Should you buy Eau de Toilette or Eau de Parfum?

When shopping for fragrances, you are likely to be hit by a bunch of “Eau” terms, such as Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum.

What do these words mean? When a scent is available in all three varieties, which one should you buy?

To get your head around the Eau’s, it is helpful to remember what goes into a fragrance bottle. The key ingredients that provide the fragrance with scent are the essential oils. These however do not make 100% of the contents; rather, they are dissolved into water and alcohol (ethanol).  

It turns out, the “Eau”s just indicate the concentration of essential oils, which in turn determines:

  • the staying power
  • the price
  • how the scent is released

Let’s look at each in turn.

Eau de Cologne. This type of fragrance has the minimum concentration of essential oils, usually around 5%. Because of this low concentration, the scent tends to disappear very quickly: be ready to spray it often!

Eau de Toilette. The concentration of essential oils is typically around 10%, making it more expensive than Eau de Cologne but also making it last longer, around 2-3 hours. Eau de Toilettes tend to release the “top” or “front” notes; these include the lighter and fresher scents of a fragrance, such as its citrus and ginger notes.

Eau de Parfum. With concentration levels around 20%, an Eau de Parfum provides the most staying power (you are likely to be able to smell the fragrance after a full day) and complexity: aside from the top notes, you will be able to appreciate middle, “heart” notes such as lavender and rose. The staying power and complexity come at a cost, though: Eau de Parfum’s are the more expensive than their Eau de Cologne and Toilette equivalents.

Hopefully this guide helps you choose what is the most appropriate fragrance for you: happy shopping!