Cologne vs. perfume

Fragrance

The biggest difference between cologne and perfume is the formula. Perfumes use a higher concentration of essential oils, while colognes use a lower percentage.

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Should I get cologne or perfume?

In most cases, cologne is marketed toward men, while perfume is marketed toward women. The truth is women can use cologne, just as men can use perfume.

The difference between these products is more about the formula and the concentration of essential oils in the fragrance than it is about the name. Perfume has a higher concentration of essential oils than cologne at around 20%-30%. Cologne, on the other hand, usually has a far lower concentration of oils of around 2%-5%.

Cologne

Cologne is usually packaged in a dark-colored or black glass bottle with a simple, industrial design. This gives it a more masculine appearance, which men often favor. Unlike perfume, cologne has a much smaller percentage of essential oils and is more diluted with alcohol or water.

Cologne is known by many names, including eau de toilette, aftershave and eau de cologne. However, these are all slightly different products:

  • Eau de cologne and eau de toilette are both a type of cologne with a low concentration of oils. Eau de cologne usually has a weaker fragrance than eau de toilette because there are less essential oils in it.
  • Eau de parfum has a stronger fragrance than eau de toilette because of its higher concentration of oils. In fact, eau de parfum contains around 15%-20% perfume oils, but it’s often called cologne to appeal to men.
  • Aftershave is a popular alternative to cologne, even though it was originally made just for shaving purposes.

Like perfume, cologne comes in many fragrances. The most popular scents are woody, musky or citrus. Some colognes have a warm vanilla or light floral scent.

The price of cologne varies from around $15 for a simple bottle at a drugstore to $60+ from a recognized brand. Some celebrity colognes cost upwards of $100.

Cologne pros

  • Bottles can be luxurious, sophisticated or elegant.
  • Many higher-end colognes use premium-quality ingredients that give a long-lasting scent.
  • It makes for a great gift.
  • The right cologne can enhance the wearer’s natural scent and give them a boost of confidence.
  • It can help set the mood.
  • Cologne usually comes in splash and spray modes for quick, easy application.
  • Most colognes have a more subtle scent, which is great for those who don’t want something too noticeable.
  • Cologne is typically less expensive than perfume.
  • Contrary to popular belief, some women prefer to use cologne; some fragrances are more unisex.

Cologne cons

  • Many cologne bottles are too large or bulky for convenient travel or portability.
  • Aside from some high-end options, cologne doesn’t usually have a long-lasting scent. This means frequent or regular reapplication is required or it will fade.
  • Cheaper options of cologne are usually diluted with a higher amount of liquid (usually alcohol), so they may have an unpleasant or weak scent.
  • The scent usually fades more quickly on oily or moist skin.
  • Once opened, the shelf life of a bottle of cologne is only about a year or less. This is because the ingredients start to break down when exposed to the air.

Best colognes

Calvin Klein Eternity for Men AQUA Eau de Toilette

Calvin Klein Eternity for Men AQUA Eau de Toilette

A small bottle of eau de toilette by a recognized brand, this cologne comes in a spray bottle and has a woody scent that appeals to those who want a more masculine, clean and fresh scent. The scent isn’t overbearing. 

Sold by Amazon, Ulta, Sephora and Macy’s

Dior Sauvage Eau De Parfum

Dior Sauvage Eau De Parfum

This cologne has a smooth, woody fragrance with underlying notes of pepper, amberwood and bergamot. It uses high-quality ingredients, so the scent is long-lasting but not overwhelming. The only downside is the price, but for something you love, it’s worth it. 

Sold by Amazon, Ulta, Sephora and Macy’s

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette Spray for Men

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette Spray for Men

With a light citrus and woody scent, this cologne is strong, sweet and spicy and it lingers. It comes in a simple, sophisticated bottle. Although it’s geared toward men, it’s suitable for anyone. 

Sold by Amazon, Ulta, Sephora and Macy’s

Perfume

Perfume is an overarching term that technically includes cologne but is almost always marketed toward women. In this modern age, however, many of the feminine versus masculine connotations of the term are starting to disappear.

In general, perfumes marketed toward women are more concentrated than colognes, with up to 40% oils. They come in various fragrances, including citrus, oriental, floral and clean, fresh scents. Some perfumes use animal extracts to ensure a longer-lasting scent.

Parfum is among the most expensive and longest-lasting options because it’s highly concentrated. A single ounce of a name-brand parfum can cost anywhere from $100 to nearly $500. On average, a bottle of perfume costs $30-$50 per ounce.

Perfume pros

  • Perfumes come in sprays, splashes and roller balls for direct or indirect application.
  • Since they use a higher concentration of essential oils, perfumes usually have a stronger scent than colognes.
  • Some bottles are small and highly portable.
  • Only a small amount is needed to make a statement.
  • The strong fragrance of perfume can be beneficial to people with oily skin or the tendency to sweat because it lasts longer.
  • The scent of higher-end perfumes changes with the wearer’s body chemistry.
  • Perfume is versatile, so you can add it to the bath, hair or skin depending on what you’re going for.

Perfume cons

  • The scent of some perfumes may be overwhelming to those with sensitive noses.
  • Perfume can be costly, especially when choosing one with a higher concentration of oils.
  • Like cologne, some synthetic perfumes have toxic chemicals that may trigger a reaction in some people.

Best perfumes

Chanel Allure Eau de Toilette

Chanel Allure Eau de Toilette

This popular perfume uses a warm blend of floral, citrus and vanilla for a long-lasting, sweet fragrance. It’s sophisticated, feminine and subtly changes throughout the day. 

Sold by Sephora

Lancôme La Vie Est Belle L’Eau de Parfum Spray

Lancôme La Vie Est Belle L’Eau de Parfum Spray

Made for the modern woman with luxury and sophistication in mind, this perfume uses natural ingredients for a sweet, floral scent with hints of citrus. It’s long-lasting, so a little bit goes a long way. 

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

Versace Bright Crystal Eau de Toilette Spray for Women

Versace Bright Crystal Eau de Toilette Spray for Women

For a sensual, floral fragrance that isn’t overpowering, this perfume is a great option. It’s fresh, light and long-lasting. Plus, it comes in a unique, relatively large bottle that lasts a long time with regular application. 

Sold by Amazon and Sephora

Should you get perfume or cologne?

Cologne is commonly used to refer to any fragrance marketed toward men, while perfume is often used to indicate fragrances marketed toward women, but aside from modern marketing purposes, neither term is truly gender-specific.

Both are a great way to express oneself, but if you want something that’s typically considered more masculine, choose cologne. If you prefer something with a stronger, longer-lasting scent that’s more feminine, choose perfume.

 

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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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