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How to Tell the Difference Between Perfume and Cologne

Zini Mehta
Have you always pondered over the difference between a perfume and a cologne? If so, then read this story to get the answer to your question.
Smelling good is as important as looking good. Even the best of clothes and makeup cannot mask body odor, which may become a cause of embarrassment. Today, fragrances are available in many different forms such as deodorant, body mist, perfumes, colognes, etc.
The variety of choices that are available often leave us confused. This article attempts to help you in your choice, by explaining the difference between perfume and cologne.

Variables that Differentiate a Perfume from a Cologne

Both perfume and cologne have the same components, what makes them different is the percentage of these components. The difference in concentration determines how long the smell stays and how expensive the fragrance is.

Percentage of Essential Oils

The primary difference between both is the percentage of essential oils. Perfumes have a higher concentration of oils as compared to colognes. In perfumes, the concentration is generally around 30-40%. Colognes contain a less concentration of essential oils, they have only about 2-5% oils in the mixture.

Ratio of Alcohol and Water

In perfumes, 30% is essential oils, and of the remaining 70%, 95% is alcohol and 5% is water. Similarly, in colognes, 1-3% is essential oils and of the remaining, 80% is alcohol and 20% is water.

Layered and Non-Layered Fragrance

Perfumes have layered fragrances. There are 3 layers in perfumes, namely the top note, middle note and base note. Top note or head notes is what we smell immediately after application.
The second layer is the middle note or heart note, the scent of this note elevates with time and finally the base note, which can be smelt after about 30 minutes of application. Cologne, on the other hand, are single layered scents.

Long Lasting

Since perfumes have a higher concentration of scent, they last much longer than cologne. A little perfume sprayed on the pulse points can last anywhere from 8-20 hours and sometimes even more than that, depending on the quality of the perfume.
Since cologne is diluted, it lasts only for 2-3 hours and has to be reapplied every few hours. You have to use more cologne than perfume, hence a perfume bottle will last much longer than a cologne bottle.


Another difference between cologne and perfumes is in the packaging. Perfumes usually come in fancy bottles, in different shapes and colors, whereas colognes usually come in a simple glass bottle.

Price Difference

The most expensive component of any scent is essential oil. Since, perfumes contain a high concentration of these oils, they are way more expensive than cologne. Perfumes are usually double the price of colognes. The price of a perfume can be very high depending on the brand.
Those were the main differences between perfume and cologne. It is often believed that perfumes are for women and colognes are for men, this is not entirely true. There is a very slight difference between fragrances for men and women. Men usually like musky scents, while women prefer fruity fragrances.
Since women like stronger scents, they prefer perfumes, whereas, men like a slightly lighter scent. Perfumes have a strong smell, that can be too overpowering for men with a lighter taste. Hence, men use cologne splash, after shaves, etc.
However, there is no clear distinction as such. Both perfume and cologne, can be worn by men as well as women. Be careful, to not overdo it, people around you may not have a similar taste.
It is just a matter of your preference, if you like strong fragrances and do not have the patience to keep reapplying scent, then you should definitely go in for a perfume. If you are one of the unlucky few who are allergic to perfumes or if the strong heady scent is too potent for you, splash some cologne and your good to go.