When shopping for perfume, there’s a lot to unravel with each bottle: fragrance family, price, notes (top, heart, bottom), sillage — not to mention, how a scent mixes with your own unique body chemistry. But there’s one element you can be sure of, and that’s understanding the difference between the fragrance world’s foundational categories: eau de toilette and eau de parfum. To learn more, we’re bringing you a complete guide breaking down how the two compare.
Keep scrolling to find out more about eau de toilette vs. parfum — and decide which is right for you.
What’s the Difference Between Eau de Toilette vs. Eau de Parfum?
“An eau de parfum has a higher concentration of fragrance oil than an eau de toilette,” explains Laura Slatkin, founder of NEST New York. “In the fragrance world, the order of highest to lowest concentration is pure perfume, which tends to be solid: eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and eau de cologne.”
Generally, an eau de parfum is composed of 15% to 20% perfume oil, while an eau de toilette scales a little lower, ranging from 10% to 15%, according to Bee Shapiro, founder of the NYC-based clean fragrance line, Ellis Brooklyn.
Precise compositions will vary between brands, but it’s a safe bet to think of an eau de toilette as lighter and fresher, comments Eduardo Valadez, director of marketing at French perfumery Diptyque. Meanwhile, a parfum tends to be denser and richer due to its higher concentration, he adds.
Do Eau de Parfums and Eau de Toilettes Smell The Same?
If both types of fragrance are made with the same notes, then yes, they would smell similar, but not exactly the same. For example, a spritz of lavender eau de parfum would release a higher concentration of fragrance than an eau de toilette. As the level of fragrance oil is increased, certain notes can develop on the skin to be richer, sharper, or sweeter — depending on the chemical makeup of the scent — explains Valadez.
Different concentration levels of the same fragrance can be extremely subtle, which is all part of the fun, says Shapiro. It allows different notes or ingredients to breathe, creating a singular experience for the wearer, she adds.
For Diptyque fragrances, a fragrance is often gently tweaked between the two types in order to produce a slightly different dimension. “In the Do Son Eau de Toilette, you have tuberose, jasmine, and orange blossom,” notes Valadez. “While in the eau de parfum, you have an overdose of tuberose, which brings a new, heightened sensation to the scent.”
The bottom line: consider the same scent in the two different forms to be cousins, not sisters, within the fragrance family — there will be hints of similarities, but each will definitely be unique.
Does Perfume Expire?
“Depending on the quality of ingredients and where it’s stored, most perfumes have a shelf life of at least three to five years,” explains Slatkin, but it really comes down to each scent’s architecture.
An eau de toilette tends to age a little slower, thanks to the higher concentration of alcohol in the formulation, which acts as a protective preservative. On the flip side, clean and alcohol-free fragrances will lose intensity the fastest. And if the perfume’s color shifts to a darker hue, or the scent becomes a little sour or musty, it’s time to retire.
Do Eau de Parfums Have Better Sillage Than Eau de Toilettes?
For the most part, eau de parfums have better sillage, meaning, they wear longer, says Shapiro. However, keep in mind that different notes carry different patterns of longevity, she points out. “You can’t compare, let’s say, a fruity, very fresh eau de parfum with a very woody eau de toilette. Fruity and fresh notes tend to be top notes and evaporate faster, even at higher concentrations.”
Also, fragrance adheres to oils, notes Shapiro. So those with drier skin may need to wear a higher concentration of fragrance in order to have an impact, she adds.
Is An Eau de Toilette Cheaper Than An Eau de Parfum?
Looking at price points between the two, it’s easy to judge an eau de toilette as a cheaper, and therefore, less sophisticated product. But cost doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Eau de toilette is less expensive because they have a lower concentration of fine fragrance oil,” says Slatkin. “Not because the ingredients are different.” The intensity of the fragrance you want to wear is entirely up to you, and you should wear what you connect with and what smells good on you, regardless of concentration, advises Valadez.
Think of an eau de toilette and eau de parfum as two types of perfume options that are available to you depending on what you’re looking for, not a stark either/or situation, and definitely not a representation of who you are as a person. After all, people aren’t going to be looking at the bottle while you’re out and about.
VIDEO: What Makes a Fragrance Clean?
How Do I Choose Between an Eau de Toilette and an Eau de Parfum?
The simplest way to choose one over the other is to ask yourself how strong you want your fragrance to be. An eau de parfum’s higher concentration of fragrance makes for a longer-lasting, more aromatic scent, while an eau de parfum is more like a body splash to be applied more liberally than a parfum.
“Some may choose to start with an eau de toilette and eventually transition to eau de parfum, but that shouldn’t be the rule,” says Slatkin. She recommends trusting your nose’s own instincts to see what scents and notes you naturally gravitate towards before committing to a specific type.
“Don’t be afraid to explore all available fragrance variations of a scent you enjoy,” says Valadez. “You may find a new scent you may not have known you liked. Have fun with fragrance, you may be surprised.”
How Do I Wear an Eau de Toilette or an Eau de Parfum?
During the summer, Shaprio usually reaches for an eau de toilette. “There’s something fresh and light and easy to wear about a lighter concentration,” she tells us.
Rich, full-bodied eau de parfums pair nicely with evening activities and colder climes, as scent dissipates faster in dry air, so you’ll need a higher fragrance concentration for the same scent payoff.
For a daytime wear of either fragrance, spray the scent directly onto pulse points — neck or wrist — and to amp it up for the evening, add an air spritz and walk through it, or loosely spray the perfume once or twice into long hair for an easy, wafting scent with movement.
Wearing a fragrance is a fine art and a balancing act, but it adds a whole other level of playful self-expression without ever saying a word.
Our Favorite Eau de Toilettes
Gucci Flora Emerald Gardenia
Inspired by an early summer’s morning, this scent’s mix of pear, lemon, and watermelon notes along with gardenia, frangipani, and lotus will easily whisk you away.
To shop: $100; amazon.com.
Miu Miu L’Eau Rosée Eau de Toilette
This delicate floral fragrance offers you hints of lily of the valley and blackcurrant wrapped in musk.
To shop: $70; amazon.com.
Maison Margiela ‘Replica’ Beach Walk
Notes of bergamot, lemon, heliotrope, coconut milk, and musk will remind you of a warm summer’s day.
To shop: $160; sephora.com.
Our Favorite Eau de Parfums
Let the hints of peony, lychee, and springtime freesia remind you of your free, flirtatious spirit.
To shop: $147; sephora.com.
NEST New York Sunkissed Hibiscus
Notes of frangipani and orange blossom will help to make you feel radiant and energized.
To shop: $30; sephora.com.
Ellis Brooklyn Salt Eau De Parfum Travel Spray
Be reminded of the divine summer heat with top notes of ylang ylang and violet leaves absolute.
To shop: $32; ellisbrooklyn.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way store perfume?
To maximize the shelf life of either an eau de parfum or an eau de toilette, Slatkin recommends keeping it in a cool, dry, and dark location.
Beware of excessive light, variations in temperature (especially heat), and exposure to oxygen, as they will accelerate any fragrance’s deterioration.
How do I know which perfume is right for me?
Each wearer’s experience of a fragrance is different, depending upon how the formulation reacts with their skin’s specific oils. In other words, don’t blindly buy the perfume that smells divine on your best friend, because it might smell less than savory on you. Above all, you must obey the golden rule of scent, according to Valadez, who steadfastly proclaims: “Never judge a fragrance until you try it on your own skin.”
Why does my perfume’s scent fade so fast?
Your perfume’s formula and sillage will affect how long it lasts, but so will your application technique. Make sure you are applying your perfume the right way to maximize wear time.