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Making Scents: The Scent Concentration Hierarchy

Barney Bishop’s brother took notice of his obsession well before Barney did. When they were kids he told Barney, “You smell everything!” Today the olfactory aficionado behind the blog Fragrant Moments has almost 200 bottles in his ever-growing scent wardrobe.

When I was growing up, I learned from my father that scent was an important part of presenting yourself. He wore fragrances and his dresser was full of them, so I thought of them as a necessary detail. As I got older and began to develop my own fragrance collection, I noticed the wide variety of names—aftershave, eau de toilette, and eau de parfum. If all these terms leave you scratching your head, you’re not alone.

At its basic level, perfume is a combination of alcohol, water, and essential oils. Obviously so much more goes into creating scents, but we’ll keep it simple: As the ratio of these basic compounds change, the concentration of essential oils changes, and in some cases, this affects a scent’s strength and longevity. Here's a quick primer on the different types of scents.

Eau de Cologne

The weakest concentrations you’ll find are eau de colognes, body sprays, and aftershaves. These typically contain anywhere from 1 to 8 percent essential oils and evaporate very quickly. These are meant to be used for a quick refresher and can be reapplied frequently throughout the day.

Eau de Toilette (EDT)

The next level of concentration is eau de toilette, and these are quite popular. They typically contain an essential oil concentration ranging from 5 to 15 percent. The evaporation time here is slower than with body sprays, but don’t be surprised if you can’t smell your scent by the end of the day.

Eau de Parfum (EDP)

These can have up to 20 percent essential oils but are typically be in the range of 15-18 percent. Because of the high concentration, you don’t need to apply too much of an eau de parfum—a little goes a long way!

At the end of the day, our noses and skin are the best judges of what works for us. Sample each of these concentrations and see what works for you.

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