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What Are Fragrances?

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A fragrance is a complex mixture of what people in the perfume industry refer to as raw materials. These raw materials can be extracts from natural sources or synthetic raw materials.

Perfumed oils are dissolved in a solvent (usually alcohol) to preserve a pleasant concoction of scents. A higher concentration of oils usually means a stronger fragrance. The strength of the fragrance determines how long an application lasts on your skin.

It’s important to note that every fragrance smells different on every person. It’s this uncertainty and complexity that intimidates many men, but if you look at it as a process of discovery, it can become an enjoyable journey.

What is the Difference Between Fragrance, Perfume, Toilette, and Cologne?

Fragrance is a unisex, generic term used for perfume. It comes in many forms and is called different names but generally falls into these categories:

  • Eau Fraiche. The most diluted version of fragrance, usually with 1-3% perfume oil in alcohol and water. Usually lasts for less than an hour.
  • Cologne (Eau de Cologne). Oldest term for perfume, used in North America for masculine scents. Light, fresh, and fruity, typically composed of 2-4% perfume oils in alcohol and water. Tends to be used in fragrances for younger people. Usually lasts for about 2 hours.
  • Toilette (Eau de Toilette). A light spray composition with 5-15% pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol. Usually lasts for about 3 hours.
  • Perfume (Eau de Parfum). Historically genderless, used to describe both men’s and women’s products, and is the best term for describing a fragrance. Contains 15-20% pure perfume essence and lasts for about 5 to 8 hours.
  • Parfum. A corruption of the Latin phrase per fumum (through smoke). The most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance options. Slightly oilier, parfum (or perfume; you can see how these terms get confusing!) is composed of 20-30% pure perfume essence. A single application can last up to 24 hours.

The Life Cycle Of Fragrances

Fragrances have a three-part life cycle; think of an evaporating pyramid where the top slowly disappears until you reach the base. Each of the three sections contain individual scents, or notes, that are belted together into what you smell.

There are three different types of notes that comprise the scent of most fragrances: top, medium, and base notes:

  • Top note. The top note is the initial, lighter smell of the fragrance that hits the nose immediately after application to the skin. The top note lasts from 15 minutes to 2 hours. Typical top notes are various light floral scents, citrus, fruity scents, powdery scents, marines and aquatics, and spices such as cinnamon.
  • Medium note. Also referred to as the middle or heart notes. The middle note showcases the main element of the fragrance. Middle notes develop after the top note clears and can last 3-5 hours after being sprayed. This is in addition to the top note; they build off each other. Heart notes most often include heavier floral scents such as jasmine, or green scents such as grass or stone. Spice scents such as cinnamon and clove can appear here, along with fruity scents as well.
  • Base note. The last to develop, these scents are often the bolder notes of the scent which become more noticeable later in the day. Base notes lay the foundation and will determine how long the fragrance lasts on your skin. They tend to last from 5 to 10 hours. Typical base notes are sandalwood, moss, vetiver, vanilla, tar, leather, smoke, tobacco, and musk.

How to Select and Buy the Right Perfume/Cologne

Scientific studies suggest that a man can naturally select the cologne that works best with his natural body scent.

Let me stress this point: you are the best person to determine which scent suits you.

Don’t let others choose for you — there is a reason why gift scents sit unused for years.

Instead, use the opinions of others to reinforce or question your decision. Only if multiple people tell you your scent is off or a poor choice should you try something else.

Also don’t blind buy, which is when you purchase a cologne on someone’s recommendation without trying it yourself.

The best method to find a new fragrance is to test if the perfume complements your natural body odor in person over the period of a day.

Department stores are great for this purpose, just ensure you don’t buy until ready (it’s easy to fall for the first note). The maximum number of scents to try at once is four, although I recommend only two (one each arm) if you’re just starting out.

  1. Spray one scent on each wrist (and each inner elbow if going for four).
  2. Avoid the cards the department store provides to smell the colognes. They enable you to only smell the top notes and not how it smells on you (remember, this is a chemistry experiment).
  3. Between smelling each cologne, refresh your palate with something strong, like coffee or tea.
  4. Try to smell all the notes. As we have explained you can expect the scent to change over the next few hours.
  5. Walk around the department store and smell the fragrances at various intervals. Take notes on your phone or journal as to which you like and why.
  6. Purchase a bottle of your winner and start to wear. Wearing a fragrance is a process, not a destination. Many men end up owning and loving dozens of scents, so don’t feel you have to get it perfect with your first (or tenth) buy.

Which size fragrance bottle should you buy? Fragrances come in many different bottle sizes, but they usually range from 1 oz. to 3.4 oz, or even bigger bottles as well. If you are new to fragrances buy the smaller bottles simply because it is a lower risk. You don’t know how often you will be wearing it, and your tastes will probably change once you get the chance to smell different scents.

I hope you enjoy this blog, if you have any other suggestion, please feel free to post it in the comment section.

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