products offer the long-lasting fragrance of a perfume, but feature a less intense scent overall. They can be used more generously than perfumes, but cost less on average so you won't feel so bad about using them up.
Eau de toilettes are even lighter than eau de parfums, with a fragrance concentration of around 10 percent. These products evaporate fairly quickly, which means you'll have to reapply every few hours if you want your scent to last all day. You can find eau de toilettes at pharmacies and drug stores as well as at the perfume counter, though most feature a lower price point than more concentrated perfumes.
For the lightest possible fragrance, choose an eau de cologne or a body spray. With a concentration of less than 5 percent, these products feature scents that fade fast, often in just a couple of hours. Fortunately, eau de cologne is relatively cheap compared to other fragrance products, and won't break the bank.
So now that you understand the different types of perfumes, how can you use this information when choosing your next scent? Consider when and where you plan to wear it. Heat and sweat can intensify a fragrance, so choose scents with a lower concentration of fragrance for daytime, particularly in summer, then break out the perfume for more formal events in the evening.