Aftershave, cologne and eau de toilette explained

You’re standing in the fragrance aisle, already mystified by the wide range of scents available. There’s a whole new vocabulary to learn about top notes, middle notes and base notes. You narrow it down to a fragrance that you like. And now you have to choose between an aftershave, cologne and eau de toilette. The only thing that seems to separate them is price, so what exactly do all of these words mean?

If you’re confused by these terms, you’re not alone. The vast majority of consumers have no idea what each one means, but this could mean they are making the wrong choices when it comes to picking their fragrances. Read on to learn more about each one, including the pros and cons.

What is aftershave?

An aftershave is a scented disinfectant designed to kill surface bacteria on the skin directly after shaving. It contains high amounts of alcohol with just 1% to 3% aromatic compounds to conceal the smell of alcohol. The alcohol is designed to sterilise any small cuts and cause the blood vessels to shrink, which helps to speed up the healing process.

Pros of aftershave

  • Protects your skin after shaving
  • Offers a subtle scent
  • Also available as a lotion which can be more calming on the skin
  • Often very inexpensive

Cons of aftershave

  • Low concentration of aromatic compounds
  • The scent doesn’t last for very long
  • Alcohol can be very drying

What is cologne?

What is cologne?

A cologne, which is sometimes referred to as eau de cologne, contains around 7% aromatic compounds, which makes it a stronger scent than most aftershaves. This scent will last a little longer and doesn’t need to be applied to the face after shaving. It can be applied to the neck and body just as you would with any other scent.

Pros of cologne

  • More scented than aftershave
  • Less expensive than eau de toilette or eau de parfum
  • Available as a spray or splash on

Cons of cologne

  • It isn’t the strongest scent available and it might not last all day
  • More expensive than aftershave

What is eau de toilette?

An eau de toilette contains around 10% of aromatic compounds, which makes it more concentrated than both cologne and aftershave. The phrase might translate as “toilet water”, but this simply refers to the process of grooming. 

Pros of eau de toilette

  • Inexpensive choice
  • Scent lasts around 8 hours
  • Popular choice for a day-to-day scent

Cons of eau de toilette

  • Still contains a high level of alcohol
  • Scent evaporates more quickly than eau de parfum
  • Scent might not be as strong in cooler weather

What is eau de parfum

What is eau de parfum?

The most expensive of them all is eau de parfum. This typically contains a high concentration of aromatic compounds, sometimes as high as 25%. 

Pros of eau de parfum

  • Offers the strongest scent, which means you’ll use less
  • Lower alcohol concentration means it can be better for those with sensitive skin
  • Lasts much longer
  • Scent will be stronger and more pronounced
  • A bottle will last much longer
  • Splash and spray options available

Cons of eau de parfum

  • This will be the most expensive of the options
  • Might be overpowering in hot weather

Which should I choose?

Many companies will offer the same scent in all four different options. This will enable you to purchase the one that best suits your requirements, or to mix and match your scents based on when you would use them.

It’s good to have a go-to everyday scent that you might use for your aftershave or cologne. If you use both, use the same scent so that you don’t have clashing fragrances. Aftershave might not be sufficient for a whole day of scent, so you can enhance this with a spritz of cologne.

You could also add to your collection with a few accent scents that you save for more special occasions. You might have a few special fragrances in either an eau de toilette or eau de parfum format. Your choice will typically depend on your budget. The scents will be the same, the only difference will be the intensity and how long it lasts.

The time of year will also have an impact on which type of fragrance you reach for. In the summer months, lighter fragrances will work perfectly, while an eau de parfum is ideal for winter when the scent needs to work harder.

Mixing and matching your fragrances is a great way to enjoy the best of all worlds. Just be sure not to mix and match fragrances while you are wearing them, as this could become overpowering. 

Also remember that your fragrance might stay on your coat, for example, and this could clash with the fragrance you wear on another day. This is why many men choose to stick to a single scent, or stick to a family of scents with similar base notes.

Also read What do eau de toilette and eau de parfum mean?

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