Fragrance 101

The world of fragrance can be confusing.  Bases note versus top notes. Perfume versus Cologne.  And what in the world is “sillage?” While no means comprehensive, this is a quick tutorial on fragrance terms so next time you’re purchasing a scent you’ll be more informed.

What’s In A Name?

Perfume, cologne, fragrance, scent, many of these terms are used interchangeably, but there really is a difference; not only in name, but ingredients.  The four main distinctions of scents we’ll focus on are: Parfum, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, and Eau de Cologne. The difference lies in the concentration of oils contained in the scent.  Parfum is has the highest concentration, at 20-30% oil, while Eau de Cologne has 2%-4% oil. Not only is there a difference in how long a fragrance lasts based on the oil content, but there’s a difference in price.  The higher the percentage of oil, the longer it will last, but the more it’s going to cost you. 

Parfum Concentration Percentages

What the heck are Sillage and Projection?

Have you ever been in an elevator (“lift” for those across The Pond) with someone whose scent just about knocked you over? That’s projection. Projection is what those in the immediate vicinity around you smell while you’re there. Sillage (pronounced “see-yazh”), on the other hand, is the trail of the scent that’s left behind after you’re long gone.  Projection and sillage can both play into how your scent is received; choose wisely, no one wants to be “that guy” in the elevator.

The Great Pyramid

All fragrances are built with three main layers or notes: top-note, mid-note, and base note.  These layers contain different notes that interact with one another and your body’s chemistry to create the overall scent, vibe, and feeling of the fragrance.  The top notes are what you smell when you first spray the fragrance and it dries you’ll smell the mid-notes and eventually the base notes. When trying a new fragrance don’t judge it on the top note alone.  If you’re testing at a retail store spray it on your wrists and go on with the rest of your shopping. Let it dry and, like a Polaroid, see what slowly develops.

Choose Your Scent

Scents are so personal that there’s really no “wrong” one to select.  Whether you prefer something woodsy or sweet, spicy or floral there’s something for every nose.  Knowing the basics outlined above should help you make a more informed purchase.

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