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There Are 5 Different Types of Fragrances—How to Choose Your Perfect Match

When I think about fragrance, I typically focus on the fragrance notes and the fragrance family that the scent lives in. Is it woody? Ambery? Floral? Fresh? What are the top notes? The heart? The base?

These are often the only considerations we think about when selecting a fragrance. There is, however, one major piece of the puzzle that should also be top of mind when picking a perfume: what type of fragrance it is. There are five different types of fragrance, and they matter in terms of how strong a scent is, how long it lasts, and how complex it is. Keep reading to learn all about the different types of fragrances and find which one is right for you.

Parfum, also known as extrait de parfum, is the purest and most potent form of perfume. It has the highest fragrance concentration at 20 to 30% and also has a lower alcohol content than most other perfumes. Because of its high fragrance oil concentration, parfums tend to be the most expensive form of perfume, but they also last the longest and are able to boast more complexity. These scents can last all day, and you’re able to smell the full range of top notes, middle notes, and base notes while you wear them. Since they have a relatively low alcohol concentration, they’re often recommended for those with sensitive skin.

Key Notes: Freesia, plum, amber, cashmere woods, vanilla beans, cistus oil

Key Notes: Grandiflorum jasmine from Egypt, saffron, bitter almond from Morocco, cedarwood, musky woody accord, ambergris

Key Notes: Black orchid, ylang-ylang, patchouli

Key Notes: Bergamot, camellia, cardamom, cedar wood, lemon, musk, peppercorn, tea, vanilla

Eau de Parfum is one of the most common perfumes. Many of your favorite everyday scents probably fit squarely into the eau de parfum category, as they’re extremely versatile and long-wearing, though will last a bit less long than parfums. These scents have a fragrance concentration of 15 to 20%, and they also offer the full scope of scent notes, though the middle scent will be more prominent, as the top notes typically fade quickly.

Key Notes: Turkish rose, blackcurrant, raspberry, patchouli, benzoin, cinnamon, clove, white musk, frankincense, ambroxan, sandalwood

Key Notes: Two types of vanilla extracts, florals, cocoa shell, amyris, milk accord

Key Notes: Tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, marine accord

Key Notes: Rhubarb, cardamom, pink peppercorn, rose, raspberry, papyrus, agarwood, sandalwood

Eau de toilettes are also very popular, with a scent concentration between 5 and 15%. These typically have a higher alcohol concentration, and they last for 4–6 hours on the skin. Top notes are prominent in eau de toilettes, and these scents tend to be less complex than parfums or eau de parfums.

Key Notes: Bergamot, heliotrope, coconut milk

Key Notes: Bergamot, sage, cedar

Key Notes: Green pear, strawberry, blackcurrant, pink peppercorn, honeysuckle, peony, rose, lily of the valley, musk, cedar

Key Notes: Sage, smoked vetiver, mineral salt, ginger

You’ve definitely heard of (and probably used) and eau de cologne. These fragrances don’t last long at all—typically just a couple of hours due to their low fragrance composition (2 to 5%)—but they have a strong top note and are easy to reapply as needed. People with sensitive skin should steer clear of these, as they have a higher alcohol concentration than other scents. They tend to be quite a bit cheaper, which makes them an appealing choice for daily wear. 

Key Notes: Lemon, bergamot, patchouli

Key Notes: Italian bergamot, green pepper, green tea accord, cardamom, beeswax, tonka bean

Key Notes: Narcissus, bergamot, orange blossom

Key Notes: Ambrette seeds, sea salt, sage

Eau fraiche is less common than some of the other fragrance types, but it’s unique in its own right due to the fact that it’s made with water rather than alcohol. These fragrances are soft and subtle, with a fragrance oil concentration of just 1 to 3%. Eau fraiche fragrances are perfect for people with sensitive skin and those who prefer to forgo strong scents. They’re also affordable, which makes them ideal for a boost of fragrance on a budget. 

Key Notes: Tiare flower, coconut, amber, sandalwood, vanilla

Key Notes: Citron, jasmine, teakwood

Key Notes: Bergamot, grapefruit, orange, freesia, Lily of the valley, lotus flower, pineapple, watermelon, grenadine, sandalwood, white musk

Key Notes: Pink pepper, sparkling orange, fresh rose, iris, cedar, musk

Next: 19 Perfumes That Smell Like Fresh Laundry (in the Best Way Possible)

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