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The Levels of Fragrance, Explained: From Eau de Cologne to Pure Perfume

Here's how to know what's actually going on inside the bottle.

The fragrance industry throws some pretty fancy-sounding French at you, and nowhere is this more true than with strength statements. On every bottle you open, you’ll usually see a label that says something like “eau de cologne” or “eau de parfum”—and while it can be tempting to ignore these words, they can reveal a lot about what’s inside of each bottle.

That’s because these labels indicate how much perfume oil is actually inside the bottle, and that level can have a lot to do with a fragrance’s longevity, projection and sillage. Depending on the results you want to get, it’s an incredibly important consideration when you add a new fragrance to your collection.

In the video above, Robb Report senior editor Justin Fenner breaks down the levels of fragrance, from light, breezy eau de toilette to intense, long-lasting extrait de parfum. (We’re leaving out the lowest level, eau fraiche, because there aren’t many in that category we find worth recommending.) You’ll get a full tutorial on the levels—and when they actually matter—in the video, but here’s a handy breakdown to take with you the next time you find yourself at the fragrance counter:

Eau de cologne: This is the lowest level of fragrance we’ll talk about in Uncommon Scents. It typically contains two to four percent perfume oil.

Eau de toilette: The next step up. These fragrances usually have between five and 15 percent perfume oil.

Eau de parfum: EDPs are the popular sweet spot on the fragrance levels chart, containing between 15 and 20 percent perfume oil.

Extrait de parfum, pure parfum: These long-acting bad boys contain 20, 30 and sometimes even 40 percent perfume oil.

Perfume oil: These are an interesting case, but typically perfume oils blend fragranced oil and unscented oil to help smells stick to your skin for a while. If you have the option between a spray-on fragrance and a perfume oil, the oil will generally contain the same amount of fragrance as its coordinating spray.

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