Understanding All of the Different Fragrance Concentrations

When buying a fragrance, sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one of a particular fragrance will work best for you. You read the labels and you see words that may not make sense to you, each label displays a certain fragrance concentration, and one costs more than the other does. Let’s go over the three major ones individually and for these examples, we’ll use the #1 selling fragrance on major retailers, Dior Sauvage.

Fragrances are made up of 2 main components: ethanol and essential oils (or aroma compounds depending on the manufacturer). The concentration level of the fragrance refers to the amount of essential oils added to the ethanol to produce a stronger fragrance aroma. The lighter the concentration, the shorter the longevity. We’ll start with the weakest of the three first.

Eau de Toilette (EDT): 5% - 15% Concentration

Eau de Toilette is usually where a designer fragrance lifespan starts. Dior Sauvage launched as an EDT in 2015 and started a trend that is still going strong today in 2022, and that is continuing to launch fragrance flankers that appease the masses and do really well in sales.

EDT fragrances typically have a more “cooling effect” when you first spray them on, and this is because there is more ethanol in the bottle than essential oils and that cooling effect you feel is the ethanol evaporating off of your skin. Because of this quicker evaporation, the fragrance projects a lot more off of your skin, but the downside is that due to the quicker evaporation, the essential oils dissipate just as fast as the ethanol does. But sometimes it’s not always necessarily about concentration levels, it’s about the formulation of the oils in the fragrance. Take Acqua di Gio EDT for example. This was the fragrance of my day in the 90s and everyone had it. The biggest flaw was that the fragrance only lasted an average of about 5 hours. It was ok if you were going somewhere for a short period of time, but not ok for a full day wear. But then take something like Dior Homme 2020. This fragrance is also an EDT but lasts way longer, around 8 to 10 hours. When you break it down this way, it’s all about the perfumer and how they level the concentration either closer to that 5% or even upwards to around 15%. Most on average though are around 10%.

Eau de Parfum (EDP): 15% - 20% Concentration

This concentration is where I personally like to aim for, and I do own a bottle of Sauvage EDP (I do not own the EDT). I prefer the EDP versions of fragrances more because my skin oils react to EDP fragrances better than EDT fragrances do. This concentration is less on the ethanol and a bit more on the essential oils but is a perfect balance of projection and longevity in my opinion. Keep in mind, it’s not this case 100% of the time though. There are differences in some of the Parfums that are substantially better, but we’ll cover that in the next section.

Released in 2018, Sauvage EDP for me has a really nice balance and I can wear this one just about any time or any situation and it will last as long as I need it to. Some days I work longer hours (up to around 15 hours) and I can still smell it on my shirt at the end of the day. I can honestly say around 75 – 80% of my collection is EDP, and it’s for that very reason.

Once the essential oil levels begin to increase, the projection begins to decrease. This is because the higher concentration oil levels will stick to your skin more, and because there’s less ethanol, it won’t evaporate as quickly as an EDT. So, the fragrance will stay with you longer than an EDT but won’t be as “in your face” as an EDT concentration will. But straight Parfum is where it gets interesting…

Parfum/Extrait to Parfum/Elixir: 20% - 40% Concentration

Now we’re getting into more expensive territory and it’s because we’ve almost quadrupled the amount of essential oils added to the fragrance from an EDT level. Parfum is also called “pure perfume” and it is the highest fragrance concentration you can go. Since the concentration of oils is so high in a Parfum fragrance, the liquid will stay close to your skin and the “sheen” of the oils will be visible on your skin longer as well. With a Parfum, the fragrance doesn’t project as heavy as an EDT or EDP but because of that higher oil levels, the scent on your skin will last a lot longer. In some cases though, a perfumer will also produce a fragrance that is so intense that it will both project AND last a long time.

Sauvage Parfum was released in 2019 and is currently listed on Sephora’s website priced at $165 for a 100ml bottle. The EDT concentration is priced at $112 for a 100ml for comparison. Fragrance houses will use the other terms like Extrait to Parfum and Elixir or even Extreme, but they are generally the same. However, houses like Dior will sometimes use…both?

Now, I can’t quite find anywhere on the web that clearly states that Elixir is different from Parfum. On the contrary, they are technically in the same category, but I think Elixir is closer to that 40% concentration mark than the Parfum. To me, the proof is in the price. Sauvage Elixir came out in 2021 and was priced at $165 for only a 60ml bottle. That’s 40ml less than the Parfum and is priced the same. Their website even says that Elixir “is surprisingly deep and dense”. So, to me, I think the Elixir is on the higher side of the concentration.

Sauvage was the easiest I could use for all of the examples above, and it’s still number one in sales just ahead of Bleu de Chanel. But what if I told you the same thing happens to other houses? Like…Paco Rabanne? Their 1 Million fragrance also comes in both Parfum and Elixir concentrations. Personally, I think this trend will continue with other fragrances in the near future. Could you imagine a Bleu de Chanel Elixir? Ralph’s Club Elixir? Hey, we can all dream, can’t we?

Final Thoughts

What concentration all boils down to is two-fold; how it reacts to your skin and how much you can afford. Realistically some people may have more sensitive skin and would benefit from a Parfum concentration. Some may be on a tighter budget and would benefit from an EDT. Decant House is the best way to grab one of each concentration and try them all on your skin at home. Start with a fragrance of your choice (Sauvage, Bleu de Chanel, Narciso Rodriguez Bleu Noir, etc.) and see how all of them react to your skin. Let me know in the comments which one is your favorite fragrance and what concentration you chose. Hope you all have a good week and I’ll see you in the next one!