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What is the Difference Between Cologne and Eau? [Simple Distinction]

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While you might think cologne is cologne and perfume is perfume, the lines are more blurry than you might think.

Perfume is identified on a broad spectrum, which includes everything from eau de toilette to cologne.

The short answer is that cologne and eau can be categorized as the same thing since its full name is eau de cologne. However, cologne is different from eau de toilette and eau de parfum, and the main thing that separates these fragrances is the concentration.

If this is your first foray into the world of fragrances, buckle up, as it isn’t as straightforward as you may think. 

Cologne is eau and eau is cologne, but eau can also be perfume or the strangely named ‘toilette’ fragrance.

To avoid any further confusion, let’s jump straight into what exactly eau is so we can see what it means in relation to cologne.

What is Eau?

Eau is the French word for water, which makes a lot of sense in the context of fragrances.

The makeup of any fragrance is a combination of aromatic essence diluted down in water, so this explains why there’s an eau de parfum, eau de cologne, and eau de toilette.

This means that there is no difference between eau and cologne because both are combined to  create the fragrance that is commonly known as cologne.

As such, we can infer that the difference between each fragrance lies in the concentration of the aromatic essence.

So while it’s commonly thought that perfume is made especially for the feminine and cologne for the masculine, the only difference is the strength of the scent.

As a result, there’s really no reason why perfume is favored by many women and cologne is preferred by men, we have just been conditioned over time through clever marketing to like the respective fragrances.

It’s a lot easier for a company to make sales if they can divide up their fragrances into distinct demographics and market them accordingly.

The Fragrance Spectrum

To better understand the differences between all of the fragrances out there, it’s essential to know what they are.

From the most diluted to the least, here are the various fragrances you can find and what to expect from each.

Eau Fraiche

Eau fraiche is the weakest of all fragrances, with a particularly low concentration of aromatic essence at just 1-3%.

The reason this name might be familiar, even if you don’t instantly know why is because it is more commonly known as aftershave.

This is the type of fragrance that evaporates within just an hour of application, and it’s generally intended to be used post-shave to freshen up.

Eau de Cologne

Next up in the concentration stakes is eau de cologne.

Yes, while we refer to it simply as cologne, the real name for the fragrance is eau de cologne which can cause confusion if you aren’t familiar with the various types of fragrances.

The amount of oil you can expect in a cologne ranges from 2-4% and will generally last for several hours.

Since it has a low concentration, it’s a good idea to reapply cologne throughout the day if you want the scent to last.

Eau de Toilette

Eau de Toilette is the name given to fragrances with a concentration of 5-15%.

Translating to ‘toilet water,’ this oddly-named fragrance is surprisingly common, and many times when you think you’re buying a cologne, it’s actually eau de toilette.

You can expect this type of fragrance to last for up to three hours.

Eau de Parfum

Not to be confused with perfume, eau de parfum is often mistaken with it regardless.

Eau de parfum is like a step down in strength from perfume and features 15-20% oil.

This fragrance will typically wear off after 5-8 hours, so you need only spray it on once, and you’re good for the whole day.

Perfume

Perfume is the strongest of the fragrances, with a whopping 20-30% oil concentration.

As you can imagine, that means it lasts longer than all the other fragrances, up to as many as 24 hours from a single spray.

This is the fragrance to go with if you’re not one for constant reapplication or you’re simply fond of bold scents.

Scent Profile

The other main factor to consider with the various fragrances is the scent profile.

Each type of fragrance, be it cologne, perfume, or eau de toilette will have a unique scent, and there are some general smells associated with each.

One of the best things about fragrances, though, is that they develop over time as they combine with the natural oils your body produces.

If you apply cologne to your body’s pulse points, such as the neck and wrists, you can expect a signature scent to quickly emerge which is uniquely yours.

As a result, what you first smell when you apply the cologne isn’t the same as what you will smell an hour or so later. 

This is also true due to the various notes of a perfume, which are activated at different stages.

Floral

Floral scents are common for creating a refreshing essence in a cologne or eau de toilette, even though they may be more common in perfumes and eau de parfums.

Some examples of floral notes includes jasmine and rose, but you can also get fruity notes too such as berries or citrus.

The floral and fruity notes are typically reserved for the top note of a fragrance, which means they provide the first impression and draw you in.

Spicy

It isn’t uncommon to find spicy notes in a cologne, which serve to bring a kick to the scent. 

Spicy notes include patchouli and cinnamon, which are often contrasted with smooth and velvety scents such as vanilla or tonka.

Woody

Woody notes are commonly associated with colognes, given that they have traditionally been considered as a nod to the masculine essence.

Common woody notes include sandalwood, cedar, and oak, and you’ll typically find that these make for the base note of a fragrance giving it a grounded scent that should last for a long time.

Fresh

Fresh notes are anything that makes you think of the beach, the forest, or simply a breath of fresh air.

Light citrus notes, fresh-cut grass, and aquatic notes all fall into this category.

There are several popular colognes, for example, that go all out with the aquatic imagery to evoke a sense of calm and the scent of fresh sea breeze.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cologne and Eau

Which is better perfume or cologne?

While the question of perfume or cologne has usually descended into one of gender, this is mainly due to marketing strategies rather than anything else.

Fragrance brands like to market the two types of fragrances to different genders to maximize profits and create separate campaigns to boost sales.

The reality is that perfume is just a fragrance with a higher concentration of oil while cologne has a lower concentration, so the main differences are the duration and strength of the scent.

Why is cologne called toilet water?

It’s a common misconception that cologne is the same thing as eau de toilette, which translates from French to ‘toilet water.’

While eau de toilette can be considered a lighter cologne, it isn’t the same thing as eau de cologne.

Eau de toilette has a higher concentration of oil and a stronger scent.

Should I buy eau de parfum or cologne?

The key factors in your decision-making process are the strength of scent you prefer, and the duration.

Eau de parfum is much stronger than cologne due to a higher oil concentration, so it lasts for longer.

Cologne, on the other hand will have a more subtle scent and require reapplication throughout the day.

A Final Word From The Trending Man

Cologne and eau are one and the same, but there’s a lot of difference between an eau fraiche, an eau de toilette, and an eau de cologne.

Know your fragrances, and you’ll be in a much better position to find your signature scent.

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The Trending Man

Our detailed review has been contributed to by multiple members of The Trending Man Review Team to ensure the best research and highest standard of quality. Have a good or a bad experience with one of the products? Please let us know, we love the feedback!

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